Saturday, October 09, 2010

Do it anyway

When you have kids with issues, many of the normal things we do for fun end up sending them into a very bad place. Vacations, outings, parties, holidays, they all are so hard for these kids to endure/enjoy. In many cases, they actually get through the event with normal reactions, but the fallout afterwards is horrendous. They just cannot handle the fun.

So what do we do? Do we avoid all the normal, fun stuff that we would do with un-traumatized kids? That seems to be a good answer. Do not place them into situations that set them off. Makes sense.

Or, do we continue to introduce them to these situations and try and teach them to deal with them? Work through the acting out and breakdowns?

As much as I would like to do everything and anything in our lives to make things go smoothly and quietly, I don't believe it is in the best interests of my kids. Instead, we try and manage the triggers. We don't throw too many things at them at one time, but we continue to challenge them. (Oh my sanity!!!!)

The things we have been doing lately. Ahren and Seth have both been attending classes at the Children's Museum two mornings a week. The director is such a dear woman and has made a special allowance for me to sit outside their classroom each day. (That means I sit in the dark, quiet museum for two hours twice a week. I LOVE it!) With me nearby they feel safe. The first week was very rough. Lots of acting out for me but not in the classroom. (How come they act so perfectly for someone else?) They made some friends and got a little comfortable. By the second week they were much better. Only a little negativity to going and much less acting out. This past week was really good. Happy, comfortable boys enjoying class. Can I hear an Amen!!!

We are also dealing with the impending holiday of Halloween. Instead of scary costumes, we are making our own. We have been to several stores buying items to make our costumes. They will be fun and unique. That is what we are concentrating on. Still, it is difficult.

In addition, we are having a big birthday party for Ahren and Seth the weekend before Halloween. i think that is the biggest trigger of all. They talk and obsess about it all the time. But a birthday party is a normal kid event. I can't deny them a party. They have to learn to deal with it. No matter what the after-effects are, they need to know we love them and want to celebrate their births. They need great memories. They need to do something 'normal'. Even if they react in a totally abnormal way.

So we just do it anyway. Is that a new slogan for Nike? Just do it anyway? It works for us. Then again, ask me on the day afterwards........


Diana said...

I used to think this, too...and then I realized what I was really doing to my kids by doing it. Ouch! It isn't just the fallout the next day that's the problem. That's really more about me than them. What really made a difference for us was realizing that this fallout was the only way they knew how to express their huge feelings. One day the light went on and we finally said "wow...if this is what they're expressing, what other stuff is going unexpressed and what could possibly be driving such horrific behavior?"

As we started connecting the dots, we were stunned...and humbled...and VERY penitent. Our kids AREN'T going to "get used" to stuff because there are some pretty big and ugly reasons (and memories) driving their big feelings and behaviors. Until they can safely process those, they're going to keep reacting negatively to stuff because the trauma is being reinforced over and over and over again.

In effect, by trying to "mainstream" them and make them "normal" and participate in "normal" stuff like "normal" kids, we were prodding them with a red hot branding iron. By forcing them to participate in situations they aren't developmentally and emotionally ready for, and expect them to behave sweetly in the process, we were actually sending them BACKWARDS in areas of relationships, social development, and healing process.

The sad reality is that our kids AREN'T normal and they don't percieve or process things the same way normal kids do. They've had experiences that have forever changed the way they think and feel about things and how they view the world. After many horrendous "do it anyways", we've come to accept that some things simply aren't worth it. For now, it really is best to pull in the reigns and allow them to heal in an envirionment and way that is safe for THEM. We'll revisit the "normal kid" stuff later as they are truly emotionally and developmentally ready for it.

In our world, Halloween has officially become a big time "not worth it." Our boys don't have any happy memories of Halloween, and neither do we since we adopted them. Halloween is something to be dreaded and feared. Especially after our horridly awful experience last year, we realized that as long as we keep doing what we've been doing, and we keep trying to force them into a mold they simply don't fit in, they never will develop positive memories, which are what will eventually heal and replace the trauma ones.

This year we're putting the focus on creating truly positive memories for THEM...memories that hopefully won't be tainted with fallout. They are welcome to dress up in whatever they can find here at home and wear it when we go out to dinner as a family, but we aren't buying costumes, nor are we making any new ones. Absolutely, positively not will we be participating in trick or treat (at least not with the boys.) We're not buying candy to hand out, either. But we are planning all sorts of fun alternate activities that are in keeping with their developmental and healing levels. Guess what? My boys are actually VERY relieved and VERY glad we're not forcing them to participate in school activities or trick or treat this year. They're finally vocal about how much they really despise it, too.

So what if the rest of the world doesn't get it? So what if my kids aren't doing the same things other kids are doing? So what if kids aren't dressing up and begging for candy they can't keep anyway because it, too, is a huge trauma trigger for both of them. Some "normal" kids and parents may well think Halloween is awesome. Pin a rose on their noses. My kids are terrified of it...and for some pretty @#$% good reasons, too.


Diana said...

Other things that we've deemed simply not worth it include: popular vacation destinations such as Disney, long vacations to anywhere, most extra-curricular activities, non-family babysitters for any length of time, church classes, Valentine's day at school, making little crafty things for Mom for Mother's day (especially at school), birthday parties (though I'll hopefully be posting some really awesome news about this one soon), and though we so long to do it, leaving the kids overnight with anyone and just the two of us getting away...and the list goes on.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "To everything there is a season and a time to every purose under heaven." There will be time for "normal" stuff later. This is our season to help our kids heal and become whole, even if it means putting what WE want for them and for us on the shelf for season...or two...or ten.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about Nike - but your post (the title and the post itself) reminded me of a Martina McBride song 'Anyway'. ;-) Ruth