Who are your child’s friends?

Sometimes RAD kiddos who don’t want to bond with anyone seem yet able to make attachments. But are they the right ones? It’s not always easy to figure out how children make the choices they do or why. But friendships are important for a child’s development. Here is a great article that talks about how it happens and about why it matters. So it can be good to know…who are your child’s friends?

August is very charming. He has a big personality and never had trouble drawing other children to him. From pre-school on he always had friends. However, it was kindergarten when I started to notice he had a gift for attracting the bad influence in any group situation. The child in his class with the spiked hair and frosted tips was like a magnetic for August. He was too cool for school and August worshiped him. It wasn’t a pattern yet but I wish I had noticed the way he was mesmerized by that child’s style because I would have known what to watch out for down the road. But five-year-olds aren’t that scary. And it can get much scarier.

As he moved through elementary school he always seemed to make friends. He had a friend who was Mormon. The seventh of nine children. This is the first child I saw August try to control. I think he was susceptible due to growing up with so many older siblings. But August had the intuition and was able to capitalize on it.

After we moved to North Carolina he made friends very quickly. As I mentioned in a prior post, the first day of school he came off the bus with a friend who he remained close to for years. But because we had to move him out of his neighborhood school, it became hard to keep friendships with the local kids. And making friends with kids at a school where kids come from all over the city was equally complicated. But he did pretty good at having friends though all the trouble he got into was by himself.

Some of his attempts to have friends came off as showing off. He didn’t have much, if any, interest in learning. His way to “fit in” was to carry around the biggest hard bound books he could find. And when taking tests if he couldn’t get the answers right he would rather be first. So he would always finish his test way ahead of anyone else.

Middle school was such a whirlwind of change that I don’t really know what to say about it. He was in sixth grade for half a year until he got in trouble and we pulled him out and I homeschooled him. We did have a good homeschool community where we lived so he did have the opportunity to spend time with other children. After a year of that, we tried putting him back into public school but that proved a disaster which ended with his bringing a water bottle full of vodka to school. That was another attempt to show off to some other kids. He was continuing to find the kids who would get him in trouble no matter where he went.

After this school attempt was the 16 months in residential treatment. It seems like maybe everyone in there would be a bad influence but there were definitely some at the extremes. And yes, August found those. The ones that set off the smoke alarms, the ones that convinced him to run away. I’m not saying he wasn’t culpable in these but he certainly was good at finding partners in crime.

Then there was high school. The first attempt was a private school designed for students who have behavioral issues. Small school, small classes, seemed like the perfect environment. He immediately found one student who thought like he did. Yes, another partner in crime. And in less than a year he’d been expelled. A new city and a new high school found new friends with whom he skipped school on a regular basis. And from there we were off to the races. The wheels fell off completely after that and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s always good to know who your child’s friends are. They will have an influence on how your child acts. And your child will have an affect on them. The same manipulation and controlling you see used on you can be used on their peers. So don’t be surprised if they lose friends or if you hear from parents. August did have a hard time with friends who would go periods not wanting to be around him. He sometimes had to be taken in small doses.

This is another aspect of RAD that just doesn’t show up in the same way with every child. But it will take some vigilance on your part to try and surround your child with the friends who will help them feel secure and validated. Here is an article with ideas about what to do when your child has a friend who is maybe a bad influence. And teach your child how to be a good friend and try and make sure that happens.

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

 

Good Grief! Another Holiday…

Yes, Labor Day is Monday. Another holiday is upon us with all its potential pitfalls and disasters surrounding gatherings with friends and families. And while we don’t like to expect the worst, of course when you have a RAD kiddo you have to stay on alert for “which kiddo” is going to show up at any holiday function. So with that, good grief, another holiday!

Labor Day is generally the last big party of summer. The time to close down the pool, put away the patio furniture (depending on where you live) and for some children the last hurrah before school starts (if it hasn’t already). Sometimes it’s a cookout with the family. Maybe it’s a block party with the neighborhood. It could be a pool party at the country club. Whatever it is, it could be a crowd of people that may or may not be up to speed on your RAD kiddo’s behaviors.

So it’s Monday afternoon and you’re at the pool and there’s hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and things are going fairly smoothly. All of the sudden, there’s a shriek and you see that your RAD kiddo has ripped a pool noodle away from another child and whacked them with it. And now you’re in damage control mode. You’ve got to make sure the child is OK. Then, you’ve got to apologize to the parents. You’ve got to figure out why this happened. So you talk to your RAD kiddo. And if it’s like the other times, the answer makes no sense.

Now what? Do you go home? Can you recover from this and salvage the day? Will the parents trust your child with their children now? If you punish your RAD kiddo for what they did, will they accept the consequences or will there be rage? Do you want to take the chance? And…good grief, another holiday!

There are no simple answers to these questions. If your RAD kiddo is like August, it seems like every holiday is a brand new challenge. I couldn’t look back on Independence Day to consider how he might act in this scenario as evidence. In a perfect world we could know whether our RAD kiddos could handle themselves in these situations but unfortunately that’s not our situation. We live in the world of the unpredictable, on edge and ever-changing.

What’s the answer? Ditch the Labor Day festivities in order to avoid the potential explosion? Could there be a way to run interference? Well I don’t have a definite answer. I don’t think you should ditch the party unless you can do something way better like fly to Hawaii. And I think we all know there’s no way to prevent the blow-up if it’s going to happen.

But here are a couple of ideas that might help calm the potential storm:

  • Do something with your RAD kiddo over the weekend prior (may just the two of you if possible) that they want to do and talk about the upcoming party and what you expect
  • Keep your RAD kiddo close by at the party. If you keep them engaged with you and show them what you’re expecting of their behavior, they will have less chances to forget!
  • Make sure they have their own toys, pool equipment, etc. You don’t have to go crazy but jealousy is a RAD kiddo’s kryptonite.
  • Make sure you’re praising their good behavior often during the event. The more you catch them doing good, the more likely they will continue!

After Labor Day it’s less than two months until Halloween when we start the holiday dance all over…with buckets of candy! Ack! Have a great weekend!

Until next time,

Shannon

Jealousy…

When Harry Met Sally. And if you haven’t seen the whole movie, what’s wrong with you? But it’s the scene in the restaurant where Sally convinces Harry that maybe, just maybe, not all of the girls he’s been with have had actual orgasms. That maybe some of them were faking it. She proceeds to show him how they might have done that. Right there in the restaurant. Now that part of the scene is hilarious but immediately afterward, a sweet little old lady-played by the director Rob Reiner’s mother in case you didn’t know-delivers one of the best lines of the film. To give you a little Monday giggle and make sure you read the rest of today’s blog, here’s the clip. The point of that little story is jealousy. We’ve all felt it. That little (or big) green monster has reared its ugly head probably more times than we want to confess. There’s always times when it seems a relative or a neighbor or a friend or a co-worker has it all together and you just can’t measure up. When you’re a parent with a RAD kiddo, it seems like it’s happening ALL THE TIME. When August started having school trouble, my jealousy stayed in check pretty well. I mean, shouldn’t people feel sorry for me and my sweet injured boy who is struggling so? Then we had to hold him back a year in school and then the run-ins with the law started and somehow his sweet injured self wasn’t so cute anymore. And as much I tried to keep myself from it, I started to feel jealous of parents in church and in my neighborhood who didn’t have to worry about taking their child to his probation meetings on Saturday mornings or the alcohol diversion program at 13 years old. And fast forward to today, I have just in the last month shared with my new church family that August is in prison. I’m watching friends from high school become grandparents and announce their children’s college graduations and weddings. And here creeps that large green monster once again who robs me of being able to feel true joy for them in the midst of my grief. Not surprisingly, today is again an attempt to provide you all with some helpful tips that just maybe by typing them I will get some help for myself in the process. Here are five ways to handle jealousy when it whacks you upside the head (which may not be what it feels like to you, but does to me!)

  1. Be a copycat. When something wonderful happens to a friend and you are immediately jealous, use that. Follow your friend’s example. Maybe you walked into your friend’s house and she’s completely renovated her kitchen. You may not be able to do that but you can change something that will make you happy. Buy new hand towels or a new curtain. If a friend is going on a luxurious cruise, plan a fun weekend getaway. Do something similar enough to make you happy.
  2. Practice gratitude on social media. Holy moly do NOT compare your life to someone’s life on Facebook! That is for sure a recipe for disaster! Studies have shown a direct connection between depressive symptoms and the longer time people spent on social media. So use social media, but spend some time using it to be grateful, do some “Today I’m grateful for…” posts. It might lighten your perspective and you might enjoy the responses!
  3. Focus on your strengths. One of the things I have to keep reminding myself through everything with August is that he’s alive. And he’s healthy. Everything else feels like a hug parenting fail, yes. But now I’m trying to turn my experiences into something useful for other people and hopefully over time I’ll have more lessons to share as August and I continue to grow and heal. Spend time doing what you are good at and what makes you feel good when you don’t feel like you measure up in some other way.
  4. Wallow-briefly-then move on. Be a good friend to yourself. A friend wouldn’t let you stay in a negative space; so follow your friend’s advice. Have a little pity party then get up off the mat and get back to thinking good positive thoughts. Thinking positive is a much better space to operate from and it will serve you much better in the long run.
  5. Don’t hate, congratulate! There’s enough happiness on the planet for everybody. My favorite saying is, “It’s not pie.” If you stay jealous and angry you will miss all the good things waiting for you. And you will miss out on good times with those friends and your kiddos and they will miss out on the wonderful that is you. Let them have their moments and be first in line to applaud.
I’m not for one moment going to say this is last time I’ll ever be jealous now. I will say that even writing this makes me feel lighter about how I feel about my own situation so I hope it might be helpful to one or two of you. If so, let me know in the comments, that’s what they’re for! Till next time, Shannon    ]]>