Friday, May 25, 2012

“God Help Me! ” or “How the Use of Faith Can Help Build a Stronger Relationship with your Child with RAD or Trust Disorders”

by  John and Diane

Concepts like “turning the other cheek,” showing compassion towards others, forgiveness and service are Christian concepts shared by many religions.  As a Christian foster father, I found that by talking about God to my foster kids “He” not only helps teach lessons about living well with others, but helps bond our family together, even with the most difficult children; those with trust disorders.

As a Christian man it came naturally to me to talk to my foster kids about God.  God is important in my life for many reasons, but the concept of God is also an important tool that I use with my foster kids.  Once the concept of an all-loving Father, God, is discussed, children with trust disorders sometimes begin to open up and feel more secure knowing that they can have faith in a presence that can never be taken away from them.  

I use God’s rules and laws when talking to the kids about the reasons for why I do what I do. It helps to explain why I can forgive them (“because God forgives us all, so, so must I forgive you,”) and why I can be nice to kids in the house even when they are being mean to me (turning the other cheek.) I can see the true healing power of God at work when I see children who have been hardened by life, or have attachment disorders begin to feel empathy towards me as they watch me work with their foster brothers or sisters or deal with difficult situations in the home.

The more the kids learn about God, the more they realize that God has rules that even I must follow (mirroring the house rules they all must follow,) making Him more real to the children.  I can then even use God as another set of eyes and ears to make sure the kids follow the house rules when I may be outside of earshot.  (Mind you, this is not done in threatening manner… because God must be seen as a parental figure. not as a threatening, angry God.)

Many of the kids I work with have not been exposed to religion of any kind, and have no idea how faith in a higher being can be helpful in their lives. I pray and invite them to pray with me if they choose. I teach them that prayer, like a meditation, can be helpful to calm them when they are angry or on the verge of saying or doing something that they will regret. Again, this is another way that religion can be a tool for a child with behavior or social issues.

Not everyone may be as religiously oriented as I am, but I do feel that if you can bring religion into the picture when working with trust and detachment disorder kids, it is a plus, Personally, I feel that I cannot work with kids with trust disorders without religion because trust is really about believing in something that you cannot see or feel.  Religion is a great way to show that.  

I find it really helpful working through the Lord with these type of children, actually I have to say it’s more the Lord working through me because I would not be able to do it without Him guiding me.  Whatever your faith, I hope that you can use God, religion, or faith in some form, to open doors and provide security for your foster or RAD kids. 

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

“Why are Her Pants Wet, but Her Bed Isn’t?” or The Link Between Attention Deficit, ADHD and Daytime Incontinent Episodes

by John and Diane

A fellow foster parent came to me with a question the other day about her foster daughter having problems wetting her pants at school. She never wet her pants at home, and so she was trying to determine if this was a behavioral issue (purposely doing it for attention) or what?  As this child was somewhat new to her home, she began describing some of her other behaviors to me.

She was a hyperactive child, and would get called into the office occasionally for playing too roughly (accidentally falling into another child while playing and getting called to the office for it,) and had wet her pants at school more than once. The child did not seem to be embarrassed or care that she wet her pants at school.

She didn’t have episodes at home, and this could be because the foster Mom was watchful and reminded the daughter to use the bathroom when she seemed “squirmy.” Although the child had not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, it seemed like the child’s impulsive behavior, and attention issues made her a perfect candidate to lose track of time… and her bladder, resulting in wet pants during playtime or times of impulsivity.

So, for example, she may be playing, then thinks to herself that she needs to go to the bathroom, on her way to the bathroom she gets distracted by a video game her brothers are playing, and begins playing that instead, 20 minutes later, she is sitting in wet pants.

Because she may have been in a neglectful environment previous to her placement, she may be used to feeling wet, as well as the smell of incontinent, hence she is not embarrassed by it, nor does it bother her in any way. Having it bother other people may be new to her, so addressing the reasons why it is socially unacceptable, and unhealthy, is an important part of changing the behavior.  The social aspects of it don’t really come into play until the child is in about third grade and upwards, when friendships and social lives begin to develop and get affected by incontinence.  Sometimes even when confronted by peer pressure and rejection, older children with this issue, if left untreated, will blame other things on their lack of relationships and acceptance.

So, in this case, an undiagnosed and untreated ADD or ADHD may be the culprit. 

I have had kids with similar, or worse issues. I, too, would find myself reminding kids to go to the bathroom when they did the “I gotta go dance,” only to see them 10 minutes later, still dancing, but doing something else with one of the other foster kids.  Second reminders usually did the trick, but at school, teachers can’t remind the kids to go to the bathroom.

 Once ADD or ADHD is diagnosed, medications can help calm them down, and give them the impulsivity control necessary to stay on track long enough to tend to their own natural biological urges. Remember though, even when on medication, you have to re-teach or re-potty train some of these kids as incontinence was an accepted behavior and is now a habit that needs to be broken.

This is a much harder issue to deal with if the child comes to you with incontinence issues as an older child (teenager.)  Of course, incontinence issues are sometimes not only due to neglectful potty training, and poor living conditions, but also sexual abuse and other triggers, but once a child is an older teen, and still voiding in their pants, and seems unconcerned or unaware of it, it is nearly impossible to stop.

Trust me, I have been there. Not only is it an unpleasant and difficult task to try to work with, but when the child cannot sense the issue through olfactory means, and is not bothered by the sensation of sitting in wet or soiled clothing, and family members have allowed this to go on for 15 or 16 years, breaking this habit, and making a child realize the social ramifications, is very, very difficult. Even making the child clean the soiled clothing themselves does not solve the problem.

So, for younger children, rule out medical issues such as infections, look at ADD or ADHD factors or diagnosis and re-potty train. If age-appropriate, be sure to educate about social factors with incontinence issues.   For older kids, the psychological issues, sociological issues must also be looked at and re training can be attempted.

Do you have tips on helping kids with behaviorally influenced incontinence? Please share.  

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Working with Foster Kids and RAD Kids: Part 2: Building on Situational Trust: Bartering for Goods

by John and Diane

Following up on “The RAD Child: Situational Trust and Safety Zones” article, I want to discuss how to proceed with your RAD child and how to work with multiple kids in the home.

Now that the child has his safety zone (his bedroom) and is feeling more confident in the home overall, you should expand his safe spaces to his bathroom as well. This is done by the enforcement of strict house rules regarding privacy and occupancy of the bathroom (one child at a time) and use of personal bathroom supplies. Personal responsibility for dirty laundry hampers and cleaning of the bathroom should also be enforced if age appropriate. If they feel responsibility for the bathroom, they will feel some ownership of the space and therefore feel like it is a safe space for them.

Although I allow some personalization and control of spaces like their bedroom and bath, I take control of their surroundings in other, subtle ways, which allows me to begin to work on having the child trust me. For example, although they can watch television, they have limited access to TV stations and programming.  I make sure the programming my kids watch is free of violence and foul language and watch movies and evening programs with them to insure it is appropriate.

Borrowing and Buying from the In House Store

Part of feeling ownership, responsibility and security in a new home for a RAD or any foster child is decorating and setting up their own space. I help encourage this by providing a way for the kids to get items to enhance their personal areas.

Since I am a group home, I keep a pantry filled with items the kids can earn through chores. I have things kids might want like small stereos, clock radios, toys, gadgets, novelty items, etc. 

Sometimes the kids find things in my storage rooms that they’d like, and I let them borrow the items for their room.  I always use the term “Borrow,” which is important.  I say to them: “ I am letting you borrow this from me because you are doing so well, and I love you because you are trying so hard.” 

By making it clear that the item is “borrowed” I am maintaining ownership of it, so that if the child’s behavior reverts (which is usually does) I can take the item back and there can be no argument about it.  If they argue about my taking the item, I get the chance to tell them that the item was given for good behavior, and that bad behavior has consequences.

Now, items that they had paid for through their allowance I will not take away, as this would be a break in our trust.  This helps build trust when the child sees that I am not behaving in an unfair manner, and that I will not take away what is rightfully their without a truly just cause.

Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule based upon the behaviors of the kids and the situations. There are times when really bad behavior may result in the total strip down of a child’s room. Should that happen, the child would eventually get their “owned” items back, but would not get their “borrowed” items back.

Although this might sound overly complicated or unnecessary for some of you, this is just another way for a foster parent or adoptive parent to begin to build trust. You have to provide opportunities to interact on trust issues (like ownership, bartering and borrowing) and this “pantry-shopping” is just a natural extension of the allowance –for-chores/ rewards and house rules system.   It all works together.

Want to get a bartering/buying pantry set up in your home? Here are some things to consider:

·      Purchase small items at the dollar store, goodwill or gather from friends
·      No pocketknives or anything that can be used as a weapon even if your kids are “outdoorsmen.”
·      Keep batteries for items as part of the “stock” that the kids can purchase with allowance money
·      Consider bartering between kids with rules. You must okay all trades for items to make sure that the trades are legitimate and fair. No trades can be made unless Okayed by a parent.
·      Remember: Having the kids possess some “borrowed” items is good. You want to have the opportunity to take things away so that the child knows that you have the ultimate control in the home and so that he or she can see that bad behavior has consequences and affects relationships negatively. 

image:  Silly Band Traders:
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Friday, May 4, 2012

The RAD Child, Situational Trust and Safety Zones: Part 1. The Bedroom

by John and Diane

As I make my way through a larger text on working with kids with RAD, I wanted to share my techniques with you on how to build a safety zone with a new (in my case at least) foster child with RAD.

The best way to help a RAD child adjust to his new environment is to start building what is referred to as “situational trust.”

The first way to do this when they enter your home is to consider his or her new bedroom the center of his universe, and the center from which all other feelings of safety and security will build. His or her bedroom will be the place where the child can go when he feels scared, anxious or insecure.  As discussed previously, each child should have his or her own room. No exceptions.

Depending on the age of the child and his history, they may ask for or require different things in their rooms to make them feel safe and secure.  I usually dress each room up prior to a child’s arrival with a stuffed teddy bear on the bed to greet them, but some children may want a lot of stuffed animals, blankets, items that they brought with him, drawings, photos, or anything else that he or she may have brought along from their old life.

Children with more complex issues may ask for alarm systems, motion detectors, and locks on the doors.  Although this sounds like a lot, it is important for the child to feel like he has control over his own safety.

Today’s technology makes it easy to peel and stick a motion-detector to each side of a doorframe to “alarm” when the door opens.  An easy solution that quells some dark fears. 

You may be asked to paint the bedroom a different color or rearrange furniture (over and over again).  It seems like you are rearranging your entire life for the RAD child, but you do have to take extreme measures early on to build your foundation of trust.

Once you have set up the safety-zone (the bedroom)  you can begin working on building trust between you and the child. He has his safe space to retreat to when conversations or interactions get too much to handle.

As you work with the child you’ll also notice many of them display compulsive behavior… repetitive actions (like needing to make numerous phone calls) and collecting items. Collections (or hoarding to the extreme) make RAD kids feel like they are in control.

I use what I call a  “saturation” technique whereas I allow a child to have as much of whatever it is they want (within safe amounts of course.) So, for example, if they have a compulsion to buy locks and keys, I use that to help promote other growth. I will use keys and locks as rewards.  By my acceptance of the impulsive and compulsive need to have the keys and locks, and embracing it, the NEED to have them goes away.  Once it is accepted, it goes away.

 Of course, then the child may move onto something else, but with each new obsession, you may be learning something new about the child’s mental health.
For example, A child that feels the need to collect locks and keys may be expressing his fears and insecurities, later, he starts collecting dishes, which could express his desire to build family, put down roots and “nest” as it were.

(Really, it has been my experience that everything, all the behaviours point back to safety issues. They may exhibit this by hoarding food, urinating in the closet, locking every door in the house, and stealing things they do not need.)

Once the child begins feeling comfortable in his environment and you feel as though you have some trust building between the two of you, he will expand his area of safety by spending more time in common areas and interacting more with others. This is where having House rules helps maintain the feeling of safety throughout the home. 

The RAD child may begin to bring his decorations outside his room and begin to decorate other areas of the home. This should be allowed to help him expand his circle of comfort and security (within reason, of course.) This is a good sign.

To be continued…. 

image:  Flickr:
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Great Conversations: Early Pain and Trust Disorders

Hi Friends,
I started a conversation on the Parenting Allies FB page about the relationship between colic and trust disorders and we began a discussion on other early childhood illnesses that may result in RAD or trust disorders in kids.  I know some of our viewers here don't go to the Facebook page, but I would love to hear some of your own personal experiences with your kids, or your opinions on the matter.  Here is the conversation thus far:

Hi friends, just posted a blog article on the the tie between colic and trust disorders. Anyone have any personal experience on this? Check out the article if you have time!
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Parenting Allies Any kind of chronic pain can cause attachment breakage. They are too little to understand why they hurt and why the people who are supposed to take care of them can't make the pain stop.

Foster Parent Rescue : Yep, I wonder if there has been a study done on children with other childhood illnesses.

Parenting Allies I know Nancy Thomas talks about chronic ear infections causing it.

Foster Parent Rescue : I found that children who have chronic ear infections early on, have a lot more learning problems because they don't learn to communicate, they become frustrated, then they can get anger problems and trust issues. If people don't understand them, how can they trust them right? At least, that is my view on this, I am sure there are a lot of books on the subject…
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

“You deserve this because…?” The Joy of Giving (and keeping track…)

 by John and Diane

Monday morning 6am.

One of my foster boys comes up to me and, as the appointed spokesperson of the entire foster-son clan proclaims “We want to go roller-skating tonight!”

“You do hey?” I replied, thinking over the weekend’s activities and reaching for my first cup of coffee.  I approached it from my usual “love and logic” way.

“Well, what did you guys do this past weekend to have earned the right to go roller-skating?”

The spokesperson for the group was able to list off several chores and good deeds he had completed over the weekend including washing my van.  Unfortunately for him, these were all chores I paid him for, so they don’t go into the “good behavior” coffer.  I told him so. 

The other two boys couldn’t really even come up with anything that they had done for me over the weekend.  When they mentioned their usual housecleaning chores, I reminded them of what poor jobs they did, and how their laziness actually made more work for me, including extra loads of laundry late on Sunday night!

“You guys all just did as little work as possible this weekend. You did your chores, but you didn’t do any of the details. You were really slacking.”

“ You were slacking too John” said spokes-kid number 1.

Oh My God.  This is why I love the “Love and Logic” method, because now I was unable to unleash (in the gentlest way possible of course. Heh heh heh) the litany of things I had done around the house and for them all weekend.

“Slacking? Really? I was slacking? Let’s see, I let you guys watch movies and stay up late on Friday, then you yelled at me on Saturday morning, then I took you all fishing twice this weekend, I baited your hooks and helped you with your line when you needed it, I took you shopping so you could buy your Dad a birthday gift, I gave you wrapping paper, I bought you all ice cream, we had a picnic, I made you dinner, and did the dishes, I had two pipes burst in the house and I fixed those and had to clean up the mess and you kids did not offer to help, I drove you where you all needed to be, I played tag with you, I did your laundry, which you did not even fold, and you guys did nothing unless I paid you for it, and what you DID do, you didn’t do very well.  AND now you think you have EARNED the right to go roller-skating tonight?”


“ The only person that deserves anything here is me, and I deserved you guys all to do a better job, and yet you called me a ‘slacker.”

I slurped my coffee for effect.

“Sorry Dad/ John” came the mumbled responses. 

I know this might sound like just your average parent /kid conversation, but it is a really good technique I use a lot with my kids.  I remind them of all the things I do for them… and the usual Lack of things they do for me, unselfishly (without payment.) This reminds them of the difference between the things we do for money and the things we do for love or out of respect for someone else.

It is a good reminder to RAD kids of what caring about another person is and how we show it (through selfless acts) and a reminder to the other kids in the house that even though I do things for them… it is MY choice to give to them, and that they cannot demand or expect treats and luxuries like roller-skating or movies or ice cream. They are at my discretion. Thereby reinforcing my role as head-of-household. 

The joy of giving is only made sweeter with the blessing of a good memory.

image: adapted from flicker image: 
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