The Year of Radical Self-Care

While you’re busy breaking all your non-resolutions, let’s spend a little time talking about what really needs to happen this year. I proclaim this to be the year of radical self-care. I want to encourage all of the RAD mamas and papas to make this new year (and new decade if you are in that camp) the year that you go to bat for YOU. Let this be the year that you focus on you more-or at all-compared to the years past.

So, what is the year of radical self-care? For some of you, it may look like doing any self-care at all. Going to the bathroom with the door closed. Not fixing four different dinners like a short-order cook because no one likes the same food. At its worst, dealing with a RAD kiddo who has threatened you or physically or mentally abused you. With no end in sight. But hopefully you have found a bit of what self-care looks like, so you can dial that up and get radical in 2020.

The New York Times sent me this great article about how to be kinder to yourself this year. So many of the ideas were perfect for the exhausted RAD parent. The ideas of doing nothing at all and turning regrets into a learning experience (my personal favorite) are spot on. The list seems to hone in on what we as RAD parents beat ourselves up about and what we are needing in terms of self-care.

But as a fellow RAD parent, I know there’s even more that’s required if we want a year of RADICAL self-care. If we want to really put our needs to the forefront (even temporarily) we have to put in some work. And I know that sounds ironic but the payoff will be big. Trust me.

  • Find good respite care: If your RAD kiddos are little and you cannot leave them alone and more importantly their behaviors are such that regular sitters or family are not qualified, start now. Find good respite care. A person or a family who can take your children overnight, once or twice during the year. If you’re not on Facebook RAD groups I’d start there. Your therapist or doctor may know of some resources. Interview, plan, do anything it takes to be able to get away alone or with your significant other for a night (or two!)
  • Ask yourself the questions you ask your children: Are you hungry? Tired? Thirsty? Sad? When we are caught up in “parent mode” it is difficult to take a moment and check in with our own needs. Or even if we do notice, we often brush them aside. Stop doing that. Ask yourself the questions and listen to yourself for the answers. And then take care of what your body says.
  • Set boundaries: This is probably the hardest thing for a RAD parent to do. But also probably the most essential for radical self-care. Close the bathroom door! If your child is screaming at you, don’t take the bait. I know it is so hard. There is a benefit I have right now with August being where he is that when he calls and starts to get angry with me I can hang up. I will give him the chance to calm down and change his tone and I tell him I will not stay on the phone and be yelled at. But if it doesn’t change, I hang up. He calls back again and again and I don’t answer. After a few hours, when he calls back I will answer and he will be calm and apologize. He knows I don’t deserve to be talked to like that but sometimes he can’t control himself. You don’t deserve it either.
  • Don’t miss out on joy: If you have the opportunity to do something that brings you joy, do it! And do not let your RAD kiddos behavior get in your way. If you have are having a good day, keep having it. If you get a chance to have lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, make it happen. If reading brings you joy and you can’t remember the last time you sat down for an hour with a book, prioritize that time every day. Change your priorities so that the things that bring you joy do not fall to the bottom and then off your to-do list completely like they have in the past.
I love Anne Lamott!

I am sure you can also think of some things that will make 2020 a year of radical self-care for you based on your life. But whatever it is, keep it up. Don’t just make January feel good and be back in the depths by Valentine’s Day. I will check in throughout the year and see how things are going. Self-care only works if it’s consistent and if you keep it top of mind. Making a better you makes you better for everyone in your life. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Until Next time,

Shannon

Did You Survive Halloween?

Halloween is always one of those holidays that can be some of the most fun or one that you absolutely dread. Scary stuff, loads of sugar, staying up way past bedtime…what could possibly go wrong? This year, with Halloween coming on a weeknight it adds to everything with then getting up and having to go to school the next day. So did you survive Halloween?

When August was little, Halloween was better than Christmas. Not something he’d ever experienced in Russia, the prospect of going door-to-door and having people just hand over candy? Too good to be true. He’d almost bathe in the pile of candy he’d have after the haul. I’d have to steal away a bunch of his candy and hide the rest so he didn’t fall into a sugar coma (unfortunately that also meant eating too much myself!)

I made August’s first costume. I had plunged into the mommy thing and I thought that came with some magical sewing skills I didn’t actually possess. So of course, I chose what I thought was a simple enough tiger costume with a velcro back closure, elastic arms and legs, a stuffed tail and a hood with ears. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? I was literally sewing him into it Halloween night. It wasn’t perfect, but he looked adorable and it was perfect for me to do it! And then his brother wore it, it had a good life in the dress-up box and then as costumes for a friend’s two children. So I guess I did OK!

When both boys were old enough to trick-or-treat then it got even more interesting. Because it added arguments over where to go, how long to stay out and negotiations over candy to the mix. Because one parent had to take the boys and one parent had to stay and hand out candy so some compromises had to happen. August has always had boundless energy and stamina so staying out as long as possible and running from house to house to grab as much as he could would always be his plan. Having a younger brother who wasn’t as quick and didn’t have as much staying power was just a drag.

Certainly the most frightening thing was when August was old enough to go out by himself. Trusting that August would be polite. That he would be respectful at those houses that just leave out the bucket with the sign that says, “Please take one”. That he will stay with the friends he leaves with and stay in our neighborhood. All those normal parent worries that are magnified times a million when you have a RAD kiddo.

So how do you handle Halloween? Have you ever just had to cancel it completely? Did you ever end up far away from home with a raging child and a long walk ahead of you? A meltdown in the costume aisle? RAD takes the joy out of so many occasions. Our visions of the perfect family holidays get dashed by one tantrum, one manipulation, one controlling behavior.

Halloween works the same as all holidays. Set reasonable expectations. Don’t fantasize a picture perfect day. Have a back-up plan. Make sure the family knows all the rules before setting out so there’s no attempts (well, less of an attempt) at negotiating when you’re away from home. And already have a plan for that candy!

I hope you had a great holiday! Now it’s full steam ahead into Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas!

Until next time,

Shannon

Getting Your RAD to do Chores

As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that working for you?” For children with reactive attachment disorder, chores can be the hill they choose to die on. It is a hard concept for them to come to grips with for several reasons. They don’t feel like they are part of the family so they don’t feel like they need to contribute. Rewards don’t work because they only respond to immediate gratification. Their need for control means that they rarely like being told what to do. So what is the key to getting your RAD to do chores?

When August was young I probably used every reward chart invented to try and get some cooperation and help. Magnets with pictures, charts with bright colors, ones he could draw on himself to be proud of. Nothing worked. Waiting a week for a reward was an eternity for him. And he decided that the work wasn’t worth the reward or the wait. Now I did get the boys to clear their dishes from the table and put them in the dishwasher (no idea how!) And when they were older I did get them to figure out that if they wanted their clothes washed they needed to get them to the laundry room. But those were my two chore miracles!

When he got older I tried to have some conversations with him about the responsibility of being a member of the household and the family and what goes along with that. That was pretty much a non-starter. He got an allowance that came with some chores. But it seemed like there was always a battle to get them done. And he was the king of the path of least resistance.

Why do we have to clean our room

Now of course, some of this comes with every child. Rebellious teenagers are common no matter what the situation. But with our RAD kiddos it gets harder when they don’t feel connected to the family or accountable to a parent they haven’t bonded with. Talking back or refusing is nothing when they feel no regret or remorse. If they don’t care to make the family happy or the home better, getting your RAD to do chores may seem like an impossible task.

A lot of living with a RAD kiddo is answering the, “what’s in it for me” question. Because that’s the only thing they want to know. And while making chores transactional isn’t what we want to do, it may be the way to get things done until things get better. I found it makes for an easier conversation and less stress for all concerned.

Here is a list of three apps which help with this process. I have used Chore Monster with the boys and they loved it. Whenever either of them wanted money, I could load up some jobs I needed done in the app and they could go to work!

I would love to hear your ideas and success stories of how you’ve gotten chores done with your RAD kiddos. Let us all know what you have found that works!

Until next time,

Shannon