Saturday, January 23, 2010

Therapeutic Parenting Skills

Therapeutic parenting is a style of parenting that is designed to help children heal from past traumas. Some kids have huge and ugly past histories, others have minor issues that trip them up in many subtle ways. In some children it is just obvious that their past is going to make their lives hard and with others you may not know or realize something that traumatized them.
Ashley had trouble bonding. Even though she is my biological child, born of my body and loved from conception, she had trauma. Hers came from being really ill her first two years of life. Her little world was filled with pain and I could not make it go away. I failed her, did not protect her and she didn't trust me. Now I get that. At the time I had no clue. Not one single tiny clue. She and I laugh now how she used to torture me, the antics she pulled and our battle to survive it all and find our love for hearts other.
When it became clear that Ahren would not be coming home as the infant we were promised, I began to study. He was in a fantastic foster home and was very loved. He never had to be moved around. I still knew that as well as they prepared him to join our family, it was not going to be easy on him at the age of almost-three to lose everything and everyone he knew and be dropped into a new life. I spent many hours holding him. Mine was the last face he saw at night and the first when he woke up. We didn't go anywhere or see many people. I sat on the floor and stayed eye level with him as much as possible. I fed him, rocked him, loved him. I learned toddler spanish so I could communicate with him. He has a few issues, ones we deal with, but overall he is doing great. (Ask me on the days his behavior is off the charts and I might not be so glowing. Hah!) At this point we have way more good days than bad, and even the bad ones are much better than before.
Lil S is going to have issues. This is the fourth home he has lived in, whether he remembers them or not. That is a lot of loss for a little guy. He isn't old enough to be able to verbalize his feelings and the really big scary feelings will come out in negative behaviors. The types of things we are taught as parents often backfire on traumatized kids. It is a whole new set of rules and none of it is intuitive. One thing I learned is that if they see you get angry, they win. They get something positive out of that and I don't mean that in a good way. It reinforces their idea that they are not loved and they have just proved it. Don't try telling them that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face, they just won!
So today we were outside riding bikes and the sky got dark and stormy. I made the boys come in but Lil S was not happy about it. He proceeded to sulk and hide behind a dining room chair. I let him sit there for a minute, then I sat down on the floor and started to talk quietly to him. I told him it was ok to be upset. He wanted to ride and we couldn't and he could be sad and mad about it. Then I talked about how sometimes I am sad or mad when things don't work out, even if it's not anyone's fault. Then I carefully asked what else he was mad about, like maybe having to switch homes again. And it started to come out. He was able to tell me a few things that he was really hurting about. When I listened and then repeated it back to him, showing him I understood and it was OK, he finally lifted his eyes to mine and then climbed into my lap to hold me tight. And then we played Wii! Baby steps. Baby steps. That is therapeutic parenting.


Diana said...

Posts like this actually make me smile! No, more like they make me do a happy dance on the table! I have no worries about you and your family. I'm not saying I was ever worried, but I see so many families adopting multiple kids with multiple issues and proclaiming attachment complete after just a few weeks - and then they can't figure out why their kids are such hellions!

I am confident that you are going to be fine. Unscathed, no. Fine yes. Lil S will thrive in your care, there is no doubt. So will Ahren. And when you feel like screaming, do it. There are plenty of us out here who so get it and are so cheering you on!

Wendy said...

Diana, I love you!!! I have learned so much from you and you need to know that God is working through you. Your strength gives me strength!

QuEEn oF tHe cAstLe said...

Hey there. I've been following your blog for quite some time {since way before you brought Ahren home}. I'd love to hear more about how you've brought S into your home. Was it through foster care? My husband and I are foster parents for a neighboring county {hoping to adopt}. My email (when you have a chance) is Thanks ~C

BT said...

Bravo to you with how you handled that. P was 5.25 when he came to us, and had also had multiple homes and many traumatic/abusive treatments. I knew nothing about therapeutic parenting for almost two years. No one prepared us! It is so cool that you are already so equipped for Ahren and Lil S. Keep it up. You are doing great.

dancilhoney said...

I need to remain focused on being the best parent I can, which involves implementing the tools I learned in this blog. parenting skills