As I read the post on the message boards I am so glad that this topic is getting so much attention. There are very strong opinions which I hope are all respected, even if not agreed upon. Our experiences and reactions to those experience, are too personal for anyone to condemn. This is really a matter of having walked in "their" shoes. Children suffering from trauma can be physically and sexually aggressive. As soon as I realized this with my daughter, I created very strong boundaries and limits to keep her safe and everyone around her. While for years, people on the outside looking in, couldn't understand why I kept her home from school, church, didn't let her play with other children, and kept her with my always, it is now paying off. Three years of intense parenting, a wonderful therapist, a great support network and my daughter's willingness to let go of her fear, we are now on the home stretch. I don't know what the future hold for my daughter but I know it will be far more better than she would have had if I hadn't stayed true to my intuition and so much prayer. I suggested that we look at all children coming out of orphanages as special needs. This isn't to say that they will be, but certainly the chances are substantially higher for children that have experienced disruption in caregiving early in life. I think we should educate all parents, especially adoptive parents, on these issues with a hope they will never have to use them. This is about education and support. Even a parent, with all the knowledge to know what to do, can't do it alone. There must be a good therapist, respite available and as Sue has said, it does take a village. It takes understanding neighbors and school teachers. Trusting friends and family members. And a safe environment where parents can voice their feelings without being condemned. I realize now more than ever I am so fortunate to have acquired these things in my life. But I didn't always have them. I have worked hard for the resources for my daughter and fought to stay strong amidst the misunderstanding that fought to bury me alive. There is hope. Now more than ever for the parents and especially the children. Let's spend less time condemning and more time supporting.
I am glad this topic is generating so much discussion. It just goes to show that these issues are very real and opinions are so strong. I need to clarify, as I don't think the show justly portrayed my story, is that I can handle my adopted daughter. Now. For many years I was angry and felt crazy but I see now I'm one of the few that found help. There weren't answers on the show that would offer parents real tools. I don't have all the answers but I do have what has worked for my child. My child's path to healing isn't going to look like anyone else's. It can't. We can't compare kids and we can't compare the parents. There are a few fundamental things that are the same. First, parents have to find a way not to be provoked to anger. I can't tell you how to do that. It is a personal and often painful process to practice the amount of forgiveness these children require. This act alone is to me, one the most sacrificial kinds of love a parent can show a child. It is a process. Next, children must be held responsible for the behaviors no matter where it's coming from. I recommend natural and consistent consequences. They must have very small boundaries and tight structure to help regulate their anxiety and impulsiveness. This makes the children feel safe. Yet, this is when others accused me of looking strict and mean. And I would feel the pressure to let up and I would pay for it. At some point as parent has to stay true to their intuition and what works, despite criticism from often those closest to them. Finding support. As the parents support the children, the parents must find support for themselves. It is critical that the primary caregiver, usually the mother, take care of themselves. They need a reprieve. They need to be rejuvenated and find time to care for themselves. Parents won't be able to live up to the demands of these children without renewing their own energy sources. And finally this usually isn't an issue of a parent not loving their child. I have to believe that just the act to bring a child into your home that isn't yours, shows an enormous amount of love and faith. This is an issue of child not being able to accept or give love. They are held hostage by fear and act out to cope. It's just the "acting out" where behaviors I didn't even know could exist in a young child. It will quickly defeat and overwhelm a parent. Knowledge is power. This show is a step.
My whole purpose of subjecting myself and my family to the media is in hopes to better prepare families that bring traumatized children into their homes. Trauma is so tangible in the life of an orphan. We can all imagine the difficulties sustained early in the life of an abandoned child (and by the way, it's probably much worse than you can imagine). But trauma, in all its forms, occurs in foster care and even families with biological children. When we don't properly prepare and educate parents, it leaves door wide open for additional harm to a child. As an uniformed parent for so long, it really felt like my daughter, V, welcomed the vicious cycle of resistance and misery that often accompanied the fight for control. I wanted to leave V in her anger because she seemed to deserve it and I simply didn't know what to do. It is this helplessness that drives parents to give up their children. I hung on, driven only by faith that someone held the answers for our family, but it was so difficult to find. I was caught between a daughter that look well adjusted to the outside world and was unregulated and destructive inside our home. I can no longer try to convince the skeptics. I have found that I can only find support from people that either trust me or they live with their own traumatized child. I tried to convey the extreme difficulties in my book, Love Lessons, but I realize there is a component of understanding that can only come from living this life. These children do and say things that I didn't think were possible in a small child. I now realize they were subjected to experiences that no child should ever endure. Our children are subjected to more negative experiences than ever before. We see this in their defiant behaviors, their disrespect and sense of entitlement. They lack focus, direction and morals. Instead of identifying the source of the problem, we are slapping medical diagnosis on them. Many kids that have a history of extreme stress and psychological damage are given multiple diagnosis such as, Bi Polar, ODD, ADHD and others. While these diagnosis have a place and medication can be helpful, we must ask ourselves if we are overly diagnosing and excessively medicating our children? Are we finding the answers in these medical terms or is it just masking the problem? It seems that if we were fixing the problem we wouldn't be constantly coming up with new medications for the next best diagnosis. I've blogged about some of the approaches we have used at www.findinghopefoundation.com
I, along with most parents, adopted my daughter, V, with the best of intentions. I was an experienced parent. We were going to provide her with a family, a home, all the comforts of life, her own room, clothes, shoes that fit, food and plenty of love. For a child that had lived her first four years in an orphanage, I knew she would be happy and grateful. Everyone talks about expecting "issues" with adopted children. Yet, I know now, no one really wants to talk about what those "issues" really are. I was expecting language delays, learning problems, food issues, malnutrition, and even attachment. However, because V was so affectionate and wasn't trying to burn down the house or kill the neighbors cat, I completely ruled out her ability to bond with us. I spoke to other parents that had adopted from her country, I read many books, and did all I thought to do to prepare us to bring V home. I now realize it takes far more than good intentions to help a child that has had a very rough beginning in their lives. All that we did for V in the first few years she was home was met with anger, defiance I had never witnessed in a child and all done with no regards to anyone or remorse. The first three years she was home was a power struggle for control. She lured me in and fully engaged me. I became as angry and mean as she was. I was also buried in isolation, guilt and confusion by what I was experiencing with this small child. I convinced myself that it was my fault. I needed more patience or lower expectations. While I certainly needed more patience, what was happening wasn't my fault. As soon as I began to understand what early childhood psychological trauma looks like in a child, I wrote my book " Love Lessons". I wrote with the sole purpose of not only educating people, but also to protect another mother from enduring the anguish I felt raising a child I couldn't make sense of. Not only did it cause trauma in my life but complicated V's as well. Children that have experienced a rough start, typically but not limited to, their first three years in life are at risk of not developing critical parts of their brain, especially the frontal lobe that is concerned with higher emotions, trust, cause and effect thinking and remorse. Instead, their brains become maladaptive and instead of trust there is fear. Instead of remorse there is anger. Instead of love there is selfishness. And it's all in efforts to protect themselves. My very best intentions could have never made sense of this. I needed to be educated. That is what I hope to do here.
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