March 22, 2013

Parent -- Self Care

Parenting, can take just about everything a person has, to keep up with day-to-day life. Maintaining a standard of living, a clean and organized household, and the added routines of children can become overwhelming, or all consuming. I was a young, healthy 21 year old mother of two biological children in a stable relationship with my husband, and still found that there were stages during my parenting where I was lost to the routing, and consumed with all things Mommy.

There is nothing wrong with putting our whole self into being parents. But, there is something better about being parents who remember to take care of ourselves first. This is even more important for parents with children who have special needs. It's easy to allow the needs of the child to dominate life and the routine of life to be focused only on the special needs of our child. It is probably even normal for parents to become focused on Only the needs of the child, especially at those crisis points, and when changes take place.

When my 9-year old biological son, went to play one snowy day with a friend across the road, I had no clue I would become the mother of a special needs child in an instant. But, I did. He took one more unapproved sled ride down the street and ended up lifeflighted to the hospital that day. His life forever changes with a traumatic leg injury. My life thrust into parenting a special needs child, doing things I never thought I would ever do before. Facing, a future of years of surgery, therapy and pain medication for my baby boy. I still had a family, a husband, daughter and the same obligations in life as I did the day before. It was easy to lose myself during the years of recovery for my son and the grief and trauma of the whole near loss of his left leg.

During the crisis, during the months of non-stop recover or change in life routine it is easy to forget that underneath it all is still the person we are, and it is still our life we live. It is healthy to be there 100% during the crisis our children face, during the moments we must put our needs second because our child is the most important. When the dust settles it's vital we rebuild our own strengths and remain stable and strong.

Often, it does not even require a lot of time as long as we care for ourselves a parent can maintain a healthy balance. I find it's important to take some breaks and also find that DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) offers some good skills to start with  for Self Care and the Five Senses. 

Related Links:

March 12, 2013

Webinar: Building Bonds of Attachment: Practical, Expert Advice

Deborah Gray specializes in the attachment, grief, and trauma issues of children in her practice, Nurturing Attachments. Her methods of working with children and families reflect her strong developmental and infant mental health perspective. 

Live Webinar Tuesday March 12, 2013 at 7:00PM Central with Q&A: 8:00PM cost is $15.00

Deborah Gray, is an adoption therapist specializing in attachment, grief and trauma issues in children, will provide practical steps that move parents toward building trusting relationships and secure attachments with their child.

Submit your questions for Deborah Gray here or by tweeting them to@adoptiontweet using #ALPAttach13.

March 7, 2013

Solid Foundation

We have heard it a million times--It's an old saying, and a fundamental teaching in nearly all mental, spiritual, religious, and build-you-up, kind of programs.

It all starts with a solid foundation.

For parents it's based on love and respect for themselves and each other, a common vision, and dedication for the long haul.

For parents of children with special needs it may require some special efforts. The most important thing to remember is to always start at the foundation and work our way up. Our personal health and emotional stability can be the root of all success, and failures. Parenting is difficult under all circumstances and a long road. Children with special needs bring into our lives whatever our child's special needs require. The stronger our base, the better able we are to cope and move through the challenges our children add to basic parenting requirements.

Any set of special needs will include a long list of added issues for a parent to be responsible and able to advocate. It may include additional doctor or therapy appointments, additional school evaluations and meetings, additional matters to work through. I have had a child who was perfectly fine one day, and in the snap of a moment physically injured and facing a lifetime of change. Today, I am parenting siblings adopted from the foster care system with prenatal drug and alcohol exposure along with a list of emotional, behavioral, and learning needs. Each situation is very different. Each situation requires the best I have to offer as a mother.

There is a tendency when facing a crisis with our children for some of us to be swept into the whole thing and overwhelmed. It can become all consuming and overtime a parent can become lost in a world of trying to fix things for our children that we simply cannot control. I find, the best thing to do when I cannot control the world around myself, is to control myself.

It is generally, not wise to become lost in the whole situation. As parents, it is vital we keep our own identity and our personal relationship with each other. We need to remember, we are the solid foundation our children need most.

Each of us, have our own needs, and our own areas to work through. As a parent, one of the best ways we can show our children how to overcome their own issues is to set the example and never stop working on ourselves. As much as it seems while we are in the midst of parenting our children--they are the only concern--it is important to remember we need to keep our own identities and remember we are living our lives as well.

We will all have our own unique list of things about ourselves to watch out for, to change, to improve or to keep in mind. For me, it is remembering to keep myself fit and have my hair cut now and then. When I notice, I am lost for motivation or my hair is out of control I realize that I am making a project of my child special needs, and failing to meet my own needs. Yes, there are the times when things are in crisis or hectic and the little things slide. But, for me personally, the moment I notice I am stuck in a project it's time to take a break and tend to my needs.

A strong foundation starts with the parents involved and with effort and thought we can keep ourselves and our relationships while facing the challenges our special needs children bring to our lives.

February 19, 2013

Blog Submissions

 I started my personal blog--about becoming an Adoptive Mother, over 10 years ago. It begins with the day I first met my nearly 1 year old baby for the first time. The oldest entries are raw and unorganized. I am sure there are dead links and long gone references...

I have suffered some judgement for sharing some of the story that has taken place. That is part of the nature of the journey I face as a mother of special children. Thick skin is required.

My reasons, for sharing my story have never been to exploit the situation--my reasons have been 100% an effort to find whatever my children need in order to do and be the best they are able. I began sharing my experiences Online, only because I was frustrated with the public school education system my child was not eligible to receive services from... Because, nothing really exists that would work best for my child. Fetal Alcohol Exposure and Reactive Attachment Disorder are NOT special needs identified as an educational special needs. My children, and untold numbers of other children, are therefore Identified by other labels.

Instead of the truth, and the real special needs my children, and all the other children suffering from the same issues, are being recognized in paperwork that reports our children have ADHD or Autism Spectrum something or another. Those needs are identified--treated and served. So lest just call an Apple an Orange instead.

When I went online to research what I could do as a mother of an extremely emotionally disturbed child with FASD who had been molested--and lived her first 4 years in a shopping cart, or on the sofa of anyone who would take her in....then was sent to two different Foster Homes, with her baby brother.... And the second foster family wanted to adopt Only Him... but, then one day--you meet your Forever Mom and Dad and turn 5 a few weeks later... And, No one really Understands.

There is no productive way to treat the Real issues my child has when everyone wants to label it as something it is not. The effort it has required and the extents that I have needed to take as a parent Are Important for Society to recognize and understand. So, I share a bit more than I should and that is how it is.

If you have a Blog about parenting a special needs child either a biological child or an adopted or foster child. If you are the parent of a child with emotional, behavioral, mental health, or physical disabilities and would like to become involved in an effort to help see some changes Please Join this Blog, Comment and Leave your Blog Link here.

February 17, 2013

A Parent's Network -- APN Revamp

It has been a very long time since APN has been online. Originally, this was the Adoptive Parent's Network. It was a very successful and supportive website and forum for parents of Adopted Special Needs and Foster Children. We closed the Adoptive Parent's Network in 2008 after 5 years of online support for parents of some of the exceptions and most special needs children. A lot has happened in My Life and in the lives of my children since that day.

During the past few years, everything in my own personal life has completely changed. I have recently celebrated my 50th birthday and decided to complete the 2 years of education needed to back-up my act and be taken seriously. I have lived the system offered by the mental health services and education system. I have seen it from the inside, as a parent of a child with sever emotional, social and behavioral, mental health issues, and prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. I have also come to learn that, many children are effected just as my children, however they remain with their biological families. The issues my children face, are issues many families are facing with the children they are parenting. It is a reality and without support, information and change this reality will continue to effect everyone in our society.

Parents are Key to understanding, treating and helping children regardless of the issues and needs the child faces. My experience and observation is that there is a general lack of support and services For the Parent's of the children with special needs and mental health issues. In some cases, there is no support and parent's are blamed for the failure of the system and treatments offered. As an adoptive parent, I personally have not faced the overwhelming implications that I personally may have caused some kind of damage to my unborn child. I have not faced the kind of shame many other mothers and parents know is very possibly their fault. I do however, understand that many parents come to know the reality of their own situation and the implications that their child does in fact suffer some of the same issues. One of the hallmarks of an addiction is in fact denial. Many parents come to recognize this denial does not heal their child. For those parents the first step is to accept the truth and learn to advocate for your child's best interests.

My experience with finding quality mental health services and meeting the educational needs of my children can be summed up with All Roads leading to the Same Place. Ultimately, no matter how, who, or why, my child is Special Needs and at the end of the day, my responsibility to parent.  What I have found while seeking support, therapy and services for my children is a system designed to set a lofty goal, provide some superficial service, and then when the goal is not met, point to the family or parents as the reason for the failure of the service, close the case and file, and move on.

There is some General Implications, that I just need to hang-in long enough for the Criminal System to get involved or until my child is 18. There is little effort to consider long term outcome. The system insists on thinking of Only the Moment and only the day whatever works is fine. If it is not, and it continues to escalate, the Law will step in and continue to institutionalize our young people. It starts early with the identification of Behavior Risks, Threat Risks children. Those sent to the Behavior School, or child care center for future felons. Basically, the county school for children who have pre-criminal behaviors typically demonstrated at school. My child drew blood on the special education teacher before spending 4th grade across town, housed for several hours a day, with other children tagged to be criminals growing in the community. She learned a lot that year.

I have no real answers at this point. I do however think it is about time we as a country start to recognize the issues that are facing our children today. There should not be mass shootings, or bloody murders of innocent people for this country to recognize we need to look long and hard at the systems we have created to date and what needs to happen to make a change soon! Those of us who are Parenting a child with special needs, emotional, behavioral, mental health issues and social problems need to organize and mobilize We need to share stories, experience and ideas. We need to put them together and find a way to present what we know from the first-hand experiences we have encountered.

We the Parents are the first and most important authority in the lives of our children. We are their best advocates and we are the only one's who Love our children regardless of the special needs they may face. We want more for them then to get them to the age of 18 without horrible incidents. We have hopes and dreams for our child no matter what. Some of us have shame and guilt for the ways we caused or failed along the way. Some of us see or feel something we wish we did not about our child. About ourselves, about our families, our mates and each other.

My hope is that other parents will get involved with A Parent's Network, and share their stories. Share, experience and ideas, things that worked, things that failed. Network and brain storm ideas that might help, might work, might be realistic and possibly make some kind of change. What is happening now is clearly not working, what needs to happen requires Parent's of the children to be empowered and supported.

So, as I start the last few terms of my college education (only because experience means nothing without it), my hope is that the effort and energy I have right now will carry my 50 year old bones to speak up and prove this was all worth it. That the future of my children is more to me then getting them to age 18 without babies, drug problems or jail. I want them to grow, develop at their rate and reach for more than the system seems to feel they are doomed. I think we all want more for our children then that--and I think it will require a new way of thinking about our children, their needs and what our role in all of it is. One thing is clear, what has been going on does not work, so as Parents it is up to us to stand up for change.