Thursday, August 17, 2017
Is your goal attachment or compliance?
Connection before correction. True compliance doesn't come until attachment arrives. You may get behaviors you want short term, but not the understanding of the behaviors if you don't focus on attachment most of all. If you want long term success, please look for the need behind the behavior.
Imagine your child came from a history of abuse or neglect. They don't know what to expect. They have no idea what a family would be like.
Why would we think somebody coming in from situations so much different would understand the dynamics of a family. That's just setting yourself and your child up for a hard road. It very common, for a child to experience this feeling. There will be a lot of new things your child experiences after bringing them home. Don't expect 100% compliance on day one. It's nuts. This is a long journey and little things along the way "we do this as a family" or "we do this because...."
Please don't push because they don't want change. Change is hard for everybody, extra hard for your trauma child. Show grace, show love, show vs tell. What you do is so much more important than what you say.
You think you're just like other families, yet, something must be wrong. Your new child is pushing back on everything, even things that don't appear to matter. You want her to be comfortable but she just fights every thing. She doesn't have a clue how to articulate what she feels. She may not even know. It's unfamiliar. This just feels wrong to her.
Why would we be surprised that unfamiliar territory would be rejected initially? Isn't this true for most of us? It must be so much worse on a child, ripped from everything she knows, clinging to everything she's ever done. Then these strangers that claim they'll adopt her want her to be different. I'm sure she feels that's an attack or criticism. Without a solid structure in the early years, all the sudden parents that try to communicate....scary!!
So, your child that just moved in is annoyed that she has to sit at the table and eat dinner as a family. You've cooked a great meal, not a tv dinner in the microwave, not sandwiches on paper plates. She's scared that she's going to break a plate. She's scared she'll not like the new food. She's scared she'll never have junk food again. Why on Earth would a family insist that every little detail be the way they want it. Your child wants to eat off paper plates? Let her. She'll eventually move to eating on real plates with the family. She just nitpicks at dinner and doesn't really eat, OR she eats so fast you don't know what happened to the food. Poor kid was neglected perhaps? She's afraid it's her last meal. Of course she crams it in before somebody can take it away. You're eating as a family and she's never been taught table manners, she may nitpick because she doesn't want to mess up. It's okay. Let her grow in her own time. I promise it's not forever.
Your food served overwhelms her. How about making some of her favorites, some of yours and have her take a bite of yours each time. Gradually she'll learn to enjoy real food. Kiddo's favorite food is Calamari now. Before if it wasn't nuggets, burgers, fries, peanut butter or cheese, it was frowned on.
All the kids in your family attend private school. You always assumed you'd send your own kid to also. Your new daughter throws a tantrum about that idea. We ended up letting kiddo go to public school even though we wanted private school because private school was scary, more attention and she was hypervigilant and felt bad and didn't like too much attention, whether negative or positive. After a childhood full of having no attention, that small of a classroom can be too much attention and overwhelming and lead to failure more than success. Maybe private is the right answer, but please look at the need behind the behaviors before making big decisions.
Your kid is struggling in school. That's why you want her to go to private school? She needs a tutor for almost every class but nobody has nurtured her education so she refuses to participate and she shuts down? Hummmm....sounds familiar. Despite D's, your new daughter says she knows how to to do everything by herself (because she's had no help and it's overwhelming, accepting help equals something being "wrong" with her) Our daughter struggled back the first few years, we focused on attachment vs grades and now she's an honor student, almost all straight A's, proud and has goals. Before she didn't even believe she had a future.
Maybe the answer is home schooling, maybe it's unschooling, maybe it's an IEP, maybe it's private school, maybe it's public school, maybe it's just giving it time. For us, time was part of the healer. The other part was her temporary stint with homeschooling after ankle surgery. That gave her the confidence to get caught up without fear of looking dumb in front of classmates. A teacher came in and with one on one time, within a few months, she was ready to tackle the world. It took 4 years for our child to let me help her with her homework. She wants you to believe she doesn't need help. She wants to be under the radar and not have to switch homes yet again. She has no clue why she's been through so many foster homes. Maybe the last one didn't have time for that and she's scared. Let her know you're available, but don't push yourself on her. Homework is not the end all. (but that's another story that I could easily go down a rabbit trail on)
What? She doesn't want to go to church with you? Have you heard her thoughts? Is it a deal breaker? or is it that you don't have child care? or that it's that important to you? "I hear that you don't want to choose this religion, but as a family until I know you're safe and can prove you can handle being alone thru behaviors (or whatever), I will need you to be at church with us". We're a mixed religion family so we were well prepared in this area, being very tolerant and understanding that not everybody has the same needs.
However, recognize that some kids feel like they're being condemned at church and that they already think they were removed for being bad deep down and this just further antagonizes the problem, so be prepared if she decides not to continue with any religion. Our child was manipulated at times in the name of religion. Religion makes her feel not good enough. We can show Christian love without the stress she feels in organized religion. I truly believe God would prefer we show love than talk it.
Maybe she doesn't want to do any extracurricular activities. We pushed our daughter to try things, but ultimately she does better jumping on her trampoline alone than team sports, etc, fear of failure, rejection from others, not being sure she'll be there long term and not wanting to get close to others, a hodge podge of reasons. We asked ours what she was going to do to fill that time spot as she dropped out of activities along the way. Yes, they are good for you, but it's not the end all. Ours has tried soccer, softball and piano and gave them all up, with time she's getting better about commitment. It took ages before she invited friends outside of the friends that were children of my friends over. She thought she wouldn't be here forever, so why bother getting close to her classmates.
Maybe your child gets angry because you say no too much. She feels like she was always allowed to do "xyz" before but now you don't let her. You don't let her because you're a good parent and it's not a good choice for her. How do you make her understand she was never allowed to do "xyz" its just that she was neglected and nobody ever watched her. Maybe nobody cared what she did or where she went. That's part of why she was taken into care. Never bad talk the birth family. Empathize, be real and truthful, but don't attack the person, just be clear about the behaviors. "I didn't have you as a baby and this is how we do things, even if you don't feel like you need xyz, I do, humor me". She eventually saw it for what it was and I never had to bad mouth others.
Give your child a chance to make choices. Say yes as much as possible. Yes helps her learn that you WILL provide her needs and even some of the wants.
What do you mean your child doesn't understand what an adoption is? Of course they don't, they know their birth family couldn't do it long term, why would they think a stranger will accept them for who they are?" Our baby had a failed adoption even, so that added another dynamic to the mix. It's a long ways between being a family in name and being securely attached.
How do I help her without her shutting down? Attachment, attachment, compliance isn't goal, attachment is. Attachment comes with patience, diligence, time and effort, an effort not to make it about me, but about relationships.