I had decided that the first Monday of every month would be just inspirational quotes that everyone would fall in love with. You would print them out and hang them on your bathroom mirrors and laminate for their wallets. This is because they would be so moving and perfect and meaningful. But then I realized that the same messages that hit someone in the heart and fill them with hope and peace may also hit someone in the heart and fill them with anger and resentment. Because that has happened to me. So here I present Inspirational Messages to Help You and Bother You.
How can they bother me, you ask? Well, here’s one story. My former father-in-law was a Baptist minister. A wonderful, devoted man. My ex-husband and I struggled with infertility for seven years before adopting August then surprisingly getting pregnant almost simultaneously and having our younger son seven months later. During those seven horrible years, after every failed attempt, when talking to my in-laws I’d hear my father-in-law say, “If it’s God’s will…” followed by some platitude about next time working out. And I’m not going to get into a religious conversation about IVF or my personal beliefs. But you can bet that I cannot imagine anyone wanting to believe in a God that would have me go through the anguish I did for seven years. Much less be reminded regularly by my father-in-law that God was the one controlling the process!
That being said, I know not every inspiring, hopeful message will be received the same way. So I tend to gravitate toward ones that might be funny, witty, or more real than others. Like not worrying about whether the glass is half empty or half full, just being happy there’s still something in the damn glass!
Having kiddos with Reactive Attachment Disorder is so much about survival and the day-to-day that words like “hope” and “peace” don’t rise to the top of the pile very often. Being more intentional about finding ways to get them into our daily thoughts is a challenge I encourage all of us to accept. Maybe forgetting the platitudes and just pondering those individual words for their intense simplicity is enough. Say them quietly to yourself and try and find time to focus on what hope and peace look like for you. And if you want to print this and tape it to your fridge, I won’t mind…
Today I’m thinking about fairness. For a variety of reasons.
I’m leaving with my younger son in a couple weeks to do the first of what is looking like many trips to look at colleges. Now he’s a smart, talented kid who’s been involved in a lot of activities and has pretty good ACT and SAT scores so I think he’s got a pretty good chance of getting into one of the schools he wants. But a couple of weeks ago, like many of you, I was caught up in the news about the vast cheating scandal that had been going on for years at many of the country’s top colleges and universities where affluent parents were paying enormous sums to get their kids into schools they would never have gotten into otherwise. Essentially take a spot of a deserving child who had worked and dreamed their entire life of playing soccer for USC or studying at Yale.
For our kids with RAD, fairness is a tough concept. They have been so deprived for so long and live in a space where their own survival is dependent on their being constantly vigilant about what they can get. I was recently talking with a friend about how to divide a cookie we were going to share and I said when my boys were little, the way I did it was one would cut but the other got to choose which half first. Man, they were out there with a slide rule and protractor and ruler and calculator trying to figure out how to make those pieces the closest to equal they could! Many thanks to their father’s mother for that trick!
But explaining to a child with RAD, or any child, the idea of fairness is not easy. It’s where community sports invented the “participation trophy”. An idea I loathe to this day. We don’t have to pretend that our children can’t grasp the idea but we do have to remember how they think and make sure we have the words to explain the differences. It is part of their growth and development to understand that not everything will be the way they want or what they see as “fair”.
To help with explain this idea of “fair”, here are some tips to explain to children:
Kids think fair means equal. Back to my point about the cookie. And you probably know some adults that think this as well. You’ve been in a kindergarten class where every child has to have a green crayon of the same length. No one can have more potato chips than anyone else. We do that with our children from a very early age and they learn the idea that fair means equal. We train them to expect that. We then work for the rest of our lives to undo what we’ve done because it’s hard (and annoying) to see a child unhappy.
What it should mean is “just”. Being “just” means considering all variables, people, and sides of an issue. Sometimes it’s a practicality issue-your younger child needs new shoes because he grew a half-size in six months but your older child hasn’t. Sometimes it’s emotional-your teenager had a rough day and you offer to take them out to dinner for some one-on-one time. If your pre-teen then screams that they want to go out to dinner to and you cave and agree to take them out tomorrow night, then all is lost. It’s the participation trophy. It undermines the consideration of the feelings of the teenager and it fails to teach the younger child that what doesn’t seem fair (in their eyes) is still right and just. Because attention is solving a necessary problem and healing a hurt.
Don’t say, “Life isn’t fair.” I’m sure I’m not the only RAD parent (or parent period) who’s said or been tempted to say it hundreds of times! One kid counts the number of pieces of popcorn they have and you go through the roof! Well don’t be surprised to learn that this phrase means nothing to a child. It is OK to acknowledge the feeling: “I think what you’re really saying is you’re unhappy and you don’t like it.”. And you can explain what happened, “Yep, I’m not going to scoop ice cream the exact same way every time.” But don’t overexplain. But don’t draw attention to the child and their fit by making the “fairness fight” a big deal. You can talk through when a child does recognize a truly unjust situation, like when your child comes home upset because a child acted out and the teacher punished the whole class. That’s an opportunity to discuss that maybe you wouldn’t have handled it that way but you can try to see why the teacher handled it like that.
Good News! You’re building resilience. In addition to developing empathy, children are learning to tolerate disappointment. We rob them of the ability to learn resilience when we make everything equal and fine (thing again of the loathsome participation trophy). Your younger child is mad because they got one present when their older sibling got three? Explain how three smaller gifts add up to one big bike. If your child thinks they got a raw deal, sympathize then move on. Be genuine and maybe share your own disappointment, something you wanted and didn’t get and thought was unfair. Always be a model for those concepts we want our children to learn.
It’s always hard to see our children disappointed. We want them to have everything. We want them always smiling and laughing. But we do them a disservice if we don’t help them learn the skills that will make them able to handle the realities of life. Because while we can’t say it…Life isn’t fair!
Till next time,
10 to 40: The calories burned in 10 to 15 minutes of daily laughter.
15 to 20: The estimated number of times a day that an adult laughs.
103: The ideal number of words in a joke.
3000+: The number of Internet sites devoted to sharing lawyer jokes.
5.8: The average number of bouts of laughter in a typical 10-minute conversation.
I prefer comedies to any other kind of movies (I HATE horror movies-why pay money to get scared out of your wits?) I’m always on the lookout for a good joke. Or even a bad one. Sometimes the best jokes are the bad ones that come right when you just need to bust out laughing at something so ridiculous.
August used to hate it when he would say something so outlandish that all I could do was laugh. Because laughter is sometimes all we have as our defense mechanism in the face of a situation so absurd that we can’t believe we’ve ended up here. And with August and I imagine the RAD parents out there reading this can relate, there were more times than I can recall when I was in a conversation thinking, “How did I get here?”
The irrational, argumentative, impulsive thinking of a RAD child is so off the charts bizarre at times that the best response, the ONLY response, may be laughter. And that’s OK. Now depending on your child, it may not be prudent to do it in front of your child. Sometimes August would get so angry. But sometimes I could get him to join in and realize the craziness of his thinking and it would help defuse the situation. As I discussed on Monday, feeling angry all the time gets so old. I didn’t want my entire existence with August to be about anger. I still don’t. I don’t want to look back on my relationship with him and only remember the raging and hurt and anger which right now is the bulk of my memories.
I am finding ways to re-build a life somewhat separate from him though we still have very close contact (I get to see him this weekend!) But he is an adult now. I hope to be able to look forward to laughing with him as two adults someday. We have occasional times on the phone where we laugh about a TV show we’ve both watched or something my chickens have done or anything else and hearing him laugh makes my heart swell.
If you are finding laughter hard to come by, I highly recommend you seek out things that give you reasons to laugh. Maybe it’s a friend who you always know has a way to get you to giggle. May a movie, book or TV show. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below. It is true, “Laughter is the best medicine.” I am a big fan.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. This is one of my favorites of his but honestly any of his books will have you in stitches.
Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler. This one is not for those who might want something a little “cleaner” but man, she’s funny.
Bless Your Heart, Tramp: And Other Southern Endearments by Celia Rivenbark. Like David Sedaris anything from her will be hilarious. I actually got this on CD for a drive with August and he cackled listening to it.
TheIn-Laws. I’m sure the remake was good but I’m talking about the 1979 original with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. I can’t watch someone run toward me without shouting “Serpentine! Serpentine!”
The Princess Bride. Please don’t say you’ve never seen it. It should be required viewing to become an adult.
This is Spinal Tap. See above. And pretty much anything else Christopher Guest has ever touched. He’s a funny, funny man.
Television is much more subjective and with so many stations it’s hard to know what everyone can get access to. But the ones that come to mind are:
VEEPParks & RecreationCurb Your EnthusiasmBrooklyn Nine-NineThe Good PlaceModern FamilySeinfeld30 Rock
So send me some jokes or stories of when laughter has helped!
Till next time,
Today’s post may fall into the category of “those who can’t, teach”. I am sort of organized about many things. I am NOT organized about A LOT of things. My clutter tolerance is high. Right now I am writing from a desk that is almost invisible due to the amount of papers covering it. Occasionally I reach my limit and do a massive purge and get ALMOST organized. But not quite. Never all the way. Never to the point where I have systems or processes.
Some places I am better. There are a few things in the kitchen where I am a stickler for organization. But that’s mostly what I inherited from my grandmother, in whose house I live now. I put things where she did, organized just so. Now the truth is she was one stack of newspapers away from an episode of “Hoarders”, but the bins and bins of craft materials were well-organized. Sort of. I am still digging out from under some of that.
In an attempt of “Physician heal thyself”, I thought I’d focus on some organization tips today that maybe I can learn from, too. I know when the chaos of RAD life is whirling all around, finding a few places where life is organized can seem a big help. Hopefully these ideas will do that.
Organized people avoid the big black hole. The bigger the storage space, the larger the mess. Smaller compartments and containers are the solution. Smaller bins inside large sideboard drawers to hold candles and napkins and small pouches inside large purses to hold lipsticks and pens will help minimize even the littlest bit of stress.
Organized people trick themselves with treats. Don’t think children are the only ones who can be bribed! Clean the garage gets you a pedicure? Of course it does! Laundry gets you a bubble bath and glass of wine? You bet!
Organized people say no to spillover. My son was a hoarder of things. Sometimes none of it made sense. I’m sure many of you can relate. But allowing ALL the stuffed animals in the room will eventually make you want to move and leave no forwarding address! We started donating some every year before Christmas which helped reduce the population, keep a little more organized and embrace a spirit of giving. If that’s not something your child can handle, try putting some away in a bin a rotating the bins every couple of months. You keep your organization and the kids get new toys more frequently! Everybody wins!
Organized people keep useful things close. So how often do you use that juicer that you always have to move to get to the blender? Take some time to look around your kitchen, your dining room, your office and arrange it so that the items you really use are handy. Anything you don’t use should be donated and anything you use infrequently should be stored up high or in the back.
Organized people spend 30 seconds now to save hours later. When you hold an item, decide right then where its final resting place should be. If you drop it in a pile, then that pile will be what you spend two hours dealing with over the weekend when you could be doing something much more interesting.
Organized people move their cast-offs to their car. Keeping a bin in your car and regularly moving items out of your house and to it helps you stay motivated to get the clutter out. When the bin is full in your car, head to the charity of your choice, empty the bin and keep going!
Organized people have twice as many hooks (and not one thing on the floor). Look around your house. How much wall space do you have? Probably a lot. Think about how much of it could be used for hanging brooms, mops, hair gadgets, clothes, kitchen items, whatever! Pinterest is full of clever wall hanging ideas that don’t break the bank!
Organized people adjust their shelves. Have you ever been bugged by things not fitting in medicine cabinets or bookcases? Most of the time the shelves are adjustable. Take a little time to prioritize what needs to be shelved and get the shelf heights you need to get things on the shelves and out of sight!
Organized people think in zones. Arrange things by use. A pet zone-leash, waste bags, flashlight, treats. In your pantry put all the school lunch items together for easy grabbing in the morning or the night before (or for your kids to make their OWN lunches!) The more your arrange your life to take shorter steps, the less stressed you will be searching for an item every time you need it.
Organized people never miss something they toss. Attaching emotions to things makes getting organized almost impossible. I experienced this when I had to clean out my grandmother’s house when I moved in. The hardest was getting rid of pictures. And some of them were pictures of people who no one in my family could name! Once you make your goal a happier and more organized home, you’ll get rid of the clutter with ease.
Reactive Attachment Disorder can rock your world every minute of every day. I lived with holes in my walls and August had a room with a mattress on the floor and a dresser with no knobs for longer than I can remember. You give up the illusion of the Martha Stewart home pretty early on. But a little organization can go a long way toward keeping you sane.
Please share your organization tips and successes! We can all use some help! (By we I mean ME)
Till next time,
Homework isn’t necessary in elementary school. Denise Pope, Ph.D. says there really isn’t a correlation between homework and achievement at this age. Kids at this age need free time for play and collaboration and READING. Over-scheduling a child in these years with homework and activities will turn them off to learning but letting them free select will increase their ability to innovate and use their brain.
So what is the point of homework? It does teach students to learn independently and quite honestly it’s what’s expected by parents. It is an important link between parents and the school to see what their children are working on. But that is contingent on the parents actually looking at the work. Again, being involved is the key!
Decide what’s appropriate. None is the answer for kindergarten. After that 10 minutes per grade level is generally the rule. But it doesn’t meaning filling out yet another worksheet. It can be reading a book with you or drawing a picture. It teaches focus and independent study and by the time they do have actual homework in middle and high school they are used to sitting for a longer period of time.
Because middle and high school are more challenging. There is a correlation here between homework and achievement but it fades after 90 minutes for middle school and two hours for high school. After 3 1/2 hours there are negative effects. It can lead to anxiety, depression and stress. Add to the problem of classrooms that spend too much time on testing instead of instruction and over-scheduled kids and it’s all bad.
What’s the resolution? Maybe little. Here are some ideas:
Look at the 24-hour day and set the priorities for sleep and school and other activities. If there isn’t enough time for homework, a conversation needs to happen.
Make a contract that determines when homework happens (right after school, right after dinner, etc.) and sign it. When everyone agrees, the arguing tends to stop.
Brainstorm with the teachers; explain your child’s unique situation and see if there’s a solution that works better with your child’s learning style. Maybe a packet once a month will work better than every day or week. It will allow you to be flexible when your child may have better days or back off when it’s not such a good time.
Don’t help! As much as you may want to bail your child out, as they get older, they do need to learn how to learn. If they can’t finish, write a note and explain, don’t finish the work. Let the teacher know there’s an issue.
I spent a lot of time when August was in school doing battle over homework. We would arrive at home after school and he would bolt out of the car before I would get it in park because he didn’t want to do homework. He would run away for hours. He knew what was coming. It was an almost daily battle. Sometimes I could get him to work but when the anxiety would grow he’d say, “Mom, I need to run around the house.” And he would quite literally, RUN AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE. He’d come in and be a different child. And we’d get the work done. The key is being flexible. And communicate with the teachers so they know you-and your child-are doing the best you can. And give yourself a break!
Till next time,
Breathing shouldn’t be something that takes up much thought. I mean, it’s as easy as, well, breathing, right? But our hectic lives and stress and tension can affect our breathing. Our breathing can actually contribute to the build up of toxins in our body if done improperly which can make our ability to cope even harder. The thing we most take for granted may be adding to our headaches, panic attacks, stress and fatigue.
The moral of this is we can just breathe. HOW we breathe matters. Being more intentional about our breathing can help us feel better, not just stay alive. Below I’ve included a couple of breathing exercises to try. I first tried this for help with sleeping and was amazed when it WORKED! I was a skeptic but it was one of the only ways I could turn off my brain and get to sleep.
The key is first learning correct breathing technique. When we are born, we breathe with our abdomen; our diaphragm. If you’ve ever taken singing lessons, it’s what they tell you helps sustain your breath to hold long notes and produce a good sound. Somewhere along the way, we stop doing that and start to breathe from our chest in shorter, shallower breaths. If you have the ability to watch a baby sleep or breathe, you’ll see that as it breathes, its stomach moves up and down, not its chest. A baby naturally breathes deeply and wholly. It would be nice if life didn’t get in the way and we stopped taking these blissful deep breaths!
This first one is the one I used to fall asleep:
Mindful Breath Counting
Practice this exercise while sitting upright to enhance mindfulness awareness. Later, if you like, you can use it in bed as a technique to help you fall asleep.
Use slow, deep abdominal breathing.
Count each exhalation to yourself. When you reach the fourth exhalation, start over again at one. Here is how you do it: Inhale…exhale (“one”)…inhale…exhale (”two”)…inhale…exhale (“three”)…inhale…exhale (“four”)…inhale…exhale (“one”)…and so forth.
If your mind wanders to bodily sensations, noises, daydreams, worries and so forth, simply observe those thoughts without judgments or expectation, and then return to counting your breaths.
If you lose track of your count, simply start over again at “one”.
Continue counting your exhalations in sets of four for 10 minutes. Gradually increase to 20 minutes.
I promise if you try it to help getting to sleep you won’t need 20 minutes!
Letting Go of Tension Exercise
Inhale diaphragmatically (with your abdomen rather than your chest expanding) as you say to yourself “breathe in”.
Hold your breath a moment before you exhale.
Exhale slowly and deeply as you say to yourself “exhale”.
Inhale slowly, then hold your breath for a moment, noticing any parts of your body that tense up.
As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body. With each exhalation, feel increasingly relaxed as you release tension.
Pause between each breath, finding your natural rhythm.
When thoughts, feelings and sensations catch your attention, simply observe them, then re-focus on your breathing.
Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, practice it throughout the day in non-stressful situations for five to 20 minutes at a time. Then try using it in stressful situations to reduce your tension.
As you practice, focus on exhaling completely: you must exhale fully before you can breathe in deeply.
Please share your experiences with trying these ideas and their success for you. We can all use a little less tension and some more fresh breaths!
Till next time,
“If your heart is broken, make art with the broken pieces”
So what do we do? Where do we get our fuel to continue day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? It takes resolve and training to be resilient to the blows that just keep coming and find some way to see hope and something positive in the midst of all that seems to wear us down. Here are a couple of tricks doctors say will help:
Let yourself feel sad: I know, right? So here’s the deal. It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself. When something awful happens, cry, scream, eat a pint of ice cream, binge watch Netflix. Feel hopeless. Because if you don’t feel hopeless, how can you know what hopeful feels like? You don’t have to be stone-faced and strong all the time. But watch that it doesn’t last too long because that can be a sign of depression.
Control what you can: If you’ve read about having a child with RAD this may sound like a page right out their playbook! But it’s true. If you do just one thing you can to affect your situation, you will be amazed at what it can do for your mood. If your child is destroying his or her room, clean your room and put a lock on the door. Just one little thing, however small, will make a huge difference.
But be flexible: There will be times when there is nothing going right. You know it. We’ve all been there. At those times, you can’t expect to be able to do what you had planned, go where you want, wear what you want, maybe even more dire consequences. But the key is to be able to find a way to make choices that are the best in a bad situation. Don’t be afraid to take that sharp left or right turn.
Find resilient role models: We have all been through tough times. Maybe you know someone who has been through health problems and survived and thrived. Someone who had financial struggles and started a business and got on their feet. Use these individuals as motivation that you, too, can survive your trials.
Be a role model: We are all as parents working so hard to provide the best, safest, most loving homes for our children. They are hurt and we didn’t hurt them. I am so angry that my son is paying for what was done to him that he couldn’t control. But now I want to pay it forward and help others with what I’ve learned and what will hopefully help other children. You can do that too. Wouldn’t it be great if all RAD children could learn from our knowledge and care?
Talk it Out: Having a support system when parenting a child with RAD is so valuable. And it doesn’t have to be other RAD parents, though I found that helpful. There are groups on social media, adoption groups if your child is adopted. Maybe it’s just a close friend if you’re not very outgoing. Me, I’ll talk to anybody! But sometimes when it doesn’t feel good in your heart, hearing it out loud can help!
Know that You’re Already Doing It: Did your child wake up this morning? Did you feed them? Will they wake up tomorrow? Are you reading this? Then you are doing the work to help your child and be the best parent of a RAD child you can be. You are getting it done. Pat yourself on the back and cut yourself some slack.
That last bullet is the most valuable. You are already doing it! I would love to hear your stories of resilience. Please feel free to share as you feel comfortable.
Till next time,
Plant a garden. Start with a seed and see how it grows (incrementally) each day. No yard? A cup of soil on the windowsill works just as well. You don’t need a fancy store-bought kit!
Get cooking. “It works well because you have to get the ingredients, combine them, and then wait before you get your reward,” says registered nurse Rona Renner.
Make a wish list. It’s never too early to start a birthday list. When your child finally gets her coveted toys, the payoff will be especially sweet.
Do jigsaw puzzles. Bring on all 400 pieces! Resist the urge to help your child find the place for that one tricky piece.
Plan a surprise. It doesn’t have to be a birthday blowout. Your kids will learn the value of delayed gratification, says family physician Deborah Gilboa, even if they’re bringing Dad breakfast in bed.
Raise caterpillars. “Every year, I order a cup of caterpillars. First, we wait for the package to arrive, Then it takes 7 to 10 days for the caterpillars to attach to the cup and another week before the emerge as butterflies–a spectacular reward,” says parenting expert Lori Lite.
Now with RAD, some of these are easier than others. But hopefully one or two might be a calming activity you can do together or spark some other ideas. Getting that mind engaged and focused where you can see the beautiful mind inside is a reward worth fighting for.
Please share your ideas and your success stories! I’d love to hear from you!