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

Marking the End of Summer

I know the official end of summer won’t come for a few weeks yet but school started here today so it feels like the end for at least anyone under five feet tall! But as kids go back to school and the gardens wind down it is good to mark the end of summer with some sort of activity. Time moves so quickly it seems like before we know we’ll be ringing in the New Year so I wanted to help us stop and enjoy the passage a little more slowly.

I’m as bad as anyone about always looking at the next day on the calendar or the next month! I’ve never been a “stop and smell the roses” type. Either I thought I’d miss something or opportunities would pass me by or most likely I’d forget something! But now that I’m on the farm, I’ve gotten much better about letting the world get in the way. When the deer come in at dusk or early in the morning when the hummingbirds come to the feeders outside the back door. We were coming home from a movie the other night and as we pulled up my rather long driveway a opossum was making a stroll between my yard and the neighbor’s. We stopped the car and watched it stroll along and then it stopped and watched us watch it for a moment before sauntering on. I spent about 20 minutes last summer watching a cicada shed it’s skin. It was marvelous.

But I digress. This is about how to mark the end of summer. I guess there are some very traditional ways:

  • beach trips
  • camp outs
  • bonfires
  • Amusement parks

I am talking about more introspective ways to mark the end of summer. More thought-provoking, more reflective. So I have come up with some ideas on how to move into autumn and say good-bye to summer.

  1. Write a letter – Did you have a great experience? Did something about summer  leave you wanting? Write about it. Sometimes that is hard to do so my suggestion is to write a letter. It doesn’t have to be to anyone you know. Or it could be to your celebrity crush! But it is easier if you’re not a great writer to have a person in mind when you write. Talk about what went right and what went wrong. Talk about what you wish had happened. Leave it all on the paper. Then use that bonfire to let it go to the universe.
  2. Take a walk – I don’t mean a hike as part of a camping trip. Taking a walk to say good-bye to the summer means spending some time by yourself outdoors to reflect on the summer and how you think and feel about the past three months. Also a time to “walk toward” or “walk away” from those things over this time that have or haven’t served you.
  3. Make a top 10 list with your children – Sit down with your family and make a list of the top 10 things that you loved about the summer. Sharing memories and stories about the good times you had always makes the less good memories fade away. Its a good way to close out the summer as a family.

These are just a few ideas to get your juices flowing. Hopefully you’ll think of some others that will help you send off summer in the best possible way. The point is that with school starting we rush into Fall and forget to honor the ease and bliss that is summer. Make sure that you take some time to do that and then hit the ground running!

Until next time,

Shannon

RAD Self-care Sabotage

As parents of trauma-affected children, we live in a constant state of awareness. All our efforts are focused on taking care of them, their siblings, our partners, our jobs, the house and often last and least, ourselves. But what are our RAD kiddos focused on? Sometimes it seems like they have one goal and only one goal: sabotage. 

I know this sounds like an evil plan hatched by a demented Dr. Frankenstein. But there were occasions when August was little where it seemed just that devious and planned out. And  yes, I know it wasn’t. But when you’ve waited all day for a bath and a little quiet and that’s the time he chooses to pee all over the plastic kitchen set in his room, you just have to wonder!

So I want to talk about RAD self-care sabotage. What it might look like. What it might mean and how we can react to it when it might feel so personal to us. 

  • Does it feel like they only need you when you’ve gotten on the phone?
  • Do they talk to you through the door while you’re going to the bathroom?
  • Do they refuse to eat what they ordered at a restaurant but your food looks awesome?
  • Does the one sound they know drives you nuts get louder as soon as you ask them to stop it?
  • Has your favorite shirt, sweater, necklace, scarf been ruined by an “accident”?

I’m by no means implying that all RAD children are lying in bed plotting and planning. However, two of the most recognizable characteristics of reactive attachment disorder are that these children are control freaks and manipulative. They want to push our buttons. They want us to react and explode and get mad. Because that reinforces their beliefs that we don’t love them and we don’t want them. And to sabotage the self-care moments that we most treasure in our chaotic lives is pushing a very big button, don’t you think?

So why do our RAD kiddos choose these moments to inject themselves into our lives? Why are they so skilled at finding the times that we need the solace and relief of our daily grind and pick that time to ramp up their behavior? Because it’s when we’ve let our guard down. Our defenses are weak. Think about it. When is it easier for you to respond to your child having spilled a gallon of milk on the floor, when you are loading the dinner dishes into the dishwasher? Or when you have sat down for the first time all day to read a book for 30 minutes?

Now again, I can’t say for sure that all the times that August did those things that made my head explode, he’d waited in the tall grass for me to relax and look the other way. But there were more than enough examples for me to think it was more than a coincidence. And I think if you look back you might find the same is true for you.

So what do we do? Self-care is vital to our well-being as well as the success of our family. So not doing it is not an option. But making sure it happens even if your children are home might mean making some changes. Here are my ideas:

  • Tag team with your partner. Make sure one of you is covering the kids so the other can get in the needed self-care time and then switch. This may not be an option for everyone but caring for special needs kiddos needs to be a team sport as much as possible.
  • Depending on the age of your children, try and help them understand your plan, your timeline. Just a warning, sometimes this can backfire. But try to phrase it like, “I’m going to relax for 30 minutes and then we’ll go to the park so what would like to do until then?” Because this way you’re giving them control over that 30 minutes (within reason). Not just go away until I’m ready for you.
  • Let them self-care with you. Again, this is one of those that could backfire. But maybe you and the girls could all paint your nails or do mud masks. Or you and the boys could all go for a walk. I know the real point of self-care is time away from the children but the main point is that it is stress-free time and these are activities that for the most part shouldn’t end up in arguments and yelling (I hope!)
  • Confront them with the truth. If they’re old enough, they may know exactly what they’re up to. They know you can’t talk to them or help them when they’re on the phone or in the bathroom. They know how little time you take for yourself. Sitting down and having an honest conversation about your needs and the benefits to the relationship between the two of you and the entire family might just clear the air and get a different attitude going forward.

So take some time to think on whether your RAD kiddo is doing some self-care sabotage in your family and think on some ways you can intercept those efforts to make sure you’re getting the quality care you need. Please feel free to share your stories and ideas. I don’t know everything and we all benefit from everyone’s input!

Until next time,

Shannon

How to Put Yourself First.

As a parent we are trained from day one that our children come first. We feed them, then we eat. When getting in the car we make sure they are securely buckled in before we fasten our seat belts. We make sure they are all tucked in at night (no matter how long it takes!) before we close our eyes. All our focus revolves around the needs of our little ones.

But think about the instructions before you take off on an airplane? The flight attendant is very specific to tell you that if those oxygen masks fall from the ceiling and we’re all scared out of our wits that your first job is to put on your mask and then help that child sitting next to you. Most likely going against every instinct and fiber of your being. The best course of action in this situation is to put yourself first. What do they know that we don’t?

How to put yourself first? For those of us with RAD kiddos we hardly ever see an opportunity for that. But being able to put ourselves first every now and then even for a bit is critical to sustain us for the long journey of caring for these special children.

There are lots of big and little ways to put ourselves first. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. I think the best thing to do is to remember the airplane analogy. And remember that you’re only worth something if you’re healthy enough to take care of your RAD kiddos. So here are some ideas of how to find some easy ways to put yourself first:

  • If you find a few minutes in the house alone, put on some music and sing loudly or dance around the house.
  • Take a bath (if you’re like me, when your children were little, you couldn’t remember the last time you bathed or went to the bathroom alone!)
  • Sit outside at night after the kids are in bed and listen to the night noises, even for five minutes
  • Ask for help from someone you trust. Could just be running to the grocery store.
  • Say no.
  • Read a book.
  • Unplug-no phone, no computer, no TV.
  • Eat breakfast first. Have your cup of tea or your toast or whatever. The kids won’t starve and there’s a chance you’ll actually eat.

I found these couple of blog posts from other moms who’ve seen the need and written about it. Check out this one about a mom who tried it for just one week! And then this article with a video on the benefits of putting yourself first from Forbes magazine. As always, I’ll add these links to my resource page if you want to go back and review them later. 

I know putting ourselves first goes against everything we believe as parents. We immediately thing we’re doing it wrong. But maybe if we put the oxygen mask on first, we will be able to spend more time doing it right.

Until next time,

Shannon

Top 10 Ways To Help Family Understand RAD

One of the most frustrating parts of having a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is the feeling of living in a vacuum. Having to parent differently from other parents is one part; having children who don’t socialize appropriately often keeps them cut off from social groups. But it also means that even the closest family members are often distant because they can’t understand the child or how you have to or have chosen to parent them. 

How do you help your family understand RAD and what is necessary for your child to be safe and heal? Following is a list of ways to talk to your family which may help bridge the confusion and bring some new understanding.

  • Many family members believe that traditional parenting will work with children with RAD. They do not understand that your child may not be able to partake in activities that other children can. They need highly structured environments with firm limits. Rewards and behavior modification don’t work. It usually means that family believes that parents are either too hard or too lenient.
  • RAD children are control freaks. Their belief is that they must control their environment is key to their survival. Part of this may include triangulating with parents and grandparents to get what they believe they need or are entitled to. Extended family members need to be educated to what this is and how to recognize it in order to avoid getting trapped and affecting relationships.
  • Many family members believe that love cures all. The early trauma and abuse your child suffered physically altered their brain making the ability to give and receive affection almost impossible. Your family needs to understand this in order to know that this isn’t a quick “fix”. Love is unfortunately not enough.
  • As much as parents know, you still don’t know everything. You may have read everything you can get your hands on but each child is different. Your child is continuing through therapy and medication to change and grow and your family needs to understand there will be good and bad days. And you won’t be able to control that.
  • Your child will seem very “charming” and “delightful” out in public or with your family. That will seem very confusing with stories you may have told them. What they need to know is in these situations they are “shopping” for new parents or other adults they can manipulate. It’s very shallow and all for control and manipulation.
  • If we seem hypervigilant it’s not an overreaction. We have experienced things at home we haven’t told you and we don’t want those things to happen at your house or in public. For example, August stole a variety of things from his grandparents and ran up hundreds of dollars on their cell phone. They need to know how to be just as aware.
  • We won’t tell you everything that’s happening. We don’t want you to know how bad it is. We want you to believe that your grandchild or nephew is smart and funny and charming. We would rather you think that our child is wonderful and I am a monster.
  • Please don’t give us advice. Words like “Have you tried…” or “They’ll grow out of it.” or “Let me tell you what works” don’t help. We are working with psychiatrists and doctors and reading everything. We are doing all we can. We are as informed as we can get. And it’s not for lack of trying.
  • Sometimes the best our extended family can do is be there for us as the exhausted, overwhelmed parents. It may not be able to be babysitting. But maybe it can be bringing over food, mowing the lawn, taking the other children for a day (or a weekend!)
  • Our child is the love of our life. We are going to fight for them to be safe and healed no matter what it takes. We need you to understand that even if it means we make some unusual choices for their treatment. We need you to know that we only have the best of intentions but we need your support no matter what. Please continue to love us and support our family as we work to make our family whole.

Explaining August’s Reactive Attachment Disorder and his behaviors to our family has been one of the hardest part of what I have been through. Why we chose residential treatment. Why he was stealing, getting arrested, behaving the way he was in front of them; in radically different ways to all the other children in our family. Trying to explain why he did what he did never seemed to quite get through. Certainly doesn’t where he is now.

Obviously family is hard under the best of circumstances. They will try. They might fail. You might too. That’s what being a family is all about.

Vacations with RAD Kiddos

So you have a sweet, adorable boy of let’s say, six. And while he’s charming and fun and hilarious and lovable in so many ways, he’s also prone to impulsive actions. Like he’ll push any button that he sees. And he grabs at things. And he can’t figure out “inside voice”. He doesn’t like transitions, so making him pack up or stop a movie or move is an ordeal. In addition, he’s got a quick temper which doesn’t mean he just gets angry. He rages. Red-faced, screaming, hitting, cursing, throwing things fits if things don’t happen like he wants. And you can’t calm him down because he won’t let you. He blames you for not giving him what he wants and doesn’t trust you. Let’s get in an economy middle seat with 200 other passengers for a four-hour plane ride.

Maybe you decide to drive instead.

Now this same child is also fearless. Since he doesn’t trust you, he also doesn’t feel like he needs you. Except for money which he wants all the time for everything because he does feel that his love can be bought. Which is the source of constant conflict even with an 8-year-old. Because he’s super smart and manipulative and sometimes if his love is for sale, you’re buying if it’s the only way it can happen because you’re so desperate for it. Then you try and be the good parent and instill some values and say “no” so the conflicting signals aren’t helpful and you’re back at square one. But the fearless, control-freak child isn’t phased and he’s just as strong-willed as ever and could carry on whether you’re there or not. Except for the money. Let’s take this child to Disney World.

Maybe we’ll just go to the pool.

Yes, of course what I have just described was my own story. And the trips didn’t go quite as horribly as I described but they had their moments. The plane trip was heading home from visiting back East when we lived in Oregon. We flew out of Indianapolis and it involved a short hop to Chicago then a long flight to Portland. We got stuck on the tarmac in Indy for over an hour on a small-ish commuter plane. My younger son was not quite two so we were waiting as long as possible to pay for a seat for him but he was a big boy and a walker. We weren’t all seated together so he wanted to walk back to his Dad and August and while doing so fell and busted open his lip. Blood dripping down his sweatshirt. When we finally got to Chicago, we’d missed our connection and had to wait for the next flight which we weren’t sure we could get on. We were wait-listed. So we had two small children, one with blood on his shirt. August, because he didn’t like transitions, peed in his pants twice. And because I’m the ever-hopeful mother, all his meds were carefully stored in our checked luggage. We even tried to go get them from the baggage guys. He was the one guy who assured us we’d get home that night.

Disney was after we’d moved back East. We were smart enough to drive! We went to the park every day plus the other parks. We blew it out! And everyone got tired, and cranky. And then it started. The boys fought. Their dad got mad at the fighting. I got mad at that. August has an endless amount of energy and when we all ran out of steam he was so mad that we couldn’t keep up. His brother didn’t like the big rides and August got mad that those weren’t the only ones we rode. It was all about him. And then trying to keep up with him. He didn’t understand how scary it was there. His fearlessness was terrifying because he didn’t need us around (except for the aforementioned money). He did want company on the big rides which was nice but honestly he would have be OK either way.

The points of these stories is that vacations with RAD kiddos can be rough. So you need to consider what they are capable of and more importantly what you are capable of. Here are the best tips I can share:

  • Be Realistic: You know what you can manage. And you know what they can manage. And they may be seeing all their friends going off to Disney but if that’s not going to create a good memory for your family, don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Keep It Simple: Even if you do go to Disney, you can do it in a way that minimizes the stimulus and chaos. You don’t have to do all the parks. You don’t have to go every day. You don’t have to go all day every day. Make sure you are taking your child’s issues into account when you are planning your vacations so that things like transitions, medication times, schedules stay as close to normal as possible. This makes for the best possible outcome.
  • Invite Extended Family: Ok, for some of you I might have said the thing that would make your vacation horrific! But, there is also the “many hands make light work” philosophy. Especially if you have other children. Asking grandma to come along so that she can take the other children to the zoo one day while you take the RAD kiddo to the pool can help everyone have a good time.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Make sure you are keeping yourself healthy. Mentally, physically, spiritually. Remember you are taking yourself out of your comfortable space as well when you go on vacation. Take some quiet time to read or meditate, bring essential oils or candles, whatever will keep you calm and centered during this hectic time.

I’d love to hear your ideas for how to handle successful vacations with your RAD kiddos or your funny travel tales!

Until next time,

Shannon

Summer Reading List

So yesterday we talked about how to get your children to keep the learning going all summer long. You know what is one of the best ways to keep them interested in learning? Modeling the behavior you want to see. And that’s never more true than with reading. There are so many ways to encourage your children to be better, more informed readers by reading yourself. So to help with that, I’ve put together a list of some of my and my friends-courtesy of Goodreads favorite books of the moment to get your summer reading habit started off right!

  • Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
    This book won’t be for everyone. Amazon describes it as “A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.” And the New York Times compares Jacob with the likes of David Sedaris and Mindy Kaling. It’s profane and blunt so if you have weak sensibilities it might not be for you. I put this one first because I’ve known Jacob for years and they are one of the most amazing people I know. You want to get to know them too.
  • Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love by Ruth Soukup
    I’m not suggesting that you do work over the summer. This book isn’t work. Though it does rPerfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.equire some thinking and maybe getting out of your comfort zone more than a little bit. But the summer is always a good time for reflection and that is a lot of what this book is about. If you have always wanted to start something new or are stuck in something old that just isn’t fulfilling anymore, this book is for you. If you need to understand why you have taken that step to make your big dream a reality, this book is for you. This blog is my big dream and reality is scary, let me tell you! But it’s better than not pursing that dream at all.
  • Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    “Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.” – Goodreads
    I like this book because it is set in North Carolina and because it deals with childhood trauma. Two things I know a lot about!
  • Bless Your Heart Tramp: And Other Southern Endearments by Celia Rivenbark
    I have read absolutely everything Celia Rivenbark has written. She is hands down hilarious. And this one is the best. If you want an inside trace on the perfect eccentricities of being perfectly Southern, this is give you all you need to know. From why the word snow make a family of four buy eight gallons of milk and 12 loaves of bread to many more secrets revealed. It will have you laughing out loud at the beach!

So this will give you a good start on your lazy summer days while maybe actually getting some motivation to make some change for good! Have an enjoyable cozy reading time!

Until next time,

Shannon