The Healing Power of a Good Smell

When I was growing up, we would spend a lot of time at my grandmother’s house. The house where I now live. She always woke up way before we did and one of my favorite memories is of waking up to the smell of bacon. She cooked bacon better than anyone ever. And there’s nothing that will get your day going like that smell! That’s when I first learned of the healing power of a good smell.

As I grew up, it was feeling prettier with a certain perfume on. Or how when you clean something and it has that wonderful lemony or Windex smell. When my son was born it’s of course the new baby smell. Or the new car smell (even if it causes cancer!) Fresh cut grass. Autumn leaves. They all have some wonderful memories associated with them and every time they changed my mood for the better. So I’ve found some essential oils you might want to try so that the healing power of a good smell can help your mood as well.

  • Lavender: This is a well-known scent for both alleviating anxiety as well as a sleep aid. It has been used for centuries so there are many products available that contain this pleasant smell. Try an evening bubble bath with lavender bubbles after the kiddos are in bed to help balance your mood.
  • Citrus: As I mentioned, the lemony smell helps us feel good and perks us up. But it can also reduce high amounts of stress and anxiety. A whiff of lemon, lime, orange and bergamot can create a sense of calm.
  • Peppermint: Are you a stress eater? Grab something peppermint! Lighting a peppermint candle, eating a peppermint candy or some peppermint oil will help reduce cravings. It’s also good for stress-induced migraines!
  • Coconut: If the smell of coconut immediately sends you to the beach with palms trees and the sound of waves, then you get the power of coconut! I hate the taste of coconut, but love coconut body butters and lotions! The smell can lower our heart rate and soothes agitated nerves.

These are the most popular and common scents that you can find in a lot of products. But if you’d like to try some that are more unique, check this article out. I keep a candle lit a lot of the time while I write. I don’t always pick the same scents. It depends on my mood. And I pull out different ones for Christmas and other holidays. I have lavender bubble bath and coconut lime body butter. Any and all occasions to use the healing power of a good smell to calm my head and my heart.

Until next time,

Shannon

What Does Anxiety Look Like In RAD?

School anxiety is not unique to just RAD kiddos. Unfortunately with the ramped up focus on standardized testing and college entrance getting more and more competitive, school performance is more intense than ever. Even the most psychologically together child can feel the pressure. But our RAD kiddos feel anxiety on multiple fronts so adding school to the mix can create a whole new level. So, what does anxiety look like in RAD?

Our RAD kiddos live in a constant state of high alert. They are of the belief that they must stay vigilant because their very survival depends on it. Try adding to that the pressures of school. Navigating social interactions can be hard because RAD kiddos aren’t always good at picking up on social cues appropriately. A full school day is tiring and many RAD kiddos have sleep issues. The demands of school work during the day plus homework at night is rigorous and many RAD kiddos also have a learning disability. All of this on top of the anxiety already innate in RAD is the perfect storm.

What teachers and school staff may see is anxiety and other behaviors that seem “extreme” to the situation. What does that mean? With August it was simple. And I had to explain it again and again. And again. His anxiety came out as anger. He absolutely boiled over with anxiety. And to those not familiar with this reaction it would make no sense in context with the situation.

RAD kiddos have so much anxiety they can’t always control it and don’t know how to manage it. And their “fight or flight” primal instincts will kick in. As well as their basic needs to control their circumstances. These will always win out whenever they feel anxious. And again, in a school situation, this will not always be known or apparent to the random choir teacher or substitute in science class.

What is the way to handle the overload of anxiety our RAD kiddos bring to school? How do we explain to educators what anxiety looks like in RAD? These aren’t easy questions to answer. The answer starts when they first wake up in the morning. If you are one of those families that lives in a constant state of chaos, making your morning routine as calm as possible will help lessen the anxiety that starts the day. I have had mixed success with that! Some easy things like a good breakfast with protein are important. Protein is great for brain function. We have gone through massive amounts of pre-cooked bacon over the years!

Now that I’ve been substitute teaching, I know that every child with an IEP or Behavior plan has a write-up with their primary teacher regarding important things to know about their conduct and any considerations that are important for their safety. I don’t know if these are given to every teacher who has that student (I imagine so) but I know that as a sub it’s not called out very often. Some teachers I fill in for will, most do not. And I know the chances are extremely rare that this information will be necessary. But August’s anxiety got really ramped up when the rest of the class got excited due to having a substitute so knowing this would have really helped me as a substitute in his class.

If your RAD kiddo has exceptional anxiety issues and they don’t have a Behavioral Intervention Plan, inquire about getting one set up. It gets on paper some goals for them but it also outlines their options for getting out of anxiety-producing situations before they get in trouble or things explode. They are great ways to define the relationship between your RAD kiddo and the teachers to handle their anxiety.

In August’s case, just knowing he had options was enough. He didn’t use his “outs” for when he gets overwhelmed much. Just having the options eased his anxiety well-enough in most

I think it’s important that your children know their options and they feel confident in what they can control. Because as we all know control is key. Getting a check on their emotional state in the morning maybe at breakfast would be a good idea. See where they are on a 1-10 scale. Is there a test that day? Maybe if they’re already sitting at a seven, a call to the school might be in order.

All children deal with some kind of anxiety. School is rough! I wouldn’t want to be a student these days. For some other ideas on how to help your child with school anxiety, here is a wonderful article. Here’s to having a great-and CALM-school year!

Until Next Time,

Shannon

It’s Always Better When You Take A Walk!

Many times in the middle of a heated battle with August I have wanted to run away. Or he HAS run away. When he gets anxious or stressed he knows the best outlet for those feelings is to run around the house. To quite literally run around the outside of the house until he’s able to burn off the energy created by that anxiety. The change created in his demeanor and physical body posture is incredible. Doctors and scientists and veterinarians will tell you the same thing. It’s always better when you take a walk!

An article on the Healthline website found studies that indicate that walking between 15 and 30 minutes a day can:

  • Burn Calories
  • Lower Blood Sugar
  • Strengthen the Heart
  • Ease Joint Pain
  • Boost Immune Function
  • Boost Your Energy
  • Improve Mood (BINGO!!)
  • Extend Your Life
  • Tone Your Legs
  • Promote Creative Thinking

You can read details about each of these benefits and the studies here. But what is it about walking that is so helpful for our mood? Well, depending on the situation, it might just be that we’re finally alone, out of the house and away from the chaos that is our day-to-day lives! But it’s more than that, right? Because sometimes we can’t walk that way. Sometimes we’re walking on a treadmill or a track at a gym full of people. So there’s still noise and activity.

I will have to walk a long time to get all the great thoughts I need!

And sometimes we don’t walk alone. We walk with a partner, friend, dog. I know when I walk with my dog, Mia, the walk is the one she wants to take, not necessarily the path I want to travel! Occasionally even a walk with our RAD kiddo can be self-care if everyone is in the right head space.

August and I took at walk on the greenway behind my house in North Carolina around dusk one evening. I don’t remember the time of year but it’s almost always copperhead season. And we came upon one on the path. I walked around it and kept going. August froze. I could not get him to go around the snake. He was petrified. I told him to go around on the backside like I did and the snake wouldn’t even care. He wasn’t having it. It became quite apparent that I wasn’t going to convince him so I came back over to his side and we went back the way we came.

This article focuses only on how walking can improve your mood. Now one of the things I didn’t think about that it suggests is to find a walking partner you can vent to. I’m not so sure that is a good idea because I’m more of a relax and release kind of walking but I bet if I was venting to someone as I walked I’d cover a lot of miles! If you try this, please let me know!

However you choose to make walking a part of your self-care, do it. Even 15 minutes a day to get up from your desk chair, get out of your car, get off of the couch, whatever can make such a difference. And if you’re worrying about losing productivity, get and audiobook to listen to. But try hard not to. Focus on breathing and just being. I promise that will be productive enough.

Until next time,

Shannon

Taking Care of Siblings

May 1, 2001. The day we got the call with our court date in Russia to finalize our adoption of August. May 3, 2001. The day I found out I was pregnant with his brother. Yes, it was every bit that connected. And yes, we were shocked and happy and terrified. My statement to this day is, “Two kids in seven months. Wouldn’t change it. Don’t recommend it.” But what it meant is that after barely having a chance to get to know August, I would find myself taking care of siblings.

First camping trip. Four and five months old.

By the time his brother was born, August had a pretty good ability to speak English. It included comments when his brother would cry like, “I told you we shouldn’t have picked this one.” Because like him, August thought all children were adopted. And like a lot of older siblings, he regressed in some ways. So we spent considerable time cleaning up peed on toys and sheets in his room. That felt really angry on his part. But we were yet to get his RAD diagnosis so we just thought it jealousy.

Every once in a while, something truly weird and magical happened…

As they grew (they are almost four years apart) I had hoped they’d get along and become the best of friends. Well that’s not what happened. There was the time August colored his brother’s bare bottom with a black sharpie when he was a year or two old. There was constant manipulation. August loved the outdoors and being active. His brother was into reading and music and theater. So there weren’t many things they shared an interest in. They did find some common ground in video games. Though inevitably August’s temper would bring an awful ending to most gaming sessions.

Then there was the size difference. From about the time his brother was two (which made August six), I started reminding August, “You’ll always be the older brother, even if you’re not always the bigger brother.” August was and still is, small for his age. We don’t know if that genetics or his early trauma. But his brother was born into some big person genetics so he moved past August in height pretty early on. We worried that would be a problem but August’s sense of self is amazingly healthy.

I think this is maybe 11 and 15. The height difference is way worse now.

But I was not always able to take care of their relationship and foster it the way I had hoped. And I wasn’t able to protect his brother from what August unleashed when he was raging due to RAD. It wasn’t easy to contain his anger which would move throughout the house as he would spin out of control. And sometimes August had to capture a disproportionate amount of our attention which would leave his brother with much less of our time than he deserved.

I wrote about this last Spring but today I want to talk about what to do to take care of those Siblings. How do we make sure that they don’t become collateral damage in the ongoing war for the healing of our RAD kiddo? Sometimes it seems like after doing battle with our RAD kiddo we have nothing left. Not for our spouse, our job, our home or the other children who also want our love and attention. The same as if you had a child with cancer or another chronic illness, whatever it is that forces more attention on one child, creates tremendous guilt for what you are not able to give to the others.

I was going to put together my ideas for what to do to help siblings cope with having a RAD kiddo the home, but this article hits all the buttons and puts it together with a bow. So click the link. Do it.

The important thing to remember is when there’s a child suffering trauma in a home, everyone must deal with it. Consider the stress and anxiety you are feeling and your other children are also feeling that to some degree. Consider what will help them cope and get ahead of their needs and feelings as you are doing your own self-care.

Until next time,

Shannon

After School…What Happens Now?

When August was in later elementary and middle school, the end of the school day would send me into a panic. I was about to pick up a child who was by then unmedicated, who had homework to do that he hated, who was tired and hungry. And there was a younger brother to take care of as well. So there was the same question every day: After School…What Happens Now?

We always tried to get the homework knocked out first. This had mixed results. And the negotiations would rival the purchase of a new car. Food was always involved because when the ADHD medication wears off (it has an appetite suppression side effect) he was ravenous.

But many days homework would lead to rages and running away and battles that were so out of line with the work that needed to be done. It was one of these rages that lead to his eventual RAD diagnosis. And this is something many of you can relate to. Once he started to “spin” as I would call his raging, it would last for hours. It was a long, agonizing process which may or may not have ended with finished homework.

Extra-curricular activities worked well most of the time. He loved sports because he had endless amounts of energy. The problem with that is, if there was a game or a practice that occurred right after school, there would still be homework to tackle when we got home. And the later it got and the more tired he got, the worse the chances were that any homework was going to get done.

As I mentioned, it was one of these after school failures that helped us finally discover August had reactive attachment disorder. We had spent an afternoon after school arguing over homework which devolved quickly. His anger moved into raging and violence. He threw things at me every time I got anywhere near him. I’d never seen anything like it.

The next day we took him to the doctor instead of school and there was a moment when we considered hospitalization. Instead we got an appointment with a psychiatrist and a prescription for Seroquel. For those who don’t know, this is a super-powerful anti-psychotic used mostly to treat bi-polar disorder. We were told to give it to him until he calmed down. I had a friend with bi-polar disorder. She said she took 1/4 of one. August needed four. The psychiatrist we got in to see a couple days later was the blessing that gave us the RAD diagnosis and finally set us on the correct parenting course.

This is a cute way to show early readers what needs to be done in an after school routine.

So these are just some of the things I experienced in trying to manage the after school world. One year we added in tutoring after school. You’d have thought I was taking him to the dentist twice a week. That speaks for itself. What I learned from it is that my unmedicated, tired, hungry child is not in a good place to do ANYTHING. Least of all more schoolwork. But it’s not going to get any better later in the evening. So it’s a matter of pay now or pay later. But there are a few things I found that can help:

  • DEFINITELY food
  • Some kind of outdoor exercise for a period of time (even August knew he needed that!)
  • If your child can do homework after dinner and some downtime would be a better choice, go for it!
  • Have some flexibility on the homework environment. Can they do work outside? Then let them. Can they work lying on the floor? Sure!
  • Be an advocate for your child. If the amount of homework is just too much for them, negotiate with their teacher on what fulfills the needs of learning the material without stressing out your child. Get their therapist involved if necessary.

Here is a great article about ideas for spending time after school. Some of these ideas would be great for bonding and engaging your child and might qualify for school credit depending on what your child is studying at the time. After school doesn’t have to be a crazy, stressful angry time where we are all just counting the hours until bedtime.

I loved this and certainly it shows the complexity of everything that can happen from after school to bedtime! There was also a blank one and I dropped in on the resources page in case you’d like to create one of your own!

Find a routine that works for you and make sure your child(ren) agree to the plan. Their buy-in is crucial to the success!

Until next time,

Shannon

Where Did My Friends Go?

Have you asked yourself, “Where did my friends go?” since you started your journey with reactive attachment disorder? For many of us, a RAD diagnosis wasn’t the parenting experience we signed up for. We dreamed of fun play dates at the park and maybe having neighbors with children of the same age who we would become life-long friends with. And we’d watch our children grow up together and go to the same schools and be on the same soccer teams. The boys and girls would date and go to prom and it would all be like a cute version of High School Musical. Until they go off to the same college and we all watch them, arm-in-arm with tears in our eyes. Then go off and celebrate with many bottles of wine!

Well that’s not how it’s going, is it? For me it wasn’t. From kindergarten through second grade, none of his friends had moms who I had anything in common with. When we moved, the neighborhood seemed more promising. It was over Spring Break during second grade and he wanted to ride the bus home the very first day. There was a boy in his class who lived in the neighborhood who’d help him so I said OK. He jumped off the bus that afternoon saying, “Mom! Can I go to Andrew’s house!” This boy had obviously made an impression and the two of them became fast friends.

He also made friends with the kiddos who lived behind us. And the boy in the cul-de-sac up the street. And a boy a couple of streets over. So you might think things from a friendship standpoint were going well for him. And as a result for me. But as is so often the case with RAD kiddos, being friends with them can be intense. And they can overwhelm their friends with attention, with demands for doing things their way and impulsivity which children don’t always understand. So his relationships with the kids in the neighborhood were somewhat fluid. They’d be fine for a while then someone would just burn out and have to take a break. So there’d be a period of no contact.

As August got older and his behaviors got more problematic, I started to feel some of the separation. It wasn’t intentional; who knows what to say to someone whose son got arrested for stealing a cell phone in 6th grade? Or bringing vodka to 8th grade? He’d switched schools so much that he wasn’t in the same schools as any of the neighborhood friends which further isolated him and us.

Then you wake up one day and you figure out your child doesn’t have anything in common with the neighborhood kids. You can’t coordinate play dates because no one wants their kiddo to play with yours. And After the stolen cell phone his Saturdays were spent doing community service. You can’t chat at the pool about what your kids are up to because there isn’t anything your kid is doing that other kids are involved in.

Any of this sound familiar? Nothing is intentional in any of this. It’s just life. Just the saga of having a RAD kiddo who doesn’t fit in the box of “normal” when it comes to social interaction. And how that translates to your social interactions as well. It can be pretty defeating and isolating when you are dealing with issues your friends and your children’s parents can only hear about and be shocked.

When August first got diagnosed I sought out comfort on social media where I found a lot of parents like me. The only problem was they all seemed to be living everywhere except where I was. And it only goes so far when you can’t crack open a bottle of wine or dive deep into a pint of ice cream over the internet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have some amazing friends. Some who have seen me through every scream and tear and terrified moment. They hear everything August does and take it all in without judgement or alienation. And I love them dearly.

Here is an idea of why our friends may have a hard time sticking it out. Your true friends may not be able to help you but they will get you and they will stick by you. And the best friends will bring wine!

Until Next time,

Shannon

 

Winning Family Meal Time

August decided for about a week he was a cat. Ate all his dinners off a plate on the floor. Then one day he stopped. Never did figure out why. But every meal was three members of the family leisurely eating our meals and August plowing through his food like he hasn’t eaten in a month. Or like he may never eat again. Some days there would barely be any space between the edge of his plate and his mouth. And it never changed. And a half an hour later he’d swear he was starving. So I was in a constant search for something I could do that would mean winning family meal time.

In today’s over-scheduled world, just getting the whole family around the table at the same time is a triumph. I remember growing up that when my sister and I both became teenagers, everyone at the dinner table became more and more rare. The kitchen floor would be littered with notes from me to mom and mom to dad and my sister to dad informing each other of our whereabouts and pick up times. Remember this was pre-cell phones folks!

When the boys came along, we tried to be good about having regular family dinners. It was important for us to have that time together. We made a big deal about August eating his food and he would enjoy our attention. But very soon after getting comfortable with us, food became part of his battle for control.

I remember one night that we had some sort of meat and August didn’t want to eat it. He put a bit in his mouth but wouldn’t swallow it. That one bite of meat got bigger and bigger and it was maybe half an hour or more we did battle to get him to just swallow. I was afraid he would choke. But food was something he wanted to control. I’m sure it stemmed from lack of food in the time before he was removed from his birth home when he was barely fed and it broke my heart.

On another occasion I was getting dinner ready and August came asking for something to eat. I told him dinner was almost ready and he could wait. He threw a fit and screamed, “You never feed me!” Again my heart broke because obviously that wasn’t the case but he definitely was drawing on some old repressed memories.

So how can we go about winning family meal time? I am going to focus on dinner because with kids in school lunches are rough and mornings tend to be an all out sprint (though a big breakfast on the weekend is my favorite meal!) Here are some ideas:

  • Include the kiddos in meal planning on Sunday: Letting them be involved in what will be on the menu for the week greatly increases the chances they will be on board when it gets served later. Now of course you ultimately get veto power so it won’t be five days of pizza, but getting buy-in will help your job.
  • Include the kiddos in cooking: August loves to cook. He would sometimes ask to cook a whole meal himself when he got older. I know, sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself but they get such pride when they help and again the buy-in helps with making sure they will eat. Plus doing things together is great for bonding!
  • Make meal time technology-free: This is a big one if you have teenagers. No phones at the table, if there’s a TV within sight it gets turned off. Meal time can be a great time to engage in meaningful conversation about the days events, about the rest of the week, about the weekend. Anything that will get the whole family communicating together.
  • Have ideas to talk about: I would always ask the boys about their day at school and what was their favorite part. That would have to be quickly followed by, “And don’t say lunch or recess.” Because otherwise those would always be the answers! I know some families who ask what is one good thing and one bad thing that happened that day. There are many ways to start conversations.
  • Make sure kiddos help clean up: The boys were always responsible for their plates and cups. And they got great about automatically carrying them to the sink, rinsing them and putting them in the dishwasher. That also meant I had to have the dishwasher emptied of clean dishes so it motivated me as well!

There are a lot of ways to make winning family meal time easier. There are meal delivery services and grocery delivery services to cut your time down, particularly if you have a very scheduled house. I also found these ideas from MSN and this blog which had some good thoughts as well.

The bottom line is being together, communicating and having fun is winning family meal time. And sometimes that is all that needs to happen.

Until next time,

Shannon

The Philosophy of Homework

I don’t know about you all, but homework was a problem from the first day of kindergarten. It was never smooth sailing no matter how easy or how challenging the assignment. And sometimes it was a knock-down, drag-out fight. In the end, there were no winners. My relationship with August was further strained. More often than not the homework still wasn’t done. And both of us were angry and stressed at the end of an already long day. So today I impart the philosophy of homework.

As August got older, I began to be more of an advocate for him where homework was concerned. Some nights it just wasn’t possible to do homework. His head just wasn’t in the right place. We’d added tutoring one year, and after a full day of school then tutoring there was no way I could get him to sit still for yet more schooling. We’d get home and the car would barely be in the garage before he would take off. Running away rather than do homework told me all I needed to know about his anxiety where homework was concerned.

And true, some of it was good ‘ole RAD manipulation but some of it wasn’t. And now that I’m substitute teaching fairly frequently, I’m adding to my knowledge of what’s necessary when it comes to homework. I remember long ago when I was in school and got loads of homework from every teacher I’d complain, “Do they think they’re the ONLY teacher we have?” Students today have agendas and online systems and telephone systems to keep up with assignments. And so much of what they need to do can be done on computer (This is just a little whining about how good kids have it today compared to my generation!) But it seems like it’s creating a generation of students with no executive function skills at all.

But there will always be a need for homework but also a love/hate relationship where RAD kiddos are concerned. And here is what I believe the philosophy of homework should be. Homework is not:

  • Punishment
  • Busy work
  • Filling out curriculum requirements because the teacher can’t plan

Homework is:

  • Reinforcing material already taught
  • Only if necessary (if it appears the class isn’t getting the concept)
  • Only enough work to grasp the material

Now what if getting your RAD kiddo to do homework is a cage fight like I had with August? This is where your IEP can come in handy. You do have the ability to put in writing that you can negotiate the amount of homework that your child will need to complete. And in most cases your child’s teacher will work with you even if it’s not in an IEP. But absolutely do not compromise your child’s well-being and your relationship for the sake of a few math problems. Let your child know you believe homework is important, but strike a balance that preserves the calm in the home.

As soon as I started explaining August’s anxiety where homework was concerned and he and I started coming to agreements about what amount of homework was sufficient for him to complete (many times he was able to complete it all!) life got much calmer.

For some more official commentary on the pros and cons of homework check out this article from Psychology Today. And Time published research on whether or not homework is good for kids. This was in response to teachers announcing they were not giving it out anymore. As always, the solution is that you know your child best and can be their best advocate. And in the end, you don’t want to be the one doing the homework!

Until next time,

Shannon

Defining Your Own Happiness

As soon as I wrote this title, the words came into my head from an old song by the Mamas and the Papas called, “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” I have now given you a big clue as to my age. I found a great video of Mama Cass Elliott singing it here. This is special because she was a great example at the time of someone who was defining her own happiness. So how are you defining your own happiness?

I think it’s very easy once we become parents to define our happiness by the happiness of our children. If they’re OK then we must be OK. And when you have a RAD kiddo that can be really tough. Because you are going to have days, weeks and maybe years where happiness maybe fleeting or seemingly non-existent. And it seems unnatural to search for happiness if your child is not happy. Like we are not entitled to be happy unless the rest of our family, down to the family pets are happy. How did that come to be?

This happens in families who aren’t dealing with a special needs child as well I’m sure. But living in the constant chaos and anxiety of life with a RAD kiddo means that we will be taking a backseat for a very long time. Possibly forever if our child cannot learn to live independently. So do we just sit back and wait to see if we will be able to carve out happiness for ourselves? Doing that is not healthy for ourselves, our relationships or our ability to effectively parent our RAD kiddos.

Defining your own happiness begins with not making your happiness contingent on the happiness of your partner or your children. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards making them happy as well. But it does mean that you should identify what is essential to your happiness whether it involves your family or not. That’s not meant to sound harsh. Just that the more you are real about what will make you happy and content, the better able you will be to take care of your family.

So how do you go about defining your own happiness? Well, I am no expert. I spent many years caught up in the lives of my children. After August was diagnosed I was consumed with how to “fix” him. And after homeschooling, tutoring, therapy and extracurricular activities as a stay-at-home mom I got completely lost in my child. When my marriage ended and I had to go back to work and strike out on my own I had no idea what my life needed. And as the years have past and August has spiraled more away from me, my sense of self and definitions of happiness have been tossed more times than I can count.

Here are a couple of references to how to define your own happiness. This first one from Psychology Today is pretty logical and straightforward. This second one aligns much more with what it feels like to be a RAD parent. In both cases, they describe spending time soul-searching for those things which are truly yours in your search for happiness. That is what I wish for you.

Until Next Time,

Shannon

What Makes Up a Family?

Please accept my apologies for writing my Family Friday post on Sunday! I have been battling a two-day migraine. And I’ve spent big chunks of the last couple weeks teaching middle school (maybe a connection?) But interestingly, my time teaching gave me much of insight for this post and got me thinking. What makes up a family?

This is not intended to digress into a political statement about rights of minority populations or anything like that. But since you asked, I do believe that any couple who has the capacity to love a child should be allowed to parent. However, we all know that families are made of many more combinations than mothers and fathers. And this is where my time in middle school came into play. There was a student who had to stay home one day and watch her nephew. And a teacher who is co-parenting her grandchildren with her daughter. There were many students who referred to step-parents.

And it got me to thinking about how the make-up of a family affects children both positively and negatively. August spent his first year with his birth mom and grandmother. After that the grandmother moved away. The birth mom didn’t have reliable child care and routinely left him with friends or neighbors, sometimes for days at a time. At the end of the second year was when his situation caught the attention of the Russian social services and they removed him. But what if his grandmother had stayed? What if they had made that unconventional family? Would he have had a stable enough life? Hard to know.

There’s no doubt that there’s never enough people in a child’s life to love them. So making up a “family” that includes more than the nuclear family can be a wonderful thing. Particularly for a child who suffers from early trauma. But that only is the case if everyone is on the same page regarding how the treatment of that child is handled. Aunts and Uncles and grandparents have to know that consistency is key when working with a child with reactive attachment disorder. And that child will exploit any holes in the grown up “armor” no matter how small. So it requires a lot of communication and patience to be an extended family under one roof with a RAD kiddo!

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Like I said, it makes total sense to give a RAD kiddo as much love as your family has to give. And caring for your RAD kiddo can be exhausting. Having some more relief hitters would be excellent! And whether your kiddo is adopted or a birth child, family is whoever is in that child’s life who loves them.

Here is a wonderful article that really drives home the point about what makes up a family. Because while we talk about our families in the context of our RAD kiddos, families really take on so many different forms. And we need to celebrate all of them!

Hopefully there are always “family” of many types in your and your child’s lives.

Until next time,

Shannon