This weekend, Peter and I went to a conference called Empowered to Connect. http://empoweredtoconnect.org/conferences/
Lucas stayed with some wonderful friends. And he did amazingly well. Such an answer to prayer. Isaac stayed home and got some good teen "alone" time.
The conference was about connecting with your adopted child. It ended up blowing us away! And changing our entire paradigm of parenting.
I was familiar with the organization that sponsered it- Show Hope http://www.showhope.org/ and also familiar with the main speaker--Dr. Karyn Purvis author of a well respected book on the topic The Connected Child. http://www.amazon.com/The-Connected-Child-healing-adoptive/dp/0071475001
Everyone who has adopted knows this book. It's sort of a basic staple of the diet of books to read when adopting. I read it as we were waiting for Lucas and have picked it up on occassion in the past 1 1/2 years. But, to be honest, I realize now I was not a very good student of it.
Another favorite book I've mentioned before is Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control. p://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Consequences-Logic-Control-Attachment-Challenged/dp/0977704009 It turns out both books have very similar philosophies.
Originally, I wanted to go because I knew I needed to learn even more about how to parent Lucas better. Peter went because he just wanted to see what it was going to be about, but he went with a little hesitation that it could be "psychobabel" (said in jest of course).
I've been struggling over the past few weeks with some more meltdowns with Lucas because I decided it was time he start to listen to me and began to demand things like "first time obedience". It seems like a basic premise of parenting to me. And now that he understands we are a family, and he understands the language better, I thought it was a good time to lay down the "rules".
I've always wanted to do this with him but have struggled to implement it. Now I know why. I find it quite "coincidental" that I decided to impliment this stuff and we crashed and burned right before the conference. I'm a poster child for what NOT to do with your adopted child the past 2 weeks.
Even though I knew better, I began to lay down consequences because Lucas was not obeying me.
I found myself getting bitter and angry inside and more and more frustrated. And he was sensing that and responding accordingly.
Both Peter and I thought we were seeing manipulation. Peter is all about "obey" and he gets pretty frustrated when our kids don't. Both of us were increasingly more and more frustrated and coming down hard on Lucas. More yelling and frustration just escalated things. O ur house was becoming more and more filled with yelling, and more disobedience. How does that work? I wanted More obedience but he was increasingly less obedient.
Now that we are on the other side of this weekend, both Peter and I look at eachother and are at so much peace. God revealed things to us that we were doing wrong. He once again showed us the tender/wounded heart of our boy. We now better understand so many things. Here are a few things we took away from the weekend:
1. Lucas's brain chemistry was altered by all the experiences he had before he came to us. Details are in the notes we took, but it is a real scientific fact that he may NOT be able to understand logic or consequences completely particularly when he is dysregulated.
2. EVERYTHING we do should be to promote attachment and connectedness. That means such basics as talking softly. Being "present" with him with eye contact and close proximity before things get to a point of a royal meltdown. More "playful" engagement. (I know...duh!)
3. At this point, the word "manipulation" is not a part of our family vocabulary. For example, remember the sweet post about giving food to Lucas at bedtime? http://breadandotherprovisions.blogspot.com/2012/08/warm-milk-and-peanut-butter-crackers.html well it became a huge issue and we created a monster out of it. It didn't stay sweet. We forgot his woundedness and were too worried about being manipulated. We were wearing out and decided it was time for him to just "go to sleep". UGH! Now we are going to pay closer attention to those requests again.
4. Deyhydration is just as bad for these kiddos as starvation. I know seems obvious, but he should be offered water every 2 hours. Why is that so surprising to me? Again, it can actually cause altered brain chemistry. Needless to say waterbottles have returned to being within reach at all times.
5. Food every 2 hours
6. Activites every 2 hours that are both
"Vestibular input (the sense of movement, centered in the inner ear). Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input. If your child has vestibular (movement) sensitivities, please work closely with a sensory smart OT who can help you recognize and prevent signs of nervous system overload."
"Proprioceptive input (sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to body awareness) can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. A child can also stimulate the proprioceptive sense by engaging in activities that push joints together like pushing something heavy or pull joints apart like hanging from monkey bars."
7. The main goal for us is to stop or avoid escalation before he becomes dysregulated (that would be a meltdown)
8. Speaking in a soft voice most of the time and only raising it when necessary and to stop crazy behaviors.
9. We need to look inside OURSELVES to see why we react to our kids the way we do. Do we have some percieved fears or issues that need to be dealt with?
10. Now here is the thing that really blew us away....Much of what we learned really could pertain to Isaac!!! Both of us heard behaviors, responses, and things Isaac has done that could fall into the category of a "harmed" child. (recall he lost his brother Jacob to cancer when Isaac was 8 years old--and he saw a lot of pain and suffering at that time) The difference with him is we know he was loved and cared for in infancy and forward. And he is almost an adult so coaching him through some of these things is a little different.
The list could go on. It was 2 full days. But, some of these things were just mind blowing to us because it means a shift in how we percieve what Lucas is doing, where he has come from and how we can help him to heal. It's also a shift in how we look at our own reactions. And in many ways we are more on the same page with eachother. We just kept looking at eachother with our mouths agape when another piece would be revealed.
We both left knowing we have more to learn, but with real understanding and tools to use. I think my favorite part of the weekend was having the time alone to talk with Peter for 2 days about any and all of these things without distractions of work/home/kids. It helped us to process it more.
We returned to a pretty happy boy.
And of course, the first "test" came yesterday during school as soon as I put the reading materials in front of him. It did escalate, but Peter was there and we both kept looking at eachother for coaching. We got through it. And I think we need to pull out a few more tools. But, Lucas is noticing something is different. It is going to take some time to work out the kinks and details and to rewire our own brains in many ways.
One of the things Peter reminded me of in a text yesterday was
That is what we are doing. Things may take time now to work through, but in the end it will be worth the investment.