What’s on My “To Read” List

This has always been one of my favorite sayings.

So many books, so little time. I have multiple topics I love to read about. But within those topics there are so many good books! I try to stay up on what’s current in Reactive Attachment Disorder but obviously self-care is also big on my list! And with August’s current prison stay, I’m now moving into looking for books to help me understand what to expect afterward. But what’s on my “to read” list is a constantly moving target!

In the area of books on RAD, there are not a lot of new books being published on the topic. The work being done on possibly changing the name is still under consideration so no one has published a full book on the subject. Nevertheless, there are some new books that have come out in the last few months. I haven’t read them so this isn’t a recommendation of any sort. But based on my research they look promising.

Reactive Attachment Disorder Books

  • Reversing Reactive Attachment Disorder: Overcoming Cravings The Raw Vegan Plant-Based Detoxification & Regeneration Workbook for Healing Patients. Volume 3– I know the effect of food on RAD has always been a hot topic. When August was little it was food dyes and Dr. Feingold’s diet. This one uses what is now known about the benefits of a plant-based diet focused on RAD.
  • Love Never Quits: Surviving and Thriving After Infertility, Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder– This is one family’s story of adopting a child from Guatemala who has RAD. After years of infertility they adopted one, then a second child and that one had RAD. She deals with her years of struggle with all these issues and the emotional roller coaster ride that it takes the family on. It sounds like the story of my life!
  • My Self Healing Journal Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder: Prompt Journal For Families Surviving RAD/Reactive Attachment Healing Journal/Reactive Attachment Diary– This is a self-published journal and each page includes a writing prompt to help you with getting out your feelings about life with a RAD kiddo. If you don’t have a great support group and need some place to vent your feelings, this may be a good option.

The other topic I keep an eye on is help for school. This one is harder because the issues tend to be more subject-specific or child-specific. But here are a few that looked interesting:

  • Helping Children Manage Anxiety at School: A Guide for Parents and Educators in Supporting the Positive Mental Health of Children in Schools– Anxiety can infect so much of a child’s performance at school. And RAD kiddos who feel shame and have no control don’t have to look far for sources of anxiety. Add to that learning disabilities and they can have so many strikes against them. Managing anxiety can go a long way toward creating a successful school experience.
  • Lessons from the Listening Lady: Adolescents & Anxiety A family guide to making the mind, body, spirit connection– This has the same goal as the previous book but it is specifically targeted toward adolescents.
  • Words Will Never Hurt Me: Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying and Putdowns– This one looked particularly interesting. August had a rough patch with bullying in late elementary school (when your name is also a month…) His quick temper and grandiose opinion of himself didn’t help him handle it well. I wish I would have had a way to better handle talking to him about dealing with it.

The last section is self-care and that is a monumental list that I could write about forever, but the easiest way to help with this is to recommend goodreads. If you’re not there, you should be! You can connect with friends and share what you’re reading, what you want to read and what you’ve read. You can look for what celebrities are reading! And you can browse by subject to get information on what the goodreads universe is reading to see what is recommended in about every genre. I’m not copping out but their self-help section is particularly good. And, of course, there’s an app for that!

Roald Dahl has been and continues to be one of mine and the boys favorite author. If he’s not as familiar to you, Google him. You’ll be amazed!

I am sure there are many more you might be reading and I would love for you to share them! And as I get through these I will post reviews! I will also move these titles and more information over to the resources page for easier referencing!

Until next time,

Shannon

First Day of School for RAD Children

NOTE: As I enjoy my last few days with my younger son before he heads back to North Carolina,
I have tried to scale back my work a bit.
So today, enjoy a Tuesday/Wednesday combo blog!

We’ve talked all around this for the last few weeks about how to be prepared for the first day of school. But now that the first day is here…what are the best ways to make sure your RAD kiddos have a great first day? The first day of school for RAD children can be overwhelming. The first day of school for ANY children can be! Let’s talk about where the hurdles might be and where to run interference to ensure a great first day experience!

The night before is where you can make a huge impact on how the first day will go. Not only in preparation but in how you set the stage emotionally. As for preparation, consider these tips:

  • Create the “launch pad” (my favorite!) spot where everything for the next day is ready to go
  • Pick out that perfect outfit!
  • Set the alarm with your child (or two or three!)

But here are some other things you can do which can help your RAD kiddo with their fears and anxiety which may be weighing the night before. 

  • Ask them to describe what they imagine their first day will look like. 
  • If they have a friend who will be going to the same school, maybe a phone call or Facetime before bed.
  • If they are smaller, draw a picture of their first day of school.
  • Ask them what you can do that will help them the most. 

The morning of school might seem like chaos and overwhelming for all of you. The best thing you can do no matter what else happens is to keep calm. Focus on your children, keep your cool and make it about their comfort and calm. You can have your nervous breakdown later after they have successfully gotten off for the day.

Some things to plan for that first morning:

  • Make sure there’s a good breakfast (protein is important for good brain function!)
  • Ask them what they want you to do at school. They may want you to be with them all the way to the classroom. They may be ready just to be dropped off. Be OK with their choice.
  • Make sure the morning is about joy. Even if it’s pouring down rain. 
  • Make a plan to celebrate after school is over.

Here are some other fun ideas on of all things a marriage site! But don’t be afraid to let your children – even your RAD kiddo lead the way on what they need on that first day. 

 

What Happens to You When School Starts

It may seem like parents get released from summer prison when school starts. No more trying to entertain bored children who don’t seem to want to do anything you suggest. No more endless family vacations inevitably wrecked by meltdowns or horrible weather or fights or any of a million other possibilities. And school couldn’t start soon enough. But somehow it seems you’ve just jumped off the teacups and onto the roller coaster! Now there’s carpool and homework and after school activities and lunches and summer already seems light years away. So what happens to you when school starts?

It can be very easy to go on “automatic pilot” at the beginning of the school year. We get that schedule humming and feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders because we’ve not left anyone sitting on the curb at school after soccer practice (yet). And there haven’t been any calls from the dean’s office (yet). So far none of your kiddos has had a sick day (yet). But in all of your amazing planning and scheduling you’ve left out the most important person in the equation – YOU.

If you manage to keep this schedule running like clockwork you’ll be dead by Thanksgiving. There’s no way to go full steam ahead all day every day with RAD kiddos plus siblings in tow through a busy school year and not take intentional time to decompress. And I can almost guarantee on that master schedule on the kitchen wall is no “ME time” anywhere. Go look. I’ll wait.

When school starts back up and the whole world is depending on you it is the absolute best time to double down on your efforts at self-care. Especially if you find yourself with some kid-free hours during the day. If you work an additional job on top of the parenting, then those hours may be taken, but we will figure out a time to get in some quality self-care, I promise.

First let’s look at what might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’m going to guess reading for pleasure, sleep, exercise, healthy eating, quiet time or meditation. Losing any or all of those can start to weigh on you mentally and physically after just a few days not to mention weeks if you are deprived of them.

But you may feel guilty about trying to spend that much time when the schedule is so overloaded with the chaos of school. So we will have to move into “wild” self-care; finding time for yourself in the maybe the more unlikely of times and spaces!

  • Reading in the carpool lane – I always kept a book in the car. Even if I was reading something else in the house. I kept something in the car to read while I was waiting to pick whoever up from whatever. Now not everyone may be able to read multiple books at once but if you can, this is a treasure. You’re alone, it’s quiet, bring a cup of tea, leave earlier than you need to be there (you get my drift…) When both boys were in school every once in a while I would be too tired to read and my youngest would read to me (if the book was appropriate). I’d close my eyes and he’d read to me. It was heaven. That’s how he got hooked on The Hunger Games at eight years old!
  • Getting Exercise – getting to the gym may not be anywhere on the schedule but it doesn’t mean you can’t get in some cardio around the kiddos’ activities. Soccer practice? Walk the track while you wait. Is school close? Walk there with the kiddos when the weather is still nice out. Or stay after school with them one day and bring a basketball and shoot hoops. Make a game out of math homework with hopscotch for the little ones. Particularly with RAD kiddos, exercise and homework seem to be a good pairing I have found.
  • Healthy Eating – The temptation to make yet another run through “insert fast food restaurant name here” is great when school is in. I know. When you have two hours between the end of play practice and the beginning of choir practice to get the kiddos home, fed and homework done, those golden arches can be your best friend. And those little body metabolisms may not take much of a hit, but boy you know you will! So what’s the answer? Make the instant pot and crock pot your friends. Throw something in there in the morning and let it cook all day and then serve it up the minute you get home. You’d be amazed and what those things can create! Also meal prepping on the weekends and freezing things that can go in a crock pot or quickly in a skillet. My kids love meatloaf. I’d make them in muffin tins and freeze them. I took them out of the tins and put them in big ziploc bags. Take out how many you need and put them on a baking sheet, bake (takes less time because they’re smaller) and throw together a salad and you’re good to go!

These are just some ideas of how to reclaim your self-care in the chaos of the school year. If you need something to put next to that master schedule, here’s a great checklist! I’d love to hear your ideas of how you keep YOU in mind when school starts! 

Until next time,

Shannon

Getting Out the Door!

If you are like me, one of the constant challenges with your RAD kiddos is getting out the door in the morning. And whether you have one, two or twelve children, the chaos and stress seems to be the same. Someone isn’t dressed. Another hasn’t finished eating. One might not even be awake yet. And don’t get me started on missing homework, projects, permission slips, pens, pencils, phones and other necessities of school life!

I liken trying to get our kiddos out the door to this sweet little one. Her mom took this picture of her before her first day of preschool. Which I call our dream of what our children would look like heading out the door:

Then she took a picture of her at the end of that same first day of preschool as she was coming home. Which I imagine is more the reality of how many of our kiddos look on their way to school:

Certainly it’s not for a lack of trying. If you’re like me, you’ve woken up early, and tried tons of tricks and bribery to get your children moving earlier and faster to get the day started with less stress and…let’s admit it, screaming. But more often than not, no one is speaking to each other by the time you hit the car. And there’s a lot of door slamming with no one hearing the sarcastic, “I love you” that you yell as they leave for the day and you breathe a sigh of relief. It’s OK to admit it. 

But we never want it to be that way. Children are little for such a short time and we would love to have these precious morning times. OK we’d at least love for them to be less tumultuous! I have found some ideas from the experts but here are my suggestions of things I think are sure-fire things to make mornings go smoother. If not at first, maybe in the long run.

  1. The Launch Pad: I have mentioned this before but it is the essential element of the busy family. And as I have aged it is also the essential element of the middle-aged mind! It is the one place in the house that everything that needs to leave the house must go. Maybe each of you has a basket by the door. Maybe that’s too chaotic a space and you find baskets elsewhere. But keys, phones, backpacks, school papers, lunchboxes, EVERYTHING that has to do with coming and going gets put here.

    Which means if your son hands you a permission slip to fill out and you don’t put it back in the launch pad? That’s on you, not them. If they come home and drop their phone on the couch and it gets lost in the cushions and can’t be found when it’s time to leave the next morning? That’s on them. When it’s time to head out, everything that needs to be had should be ready to go on the launch pad. Including your stuff.
  2. Picking out clothes the night before: I watched a friend argue with her daughter for 40 minutes over a dress for church. They were visiting and it was the only dress she’d brought. Her daughter was tall for her age and my friend was 6 months pregnant so it wasn’t very fun for either of them. Clothes can be a harsh battleground for some kids and not a hill to die on at 6:30am. Picking out clothes the night before can eliminate one potential morning battle. Even narrowing the choices to two can get you closer to the promised land. 
  3. Sleeping medicating: I talked about doing this with August. We used to give him his ADHD meds while he was basically still asleep. He’d take them then sleep for another 1/2 hour while they kicked in. It was, if I must say, a brilliant move on our part because the child that woke up was calm, engaged and willing to follow directions. Unlike the unmedicated child who would be difficult and aggravated by everything. I highly recommend it.
  4. Natural consequences: This is a biggie. Would it kill your teenager to have to go to school in PJs? Nope. They might think so. Would it kill your straight A student to go to school without that homework that they can’t find? Nope. But they are much less likely to make those mistakes again. And it doesn’t make you a monster parent. Some natural consequences aren’t worth it. But every now and then you can find those that teach the valuable lessons your RAD kiddos need to learn. They can learn while still knowing you always are there to back them up. Send an email to the teacher about why the homework isn’t coming that day with a picture that it was indeed finished. Bring clothes to school for later. 

Here are some other ideas which I thought were thoughtful (not just because they have the same first idea I did!) I think the key is to try your best to stay calm. One way or another you’ll get out the door. You don’t have to compare your kiddos or your parenting to anyone else. Success is what you decide. And remember, breathing that sigh of relief is OK!

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Empowering Your RAD Child

“Empowering your child” is a phrase that is used for all children to describe ways to help them learn to use their voice and find their individuality as they move through the world. But for children with reactive attachment disorder this may not look the same. Luckily for me, some super-smart people have thought of some excellent ways to help parents with the task of empowering their children. My job here is to take those ideas and put the RAD spin on how they will work for our special kiddos as well.

This article compiles a great list of ways to give your child the tools they will need to start school confident and strong. Following is my “RAD-ified” version of that list to help with adapting the list to include consideration of RAD behaviors.

  • Give your child a choice – RAD kiddos are control freaks. This is one of the hallmarks of the RAD diagnosis. But choice doesn’t mean running the show. Don’t give them the whole closet to choose from; it’s the blue dress or the red one. And it’s not the whole fridge; it’s peanut butter or ham. Your sanity gets a role here too!
  • Listen to your child – This was huge for me when August was young. One day he got in the car after school and he was complaining about his shoes. He was so angry! He went on and on about his shoes and some kid and just was word salad yelling for 5+ minutes and I didn’t even move the car. I just listened and let him go on and asked a question here and there. And finally I got to the root of the problem…he didn’t make the football team. After he got there and got that bit of news out he was fine and much calmer but he needed to go through that process and have that catharsis.
  • Teach Your Child Body Safety – If your child might have also had some sexual abuse this is huge. There is no age too young to teach about what is acceptable and what is not. Do NOT be afraid to have the tough conversations where this is concerned.
  • Allow Your Child to Take Risks – This is a tough one for our RAD kiddos because they do not have a great sense of boundaries. And they usually have no fear because they have experienced more in their little lives than a lot of us will ever know. But finding their confidence and learning that you will always be there when they step out of their comfort zone requires that they test the limits a little. So you have to let them.
  • Use Your Words Wisely – RAD kiddos are hyper-vigilant. They do not miss a beat. So what you say and do are measured constantly. I have experienced that with August many, many times. Don’t blow smoke but make sure that they know their efforts are seen and you are proud of them no matter what. 
  • Encourage Your Child To Follow Their Interests – Want your child to follow in your football footsteps but they love art? Well, deal with it. Children will stick with those activities which feed their passions. And as much as we don’t want to waste the year’s worth of art supplies, it may not last and we need to understand that. RAD kiddos do not always have the long-term attentions that other children do. It may take them longer to find their “thing”.
  • Allow Your Child to Greet Other in a Way They Are Comfortable – RAD kiddos will not form the same attachments to all relatives and family friends. If they prefer waves or “knuckles” to hugs that’s fine. Also make sure teachers know this as well. While schools have stopped allowing hugging, many elementary school teachers still do it in the lowers grades. If your child doesn’t like it, make sure the teacher knows.
  • Discourage Gender Stereotyping – This one isn’t RAD specific but it’s pretty self-explanatory. Children should know that whatever they want to do and be is not dependent on their birth gender.
  • Encourage Perseverance – August had ADHD in addition to RAD and this is common in a lot of kiddos. Sometimes sticking with school projects or subjects that are harder for them are tough. August hated reading; it was really difficult for him. Keeping him working on it was a constant project.
  • Teach Your Child the “Pirate Stance” – I hadn’t heard this one but I think it’s a hoot! I think having your child stand like they rule the world whether they’re a RAD kiddo or not is a great way for them to feel like they have it together and can conquer anything that comes their way. 

Here’s wishing all the RAD super kids great years this year as well as their super parents!

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    ]]>

Homework Nightmares

  • 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, Shannon  ]]>

    What to do if you have a child with RAD in your Classroom

  • A substitute teacher was a problem because it got all the students keyed up and that teacher didn’t know about August’s special needs. We created an outlet for August to be able to go to the office on days when there was a sub and the class was being loud and he felt he couldn’t keep it together.
  • Being able to run and expend energy was a stress reliever for August. In 4th grade he was in a trailer due to the school being over-crowded. This allowed for a gift of his being able to “go to the bathroom” while getting outside and running round for a bit in sight of the teacher when he was feeling overwhelmed because of the logistics of being in the trailer.
  • I discussed with the principal about the importance of the teacher match with August and how wonderful 4th grade had been for him and the entire 4th grade staff looped up to 5th grade which gave August the same teacher two years in a row!
  • In middle school he was given a “hot pass” which was a red laminated card which he could put on his desk any time he was feeling overwhelmed. As soon as the teacher saw that August was excused from the room to the office no questions asked.
  • These are just a few of the ideas we worked out to manage August’s behaviors while trying to keep the classroom structure and help the teacher stay sane! For some other tips, I found this very helpful article here. Please share your stories and ideas on what has worked (or not!) with your child in school. As a community we all benefit from everyone’s successes and challenges. Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    Talking to teachers about Reactive Attachment Disorder

    https://youtu.be/xlyBfInS7ec Wouldn’t this be wonderful? For RAD kids, school can be a series of landmines. And teachers can set those mines without even realizing it and certainly without intending to. When August started in school I couldn’t get him and IEP for RAD; I had to get him one for ADHD under the “other health impaired” category. His learning issues didn’t show up on any tests. Yet his behaviors were classic RAD behaviors. It wasn’t until second grade that we found a therapist who gave us a proper diagnosis and fourth grade that we found a school who heard me and I started to find my voice for my son. Below is a letter developed by Nancy Thomas who is one of the most widely recognized therapists in the field of attachment disorder. I purposely do not advocate for any particular treatment on this site as I believe it is up to the parents and the family to decide what is going to be the best for their child and their needs. But this letter does lay out exactly what a teacher can expect from a child and how to respond and how to interact with a child and their family to hopefully get the best outcomes. https://www.attachment.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Letter-to-Teachers.pdf Going forward, we will talk about more specific issues. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, share your stories and sign up by email if you’d like to receive these posts directly to your inbox! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>