Talking to Family about Gifts

This holiday season it is impossible to get away from the barrage of ads and offers of everything that a child would ever want. And every TV, radio, newspaper, onscreen ad, store and mall is filled with ads and products designed to encourage buying. And lots of it. So how do you talk to your children about keeping the buying to a minimum? And even harder, how about talking to family about gifts?

When August came home and then Spencer was due right after Christmas, we were like a UPS depot at the house. Just about the time the presents stop coming from August’s arrival, then came Christmas. We were a name drawing family. But my grandmother thought that everyone should buy for August AND for Spencer who hadn’t even been born yet! I put the stop to that. I didn’t want to start the boys down the path of expecting a blow out Christmas every year. So, I explained that the boys would go into the name draw just like everyone else. August hadn’t even met most of his relatives yet. And I was going to be too pregnant to go back East for Christmas so it was going to still be a while before he did.

It helped a little bit. But then there was Spencer’s birth followed by Valentine’s Day and Easter and I swear it was Memorial Day before the boxes stopped coming. So early on it was hard talking to family about gifts.

So what do you do when your family needs to understand the unique situation with your RAD kiddo where gifts are concerned? As August got older, he’s figured out the connection between asking for gifts, getting gifts and emotions. And with manipulation being one of the RAD tools of the trade, it is very easy for them to use that expertise at the holiday season. The idea that love can be “bought” is very easy for them to grab onto.

Hopefully you’ve had some conversations with your family already about the different attributes of RAD so tailoring the conversation to the holidays shouldn’t be so complicated. Explaining that RAD behaviors don’t get suspended during the holidays shouldn’t be hard. In fact, it might be good to prepare your family that they might be heightened.

But back to presents. Talking to family about gifts will mean setting some ground rules about cost. And the type of gifts you want your RAD kiddos to receive. For example, we were concerned about August’s fascination with guns. So we asked that he get no video games with guns or toys that were guns. Sometimes that meant over-ruling his list! Of course we didn’t always let him know that. And his list was always huge so most of the time it was easy because there was no way he was going to get everything on it.

As he got older he started wanting money. We wanted to make sure it was for a specific purpose and that he was being practical. One year he wanted a Nintendo DS. My grandmother thought it would be cute to give him $50 but all in $1 bills and in multiple packages. The woman behind us at GameStop wasn’t nearly as pleased when he counted out all those ones to buy it!

The point is that there is definitely an opportunity with the holidays for the structure and rules you have put in place for your RAD kiddo to go off the rails. Well-meaning family need to know that it’s important to honor your wishes even in the season of over-indulgence. And if you get the, “But it’s just…” don’t back down. Make sure you explain plainly and clearly how much it can set back all the progress you have made.

So I tried to find some websites to help with ideas but really couldn’t find anything that made any sense for RAD kiddos. Which wasn’t at all surprising. We will be talking more about holiday traditions and how to navigate them in the weeks to come. So hang on and steel yourself for the season of peace and joy!

Until next time,

Shannon

When School Has No Recess

If your RAD kiddos are anything like August, they have more energy than you ever thought could fit in one little body. And there is some relief in knowing that a decent chunk of it gets burned off every day at school. Between gym class and recess, they get to wiggle out enough calories to make time at home more calm. But this time of year in many parts of the country the weather makes recess impossible. School rules don’t allow for it. So what to do when school has no recess?

Well it’s not very practical to dress your kid like the little brother from A Christmas Story just to go to school. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bundle them up and send them out once they get home, weather permitting. But if the weather isn’t agreeable still, there are other things you can do inside to “get the willies out”.

  • Small Trampoline: These are one of the best inventions ever. You can probably find one used fairly cheaply though they aren’t very expensive. Your RAD kiddo can jump on it while watching TV! There are exercise videos for them now. And for a challenge you can set a timer and see if they can jump for a length of time to get a reward.
  • Dancing: Get your groove on! Move the living room furniture against the wall, tell Alexa or Google to play a funky beat and let loose! You can take turns picking songs, play freeze or musical chairs. It doesn’t matter how you move, just move!
  • Introduce Old Time Workouts: Remember Jane Fonda and Jazzercise? Yes, It was all the rage in getting fit back in the 1970’s. So, how hilarious would your children find it now? YouTube is a wealth of history with all those scary videos just waiting to be unearthed. Load one up and see if your kiddos can keep up? For extra fun, try and match those groovy outfits!

These are just a few of the ways you can get moving when the weather outside is frightful. For some more creative ideas, check out this website for a bunch! Understandably, there will be some stir crazy times during the winter months. Not every day will be good to go out and play. And, some days, your RAD kiddo just can’t be pleased. But there are enough ways to keep those bodies moving to wear them out at least some of the time!

Until next time,

Shannon

Hangover Remedies – For ALL the Hangovers

I took last week off for the Holiday. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with as little drama as life with a RAD kiddo will allow! After a big holiday celebration, there is definitely a recovery period. Here are some ideas for hangover remedies – for all the hangovers you might be suffering from.

Workout Hangover

  • Ice and more Ice: If you took some time off from your regular workout routine and you tried to make up for it all at once on Sunday, you may be feeling it. While a nice hot soak in the tub may be calling your name, the aches and pains will respond better to ice packs. They reduce inflammation and disrupt pain signals.
  • Tart Cherry Juice: A 2016 study showed that an ounce of tart cherry juice taken twice a day for eight days resulted in less inflammation and muscle damage following an intense workout. Cherry juice has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Get back at it: Keep at it. An easy walk or bike ride will get blood flowing to the sore areas and help with healing.

Sleep-Deprivation Hangover

  • Lay off Carbs and Caffeine: Your body will crave bad foods when you are sleepy. Stick to proteins for constant energy and coffee is OK, but just one cup. And getting out in the sun will help your body clock reset and shake your sluggish feelings
  • Aromatherapy: Inhaling peppermint and rosemary oil will give you a quick boost. These scents increase alertness and memory function.
  • Have a Chat: Go visit your neighbor or co-worker, schedule a playdate. Social interactions have a positive affect on your body’s clock. Even ten minutes can give you a lift in cognitive function.

Stress Hangover

  • Change the Story: Take a break and make sure the conversation in your head is real. Are you making a bigger deal out of whatever you’re thinking than it really is? A quick gut check can help get you in the right head space.
  • Settle Down: Find a quiet place to do some deep breathing. It calms your sympathetic nervous system and switches off your fight or flight response.
  • Get Moving: A quick walk will not only provide a great distraction, it boosts your immune system. Just a few minutes will clear your head and calm your nerves.

The Food Hangover

  • Eat!: The temptation is to not eat again after packing it in at Thanksgiving. But that could and probably will backfire. Better to eat a moderate meal high in fiber and low in salt. And drink plenty of water.
  • Get Moving: Works for just about everything. It speeds up digestion as well as releasing endorphins which boost your mood. When you feel less bloated, you’ll start to feel better.
  • Try Ginger and Mint: Ginger has been found to ease nausea so some ginger tea or grating fresh ginger in warm water can be helpful. Peppermint oil can help with bloating, gas and abdominal cramps by calming the GI tract. But it can exacerbate reflux so if you are prone to heartburn skip this one.

Talking Hangover

  • SHHHH: Texting and email means that we hardly ever have to use our phones as phones. Of course that’s up to the RAD kiddos to decide whether you actually get to do this. But as much as you can, less talking and with quiet tones.
  • Rehydrate: Sips of water with lemon, decaffeinated herbal tea, sugarless gum will help stimulate saliva flow and lubricate your vocal chords. Try not to clear your throat because it will aggravate and already injured throat.
  • Steam: A steam room or a long hot shower will both help moisturize your throat and make it feel better!

The Nightmare Hangover

  • Take a Cold Shower: When your sleep gets disrupted and anxiety starts creeping in, bad dreams are more likely to follow. A cold shower can shock your system, like changing the channel in your brain.
  • Get it out of Your Head: Writing down your dream and how it made you feel allows you to reason out what you dreamed. It will calm any fear and anxiety it may have caused.
  • Analyze It: Change your thoughts about your dream and you will change your feelings about it. It will instantly calm your nerves. Decide what your dreams meant in more realistic terms.

Bet you didn’t realize all the hangovers you could be dealing with? Making sure you recover from these before the next holiday wave hits will make it easier to survive the season. And it will help you be the best you can be for your RAD kiddos as well! Happy holidays!

Until next time,

Shannon

Thankful for the Good Times

We’ve talked about being thankful for the bad times. This may not be easy but it is important because if we didn’t have bad times, we would be able to know the good times when they come. And of course, we must be thankful for the good times!

But I want to talk about being thankful for the good times in a different way. When we are in the midst of life with our RAD kiddos, the good times may be a day when the school doesn’t call. Or a day when there aren’t any fights (at least not big ones). If it was a day when everything goes pretty much the way it should, that’s a good day, right? I know we condition ourselves to think that way because our benchmark has gotten so small when the behaviors of these kiddos can be so extreme.

But I encourage you to be thankful for the good times by remembering the actual good times. Even in the worst of the periods with August, there were moments when we had truly joyous times. Spring break one year, I took the boys to Kentucky. We stayed in some small WPA built cabins outside the entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park. We spent the week explore the various caves, went zip-lining, went to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game. It was a perfect week.

Another time was surprisingly when I went to visit August when he was in residential treatment. I spent the weekend there and I was allowed to take him out every day. We played mini-golf, we spent time with August’s therapy dog and we took a helicopter ride! The look on August’s face when we were in the helicopter is one I will always remember. He looked for a brief time like the sweet, happy little boy he had been before the cloud of reactive attachment disorder descended over him. It was such a wonderful time for us.

I’m not saying the good times have to be just fabulous family vacations. I look at photos sometimes and remember good times that happened right at home. The year I homeschooled August we worked on muscles, ligaments and tendons. One of the ways the material suggested we study this was with a chicken leg. So we got one out in the kitchen and checked it out. We were both so grossed out we gave up! And we didn’t have chicken for dinner that night!

Definitely be thankful for the good times when there aren’t any calls from school. Or when there aren’t any big fights. Because all of those are good times. But sit down with your RAD kiddo and remember those good times. Share them together. Use them to foster a shared experience of good interactions. Remind yourself and your RAD kiddo that not everything that happens between the two of you is negative.

I have said on many occasions that I will always love August. There have been times when I haven’t liked him. And that’s a tough thing to say. But I love to remember these times. I love to remember when we were as close as we could be as mother and child.

Until next time,

Shannon

Is Writing Difficult for Your Child?

The question of the day: is writing difficult for your child? And by difficult, I don’t just mean the content, thinking up the words. Is the actual physical act of writing difficult for your child as well?

When August was in second grade, I finally was able to get him an IEP. I’d been asking since the day he walked into the building. I knew he was going to need extra help. First of all, he wasn’t first language English so he was behind the curve right there. Second, after preschool and what I’d been seeing from working with him at home, I knew he was behind. Our IEP meeting included an occupational therapist and the decision was made to have her evaluate him. That was a God-send.

Her conclusion was that his fine motor skills were underdeveloped. Possibly from his early delayed development and possibly from his ADHD but she wanted to include OT with his IEP plan. I was find with his getting any and all help that was offered! She worked with him every couple of weeks. writing in shaving cream, strengthening exercises with balloons, all designed to help his writing.

After elementary school, this aspect of his IEP translated to middle school as a typing class. He was pulled out and given a typing class to make him better at typing to replace his inability to write well. Now this one I had mixed feelings about. Yes, the whole world lives on computers and smart phones. And he probably won’t ever miss not being able to write quickly or all that legibly I thought. But guess what you don’t have in prison? A computer or a smart phone.

And then his IEP was further modified so that when he did all his papers, he was allowed to go directly to typing them. Most of the time the requirement was there was a written first draft and then the students typed the final draft. Anything that lessened the anxiety of the part of school that stressed him out the most seemed like a good move. And when he finally got a smart phone boy was he ready!

But there’s also the content side of writing. Crafting stories with creative words and painting pictures on paper. Or being able to read something and then digest it and summarize what you’ve read into a paragraph or paper. This is a problem of a different kind for young writers. And often much harder to overcome.

August has been tested every which way over the years. He has never officially been diagnosed with a learning issue, I have always believed he has some sort of issue where language is concerned. I don’t know if it’s connected to his ADHD, or RAD or something completed different. But his reading has always been so hard for him. So being able to read and then write about what he
read was challenging. We even added extra tutoring at Sylvan when he was in
fifth grade to help improve his reading and writing. All that did was
exacerbate the rages and fights over school because of the added time spent in
“school”. I’m not sure it moved the needle much if any.

Not every child will develop a love for writing. But there are ways to help
your child improve their writing skills. If they have an IEP, they can also be
evaluated by an OT to check their fine motor skills. If they also have fine
motor skills issues, an OT can be added or, as was done with August, typing can
be introduced. The ability to write shouldn’t get in the way.

And of course you can find everything online, so here is a website
with some great games and ways to encourage writing for your child. It helps
with learning both content and typing skills.

Teachers say that writing is something that will be useful no matter what
career your child will choose. And it is probably true. So help your child
overcome their fears and insecurities. And help them learn to appreciate the
value of writing.

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Humor is the Best Medicine

There’s times when you have to laugh to keep from crying. You know those times. You’ve been there. Or when something so incredibly bizarre happens with your RAD kiddo that you just have to bust out laughing. Because yet again it’s something you never thought would happen. But humor is the best medicine sometimes to help us deal with those times when things aren’t so funny.

Particularly as we move into the holiday season where we might be adding even MORE dysfunction to our lives, we need to keep our funny bones active! You need to be able to “go with the flow” and able to throw off some of the craziness that happens during the course of your RAD kiddo day. Not everyone has the ability to retreat to their gorgeous spa bathroom while the nanny takes over the bedtime routine with the kids. So what other options are there? There’s humor.

Finding something funny in every day is a great exercise for your brain. When you smile you look better. Laughter works out your core muscles. There are so many reasons why daily humor is a good idea! And an even better idea is when you can laugh with your RAD kiddos. Trading jokes, watching a funny movie, anything to lighten the mood of a particularly stressful day is a great way to help everyone release the stress.

So as we get into the holiday season, remember to laugh. Remember to smile at your children. Find a humorous book to read. Go get a joke book from the library and keep it around to share jokes after dinner. Keeping this spirit of joy and humor which I know can be hard, will go a long way toward helping the entire family survive and thrive this holiday season.

Until next time,

Shannon

Today Is Veteran’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day which may on the surface have nothing to do with reactive attachment disorder. But there are so many lessons that the service of our veterans can teach our RAD kiddos. And the military can possibly be a good option for some RAD kiddos who will work well with the structure that the military provides.

Being a Veteran means subscribing to almost everything that’s the opposite of how a RAD kiddo thinks. Military service means being willing to sacrifice for a cause much bigger than yourself. It means living for the goal of the unit. And It means understanding that you are not the one in control. Your training and your education must be your highest priority. And remaining calm even in the most stressful situations is critical.

Now yes, Veterans sound super-human and many are. And that’s why we love them and honor them. Because our country wouldn’t be the same were it not for the amazing men and women who choose to serve. But I’m sure the RAD families reading out there might be laughing thinking that sounds like anyone BUT my RAD kiddo!

Would it be possible to impart some of these Veteran qualities onto our RAD kiddos? Could we use this day to explain how much the actions of our veterans are admired and revered? Yes, I think we can. If you have family members, still living or passed, use today or sometime this week to talk about their service and memories you have or stories you remember. If your child remembers them as well, talk about memories you share.

And if you can, have your family member talk about their service, what it was like and what it meant to them. Hopefully it’s someone that your child likes and looks up to. If so, then they can talk about why it’s important to have qualities of respect, self-control, dedication, a team player. Because a lot of times other people can reach your child when you’ve been saying the same things for years!

And many people have the day off today. So hopefully you can find some good time for self-care today. No kids to shuttle to school and activities. No homework to check. Don’t even have to get the mail! Find a few minutes of quiet time to read or reflect. Take a moment to say, “Thank you” to all those who have allowed us to have the life we have in the U.S.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thank you to all the readers who have served.

Until next time,

Shannon

Thankful for the Bad Times

We are into November which is the month here in the U.S. where we start to consider all that for which we are thankful. Many of my friends on Facebook do a daily post giving thanks for something in their life. It’s always something good. But for those of us with RAD kiddos sometimes thinking of 30 days of good things can be hard. So I thought it might be good to figure out how to be thankful for the bad times.

Thankful for the Bad Times? Yes it sounds crazy. But the bad times can be a chance to learn, a chance to grow and sometimes a chance to bond. They don’t always have to send you down that dark hole you think you’ll never come out of. Yes, sometimes they can be beyond awful. But families that work together can make the bad times a chance to connect and talk through the problems they have.

Here is my list of bad times for which I am thankful:

  • When August bombed so badly in sixth grade that we had to pull him out so that I got to homeschool him. That was terribly hard to do but I got more time with him. I was also not pulled between two schools so I was able to be more available for his brother as well.
  • When August went to residential treatment. While I missed him horribly and felt like a complete failure as a parent, it was a break our family needed. I was able to spend some quality time with his brother. August was able to get some intensive therapy. And we got Mia the dog which has been a wonderful addition to our family!
  • Almost all the times August got arrested. I have mentioned before that I have spent so many nights since he became an older teenager wondering where he was. And waiting for the sheriff to come up the driveway with devastating news. When he’s been in jail I’ve known he was safe, warm and getting food. It seems weird for a mother to wish her son in jail, but when the alternative is some of the places August has chosen, it’s the better of the two.
  • The times when I’ve stood my ground with August, hung up the phone or not let him in the house. See item two about feeling like a complete failure as a parent. But preserving myself and our family sometimes has meant setting boundaries that have been hard. After the fact August has understood why (I think). Though the rage and the hurt in his voice still ring in my ears. But the alternative was not being around now that he needs me more.

So maybe this year you can find a way to be thankful for the bad times too. I intentionally don’t put any religion into this blog, but this is a story that I came upon many years ago that fits so well with this theme that I am including it here.

Until next time,

Shannon