Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Trauma parenting is not one size fits all.
My first adoption took two years from starting paperwork to traveling to get a child. The reasons involved paperwork snafu's and a move. It was a long two years. I spent that time reading. I read every single adoption book I could find. I read blogs, I read websites, I signed up for classes online. There was not nearly as much information as there is now. After all it was 1998. However there were already dozens of books. I wanted to be prepared. My daughter was fairly easy. She adapted to her new home and family fairly quickly and attached. Her story is one of those hearts and rainbows and unicorn adoption stories. Then we decided to adopt again. At first we were going to do a private adoption we had been approached about, and since this was new I went back to research mode. When that fell through and we could not get a response from the local foster care agency to get signed up for classes, we decided we would go overseas again. I went back into research mode. We knew we wanted a limb different child since we had experience with those. I researched adoption from various countries, reading blogs again, reading books again. I researched older child adoption since it looked like children were coming home much older than when we adopted our daughter. I read about early childhood trauma, fetal alcohol, ptsd, post institutional issues, attachment disorders and more. I gave God a list of what I could not handle and He laughed. I finally brought my son home and it was pretty quickly apparent that there were some major issues. I went back to reading everything I could find, talking to more experienced parents, I went to conferences and since I had read so much I took the therapist classes instead of parent ones sometimes. I read every single book I heard about. Here is what I learned. I learned that the books and experts don't agree. They don't agree on what to call it, they don't agree on exact causes, they don't agree on treatment, consequences, or when to try to something different. Most are convinced that only their way works and many flat out say that using any other program or whatever is damaging to the child. Some even call out other specialists by name! One book (can't remember which one so don't ask) spent the entire first chapter badmouthing other people who work with traumatized kids. I was very disappointing. I wanted to know what this persons program was and why it worked and to get ideas to help my kid, I didn't want to know what was wrong with some other person or program. Seems to me if you have tear someone else down to make your point your point must not be very good. I digress. So how the heck is a parent supposed to know what is best? Even talking experienced parents you will get opposing views. No matter what you do, even if it's working for your child, some parent will tell you that you are doing it wrong. It's pretty much a guarantee that your normal friends, people with emotionally healthy kids are not going to get it. Some kids from trauma backgrounds are super charming. It's a survival skill. Those parents are going to hear nothing but how sweet the kid is. They may even talk about how they would love to "take you home with me" (they have no clue that for a child who has already had many homes and many families this may set off a panic that they are going to be leaving their current family soon they they better not allow themselves to get too attached to them). Parents of these kids get judged when they don't let the kids participate in things because the other people don't see that at home that child may be destroying things, trying to self harm or trying to kill the family. They may not know that this child because of hyper vigilance needs 14 hours of sleep every night to function, they may not know that this child will steal if not watched, or that the child is often looking for weapons to hurt family members, pets or themselves. If the parent tries to confide in a friend about the hell that home life is, they get told "all kids do that" or "you need to spank him" or "you just need to love her more" or accused of exaggerating. Other kids are not able to hold it together even away from home, those parents get accused of being bad parents, of needing to spank or of being abusive. Every single parent of a traumatized kid I know has faced criticism from other parents. Most have lost friends. Some have even lost relationships with family members. It's a lonely life. Luckily most of us find others online living the same life. Others who get it. It's a lifesaver for many of us. However I have noticed lately more and more of the experienced parents when giving each other advice, starting to sound like those books. Here is the thing. Every kid on the planet is different. Even the traumatized kids. Heck, they are probably even more different. We have to become experts on our particular kid. If you have a great therapist, they do the same thing, they get to know your kid. What works for one kid may not work for another. I have a friend who uses a wonderful parenting style for her kids with great success. I wanted to use it for mine. Turns out it makes him feel unsafe. I need to do things differently for him. What works on her kids doesn't work on mine. I have read many times stories about what works for other parents and been cheering them on while knowing that would not work for mine. What has helped mine (and he has come a very long ways) would have not helped another child at all, might have made them worse. It's what he needs. They need something different. I try hard to listen to my fellow parents. I might give advice, but I am fully aware that my advice may not be at all helpful to them. I am fully aware that what works for me might be disastrous for them. I am grateful for advice given, even when I know that it might be stuff I can't use. I have tried many things with my son over the last 9 years. If there is a book I have read it. I have finally found what is helpful for my son. It's honestly a hodge podge from different experts. A good therapist should be well educated in your child's issues, but should also be willing to get to know you and your child to know what would work best for your family before making recommendations. Remember, what your therapist tells you to do with your kid is for your kid. That might not work with someone else's kids. Trust your friends to be experts in their own kids. Unless there is flat out repeated abuse going on, try to trust that they know their kid and what works. After all, you might be the next one to get advice that won't work for your kids but worked great for someone else.