Tuesday, December 2, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Swap

Many have asked if I will be doing the "Trauma Mama Gift Swap".  The answer is no. :-(  It has been so much fun in past years, but like many other things, it got too big and too time consuming for me to do on my own, I had to let it go.  Unfortunately, there were no takers interested in picking up the ball and carrying the tradition forward.

May each of you find ways in your own circles to reach out to those in the trenches, connect with other parents, and lift and support those who are struggling to make it through this season that is still so difficult for many.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Gift of Healing - Enter to Win

As I've mentioned before, Hope Rising is no longer just mine.  It isn't just a parent support group, or a grassroots retreat group anymore, either. We are now a legally registered non-profit organization with our 501c3 status pending.

One of the big things we do as Hope Rising is host respite retreats for moms just like all of us who are in desperate need of a break and healing for themselves. We still have spots available for our super awesome retreats coming up the end of this month, too. The retreats will be held September 24-28.  Yes, there's still time for you to come and join us! We have a couple spots left in Arizona and have opened up several more in Utah.

We also have a scholarship program and sponsorship program to assist our moms who need some financial help be able to attend our retreats.  Yes, you are still welcome to apply for either of these programs.  Much as we wish we could, we, as Hope Rising, also can't do what we do for free. Reality is that without donation funds coming in, it's pretty tough for us to keep doing what we do in any area, including running our online support groups. Our only sources for obtaining funds are through fundraisers, donations, and retreat registrations.

The theme of our retreats this year is "Choosing Hope." Our focus is on taking care of us as moms and helping each of us find rest, relaxation, and healing for ourselves. For this reason, we're offering a very healing essential oils package as a give-away for our last pre-retreat fundraiser!! We want all our moms to have the opportunity to receive a gift of healing, even if they can't join us in person.

There are many ways you can enter to win this awesome prize!! You get entries simply by sharing our give away post (http://www.hoperisingforfamilies.org/2014/09/donate-to-win.html) in as many places as you can and asking others to share it as well. Of course, you also get extra entries for making financial donations, too. All donations we received are first and foremost used to fund scholarships to help as many moms as possible be able to join us for our retreats this year AND they are tax deductible too!

This campaign is also short and sweet. It only runs through this coming Thursday night, September 11. The winner will be announced on Friday, September 12. We really need your help in spreading the word! Will you help us by sharing our give away post (link above)  Even if you can't come join us for a retreat, or just want to help support a great cause, we welcome financial donations to help other moms come...and yes, to help Hope Rising continue doing what we do and making sure our retreats and other parent support activities can continue in the future!

Donations are gratefully accepted through PayPal to the address hoperisingforfamilies@gmail.com or by using the quick link button below,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hope Rising Retreats Update

Retreat time is getting close!  We're less than 4 weeks away now!  These retreats are so amazing!  They are fun, healing, relaxing, and educational.  They very literally have saved more than one of our lives, too.

For those of you who've followed my blog for awhile, and also for those who have just found me, Hope Rising began as a grass roots effort to save my own sanity.  I began hosting retreats in 2010 for moms of children who are struggling with attachment disorder, have been through severe trauma, or struggle with other similar mental illness simply because I was drowning myself and needed an in-real-life support network. The experience was so amazing that we've kept them going.  We've had moms from all over the country join us, too.  Our strength and numbers have steadily grown over the years and we reached a point where I could no longer host them on my own.  Plus, we recognized there is such great need in all parts of the country for these retreats, but not everyone has the opportunity or means to travel.  With that thought in mind, we formalized our group into a legal non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation called Hope Rising, Inc.

We have retreats coming up September 24-28 in Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin.  Our Wisconsin retreat is now full and we are down to just one twin bed spot in Arizona! More info about this retreat can be found by clicking this link.  If you're anywhere close to Arizona, get on it and grab that spot before it's gone!

We have still had a lot of interest in our retreats, though.  We want to put out there that we have the option to open up several more spots at our Park City, Utah retreat.  We need to have at least 4 people commit to come before we can do it, though. Click that link above for more info on our Utah retreat.  If you are interested in coming and having us make more spots available, please let us know by email us at hoperisingforfamilies@gmail.com. We know there are SO many moms out there who need an experience like this.  We would love to fill every single spot we have available! Every spot filled is a mom who is making self-care a priority and is finding the strength, friendship, and support she needs!

Here's some pictures of our amazing Utah venue!  Park City really is one of our favorite venues. It's home to many Olympic training venues, it has easy access to the Salt Lake City airport and there is TONS of fun stuff to do in Park City...not the least of which is hang out in the hot tub with a whole bunch of absolutely amazing women who completely understand this crazy life we all live.

We have two different options available for financial assistance for moms who need a little help in getting to a retreat.  We have a scholarship program in which donated funds are gifted back to moms who apply for scholarship as funds are available.  If you would like to help very literally change the lives of some really amazing women who are parenting very, very, very hard kids, donations are gratefully accepted through PayPal to hoperisingforfamilies@gmail.com.  We've yet to have a mom receive a scholarship that hasn't broken down in tears when it was awarded.  That's how much these retreats and this gift means to them!

We also have a sponsorship program that allows moms to help themselves by allowing them to raise the funds they need in order to attend.  The neat thing about this program is they can raise the funds they need for necessary travel expenses in addition to retreat expenses. We currently have 3 moms who are working on raising funds... Corrie, Emily, and Alissa. Donations to their causes are also very welcome gratefully accepted. Every one of them are incredibly deserving!  Even though they look all sweet and put together in their pictures, some of them are on the verge of shattering at the seams.

Please note that all donations made to Hope Rising, Inc. are tax deductible, too! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Educating About RAD

**Welcome!  Scroll down if you're looking for my Attachment Disorder chart.  There are many other great resources I've linked to in this post as well.**

It’s that time of year again. The kids are heading back to school and it’s time to educate the educators on the basics of complex trauma, attachment disorder, etc.  I have 2 kids with multiple diagnoses including RAD, PTSD, ADHD, FASD, and a bunch of other stuff.  Over the course of the years they've been with our family, they've also attended several different schools in two different cities ranging from preschool to high school.  What that really means is I’ve a lot of practice doing these meetings over the years.

I've tried many, many, many different approaches over the years. Some have failed miserably; some have been WAY too long (our first IEP meeting lasted over 3 hours!)  Some have been ok, others have been good, but not worth the investment in time and energy for what the school got out of them, and others have been very successful. Yesterday's meeting was one of those highly successful ones!

Over the years, I've realized there are two main things that make a difference in whether or not the meeting will be successful.  The first is the willingness and receptiveness of the school to listen.  That’s something I've come to accept that I don’t have any control over. They're either going to listen because they want to, or they're not going to.  If they don’t want to listen, or don’t want to see it, and even more importantly, if they don't want to do anything about it, they’re not going to no matter what I do.  That doesn't mean I get to give up, though.

I am a big believer, though, that the schools NEED information about the issues my kids struggle with...even if they don’t want to hear it and don’t want to do anything about it (as is the case with one of my kid's school.)  For sheer liability reasons for our family, we need the school to have all the information we can possibly get them to take in their files.  That way if anything does happen at school, it becomes their responsibility, not mine.

What I can control and encourage receptiveness through, though, is how I present the information. The trick, regardless of how receptive the school is going to be, is getting everything they need to know presented in a way that will make them want to pay attention, keep things on track, and get them out the door and on to other things. I know there are a lot of people out there who say you have to keep whatever you give them short, sweet, and limited to only a couple of pages.  I say to really do justice to all we’ve got going on with my kids and what the scholls really need to know in order to protect themselves, other kids, and be able to help my boys, there is absolutely no way to condense it to “short” and still keep anywhere close to effective.

The alternative to short, then, is engaging.  It has to be presented in a way that makes them want to listen. Yes, it takes a LOT more preparation on my part to make the presentations engaging and still as “brief” as possible, but when things go like they did today, it makes all that preparation worth it.  FYI: In my world, “brief” as possible means I tell them I need an hour and then work really hard to have them out the door well before that hour is up.  

Here’s how I do my presentations:

1.  I provide an information packet about my child to each teacher a day or two before the meeting.  I usually just give all of it to my son’s case manager and then let her distribute it and invite all the teachers to the meeting.  I ask all the teachers to read over it and write down any questions they have and bring them to the meeting.  Then, when they come to the meeting I tell them I've done these meetings a lot and want to keep things on track, so I ask them to hold all their questions until the end.  Reality is that most of them get answered along the way and never actually get asked to me. 

2. This year I added something new to my presentation and information packet. I’d seen a bubble chart floating around the internet describing RAD.  I really liked the one page “snapshot” approach, but at the same time, found the existing chart I’d seen very incomplete.  The main ideas were there, but so many critical details had been removed to make it fit on that one page that it lost a lot of its power and effectiveness. I know this because I’d actually tried using it to help others understand.  I realized very quickly those on the outside couldn't see the whole picture nearly as well as I could from that chart, and therefore it wasn't nearly as effective as I thought it might be.

Being the half-crazy, tenacious, creative, and well-seasoned with experience soul that I am, I finally bit the bullet and went to work.  I realized that I could do a lot better job at making a truly effective chart using the same general one page format, but didn't lose all the critical details in the process.  I was very pleased with how it turned out!  It turned even better and far more functional than I envisioned. It truly is that missing piece I've been searching for!   They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.  That definitely proved to be the case with this chart.  It has all the big, scary details of RAD on there, but at the same time, allows me to now teach about all the complexities of it very quickly and effectively.

I know something like this has been sorely lacking in our community for a very long time now.  I know because I've tried in vain many times to find something like it myself and have heard others begging for similar resources as well.  Several parents helped pull this list together. For this reason, I am making my chart freely available to any who can benefit from using it.  If you want to pass it around or pin it to Pinterest, I (and others as well) would appreciate that you do so by sharing the link to this whole post and my blog rather than just the image.  That way others will know where to find it and it will still be connected to the information on how to use it for greatest impact and effectiveness.    You are, however, welcome to open the photo and save it for your own personal use.  It is a print quality image that should be formatted to print nicely on standard 8.5x11” paper. Did you know images like this also lose significant print quality when they are saved and resaved and passed around separate from their original source?  They do!!  That's why others will want to find the original source.

I deliberately included this chart as part of the information packet I gave to each teacher with no explanation prior to our meeting.  I figured that way they were more likely to actually read what was in the bubbles and see what some of the symptoms of RAD really are, how they are all connected to each other, and how many of them there really are!  I then kicked off our meeting by showing the chart to the group and asking two questions:
A. “How many of you find this chart overwhelming?”  Several hands were raised.
B. “How many of you asked the question ‘How much and what of this applies to my son?’” Even more hands went up this time.
I then answered both questions with “Attachment Disorder IS overwhelming…and big and scary and messy and encompasses the whole person.” Much to the surprise of many, I then answered the second question with “ALL of it applies to my son.”  And with that, I had their attention! Many of them gasped a little and sat up a little straighter and got their pens out to take notes.

We then talked for a bit about internalizers vs. externalizers and how even though they might not see all of my son’s stuff outwardly manifesting at school (this particular kid we were talking about is an internalizer), it’s all still there and it’s all still part of the package that needs to be considered.  I do like to take a few minutes at the start of meetings like this to give some general overviews.  I know my kids aren't the only tough kids they have and I've had many teachers tell me over the years that what I share with them helps them better understand and work with other kids as well.

One of the things I really like about how this chart turned out is that I can cover some of the color quadrants with my hand while leaving others exposed.  Because I was talking to a bunch of teachers, my favorite way to do this was to cover up all but the green “Academic” quadrant.  We then talked about what happens when you only see the academic piece.  It took about .2 seconds for everyone to realize the chart now looked a whole lot like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic!  I also talked about relationships and how what is in that quadrant doesn't just apply to me.  My son has relationships with his teachers and peers, too…and those relationships, while different than they are with me, are equally as stressful for him.  What happens within those relationships and the lacking foundation skills necessary for them not stressful does impact his learning and what goes on in his internal world.  Of course, both relationships and the internal world have a significant impact on behavior. 

My very favorite part, though, is that I taught all of that and more in about 2 minutes!  Really. I taught a whole group of people who knew precious little about attachment disorder in a very brief few minutes...and they "got it" (at least at a high level) too!

You’ll notice a few of the cells in each quadrant are highlighted.  These are some of the most important /most common/most pressing issues for outsiders to be aware of in each area.  I did spend some time talking with the group about how children with attachment disorder are often charming, engaging, and compliant for outsiders, but hostile toward parents.  One of the highlighted cells in the relationship quadrant is that parents can sometimes appear angry or hostile.  I did this because I know some of them have already seen that in me, especially during our last IEP meeting last spring. I explained that if they do ever see that in me to please realize I (and other parents like me) are not intentionally hostile and angry, but we are exhausted.  When you have the whole picture right there in front of you, it’s not too hard to see why!

I made an accidental discovery when I printed this chart the first time.  There was an errant piece of white cardstock left in my printer I didn’t realize was there.  It turned into something I now recommend that you do if you use this to teach a group of people like I did.  Cardstock will stay standing up straight while you cover stuff up with one hand and hold it with the other. Regular paper will not, at least not with a lot of fidgeting.

3. So what’s in the rest of the teacher information packet?  I’m glad you asked!  I opt for engaging and easy to skim rather than short.  People are actually a lot more likely to read 10 well set, personalized, and interesting pages than they are a generic two page letter printed off the internet or 3 pages where everything is squished together with a small font.  The key to creating an engaging page is to use as little text as possible to explain what you need to say, then use a basic, easy to read, professional looking font, a font size that is a little bigger than normal (12.5-14 point) with a little more space than normal between the lines (2-3 point sizes bigger than your font.)  Also be sure to leave plenty of white space on the page.  Not only does this visually look better and is more comfortable to read, but it also leaves teachers plenty of room to take notes.

Here’s a sample of what some of my pages look like.  I found all the pictures I used on the internet.  There are many sites out there where you can download free and free use stock photography.

This setup isn’t just “pretty” to look at or easy to read, though. Everyone, including teachers, has a preferred learning style and learns in different ways.  Some prefer reading, others are visual learners like I am (we like the pictures!) and some prefer auditory learning.  By structuring these meetings and information packets as I do, I embraced all of those different learning styles.  In one way or another, I made sure the information got through to all of them.

4.  I gave one copy of some carefully selected supplemental materials to the case manager and told the teachers she has them.  Not all teachers are interested in reading them, and everyone is overwhelmed with feeling like they have to read them all at once, so why waste the paper and ink printing them?  I actually emailed copies of the articles to her after the meeting so she could distribute them electronically to all the teachers on Monday.  I sent this short article on possible school behavior problems associated with RAD.  There's a printer friendly version available on the site that can be printed to pdf format.  I also sent Classroom Fact Sheets for RAD, PTSD, and FASD.  These fact sheets are really neat.  They are short and sweet, but give a good overview of the condition and how to effectively handle it in the classroom.  You can find similar fact sheets for several other mental health related conditions here.

Some other good resources I've either used in the past or as inspiration in my own stuff include this article on Oil &Water: The Rad/School Mix.  I like this one, but it's quite long.  The one I used is a condensed version written by the same therapist.  There are also similar but different Fact Sheets written by a different organization than the ones I used, this "Dear Teacher" generic letter (which I've used in the past without a lot of success.  The schools felt it was too negative, impersonal, and generic and rejected it because they didn't see the same things I do. That happened at more than one school.)  I DO however, really like their suggestions for the teacher and I incorporated many of the ideas from this into my own presentation. Especially when my kids were younger, I also used this Adoption Awareness in School Assignments to help teachers think about how their assignments impact adopted children.

5. As many of us know, these meetings can get REALLY heavy and overwhelming if we’re not careful. They can also get sidetracked really easily...which is exactly what makes them longer and more frustrating than they need to be. I've found the best way to keep these meetings as short as possible is to use the very same information packet I give to teachers as my script and stick to it!  My packet is broken into two sections.  The first section is “what they need to know” about the conditions and how they impact my son. We try to get through that part pretty quick. I try to anticipate questions and answer them as part of the presentation, which helps a lot to keep things moving.

The second part is “what they as teachers can do to help.”  I like to slow down a little bit when we hit this part and give specific examples of what I know has and hasn’t worked in the past.  I allow only clarification or relevant to that specific subtopic during the presentation.  Anything else I ask them to hold to the end.  That really helps a lot to keep things on track!   More often than not, many of the questions they have do get answered by the time we’re done.  The ones that do come up at the end are almost always really good quality and well thought out questions that benefit everyone or the teaching team can help answer and help brainstorm ideas for.

6.  I like to end the meetings on a lighter note.  We talk a lot during my presentation about real chameleons and how they change colors to fit their environment, why they do it, and how my son does the very same thing.  We also talk about what chameleons do when they get scared.  They turn black and hiss at you…and my kid will do the same thing.  Adding in the chart on Attachment Disorder this year really drove home the whole chameleon thing, too.  They could all finally very clearly see and understand exactly what that means and how big the difference between the different “colors” can be.

I noticed a couple years ago when I first put this presentation together that our dollar store regularly stocks packages of little plastic chameleons in all sorts of funky colors in their toy section.  I buy them in bulk when I see them.  I keep enough on hand so at any given time I have enough for all my kids’ teachers plus a few extra.  When meeting time rolls around, I take them with me and give them out to the teachers.  I then suggest they put them somewhere in their classroom where they can see it as they teach. That way they have a reminder that they have a human chameleon in their classroom that needs to be handled with care.

The teachers have really enjoyed those chameleons!  They all pick out their favorite color…and they often tell me why they picked the one they did.  Some of them like the ones that look like the red rock deserts, some like the rainbow colors, some like the green ones.  I found some funky glow in the dark ones this year.  They all really liked those!  The best part is that they really do put them up in their classrooms.  My son does know I take them with me to meetings and give them to teachers, but he has no idea what I really do with them, who I give them to, or what they mean.  If he does happen to notice them in the room, all he knows is that mom it to teacher as part of our back to school meeting.

Hopefully you’ve found some new ideas for your own school meetings.  Leave a comment!  I’d love to hear what works for you as well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fall Mom's Retreats

I've noticed that even though I've been fairly quiet here lately, I'm still getting quite a few hits to my blog. Thanks for checking in!

Just in case some of you are wondering about those awesome retreats I used to do and whether or not they are still happening, I thought I'd take a minute to share a bit more about what's going on with them. Over the years, they have become such a wonderful and needed thing for our moms that we outgrew what any one person could do on their own.  Earlier this year, our group incorporated into a formal non-profit (501(c)(3) pending organization called Hope Rising.  We've got some really exciting stuff going on over there, too!

First of all, not only will there still be a retreat in Utah this year, but there is also going to be one in Arizona and Wisconsin as well!  That's right!  We're taking our retreats to our moms in various parts of the country now.

Retreat Dates:  September 24-28, 2014

Price: $250-290 depending on the bed you choose

Registration:   Click on the links below to learn more about each locatoin and to access registration links for each venue.  You can learn more about our retreats and what they're all about by clicking here.

Registration for all locations closes August 15!!

After that time, anyone interested will be placed on a waiting list. Payment in full is due at the time of registration. Contact hoperisingforfamilies@gmail.com if you have questions.

Utah Retreat:  This year's retreat will be held at the same amazing place we hosted it at last year.  It's a super fun and HUGE cabin nestled high in the mountains above Park City.  The cabin is spacious, comfortable, and charming.  The scenery is breathtaking.  There are also recreation opportunities abounding.  Park City offers everything from quaint shops and outlet malls to alpine slides, zip lines, mountain coasters, and all the hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreation you can imagine.  Park City is located 35 minutes from Salt Lake City and is home to many still busy and very fun to visit Olympic training venues.  Athletes from all over the world train at these venues year round.  It's a lot of fun to go watch them, too!

It's convenient location also makes it ideal for moms who will be traveling.  The Salt Lake airport is easy to access.  We have many moms who pass right by there on their way to the retreat and pick our traveling friends up.  We've yet to have anyone need to rent a car.

We currently have 3-4 queen beds and several twin beds, both top and bottom bunks available in Utah.

Arizona Retreat:  This retreat will be held in Pinetop, Arizona in the heart of the White Mouintains, midway between Phoenix and Mesa.  If you are looking to fly, opt for Phoenix so you won't have to rent a car.  Peaceful scenery and recreation opportunities abound.  There are also some really fun local festivals going on in this are during retreat time as well. Nothing, however, beats the amazing moms you'll be spending the weekend with.

We currently have a couple queens, a king, and a couple twins left at this location.

Wisconsin Retreat:  This retreat will be held in Wautoma,Wisconsin.  This is a quiet, rural community located in central Wisconsin, about an hour from Madison and Wisconsin Dells.  Our location sits right on the shores of Big Hills Lake.  There are lots of waking trails, boating equipment, and the fall colors will be splendid this time of year. And, of course, there's a private hot tub for soaking cares away. (there's one at all locations, actually.)

There's only a couple spots left at this location.  We have two top bunks and/or can squeeze in another mom or two on some good quality air mattresses.

If you need some financial help, we have a very limited number of scholarships and also a sponsorship program available to help our moms be able to find the funds needed to attend. You can find out more about those programs here.

Registration is winding down quickly for these retreats!  Don't wait until it's too late.  We don't want any empty spots.  Empty spots means there are still moms out there who need help and support!  We want to find them!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An Epiphany About Boundaries

I was involved in a conversation the other day with a friend of mine.  She was pretty upset about some of the choices one of her now adult children who hasn’t lived in her home for quite some time has made.  It’s a choice and scenario that I’ve seen so many others play out as well.  The kid that appeared to be doing so well has now left college after only a short time, toured the country with strangers only to find herself stranded in the middle of nowhere, and then claims she is returning to live with her “real” family (aka bio mother). 

The conversation turned to not understanding how our kids can do this kind of stuff or how can they completely reject safety, love, stability, and a supportive family but still fantasize about how great things were with the bio family.  We talked for some time about how kids (and adults, too) are biologically wired to love their birth families regardless of how they were treated there.  My response to my friend was this…

“Their brains don't operate the same way ours do. Remember that they see the world very differently. They don't have the same logic and reasoning capabilities we have and they get stuck in very young developmental thinking. As such, they may truly not get the difference between scum bags and a good life where people love them. All they can see is the fantasy that they can have everything they want and do anything they want without boundaries.”

And then I had an epiphany about boundaries.

The reason so many of our kids got hurt is because there were NO boundaries in their first families.  There were no boundaries among parents, regarding parental behavior, or between parents and children.  Our kids never learned the concept of boundaries.  Far too often, they were not viewed as children who need love and care, but as an inconvenience, nuisance, or an extra mouth to feed.  They became the punching bags, targets, and door mats that their first parents used to hide, express, or manage their own very big problems. 

When they came to us, they came with absolutely no concept of what healthy boundaries and discipline are.  Therefore, they also came with no concept that boundaries are there to keep them safe, not oppress them. Nor do they comprehend that the lack of boundaries is WHY they got hurt.

I wonder now if that lack of boundaries if that's not part of the fantasy and connection some of our kids have with their first families, though?  I wonder if because they don't understand boundaries and don't like the parental boundaries we impose, they long to go back to a place where there are no boundaries and they don't have to rely on or trust anyone else to keep them safe. And yet, at the same time, they also lack the logic and reasoning skills to know that the reasons they got hurt…and will get hurt again…is because of the lack of boundaries.

I get accused all the time of being too strict and not giving my kids enough freedom.  I've known many of the reasons for this all along.  I do believe, however, that my little epiphany has just given me even better words. 

It’s not about strictness.  It’s about safety in all areas (physical, emotional, and sexual) TEACHING my children about the personal and interpersonal relationship concepts they didn’t have the opportunity to learn through normal developmental means.  In order to be able to function in society, they need to learn how to conceptualize and practice boundaries at home.  Once they learn that adhering to, living within, and setting boundaries on their own is what keeps them safe and functional, they will have more and more freedom to explore the world.  Until then, we will continue to enforce and teach the concept of boundaries regardless of whether anyone else likes it or not.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Helping Families with Tough Kids

Two REALLY great blog posts went around this week regarding families who are parenting difficult teens.  The first was written by Jenn Hatmaker.  If you haven’t already done so, you can read it here.  And yes, please do take the time to do it!  She herself is a parent to “normal” teens, but has a great deal of concern, along with a guest post from another mom of a really difficult teen.  That mom shares some great words of wisdom, support, and strength for other families who are also struggling.

The second post was in response to some of the questions posed in the first post regarding how other people can come together and help lift and strengthen families of teens (and tweens) who are struggling.  That, too, is an excellent post worth reading.  This author so eloquently answers the questions and his responses are spot on.  Among other things, he talks about not asking trite questions if you’re not willing or interested in sticking around for the answers, being willing to hear the truth even when it’s not pretty and handle it in a Christ like manner, and reaching out to help in ways that are actually helpful and not more hurtful for the families

Really...If you've ever wondered how you can TRULY help and understand my family or a family like mine who is parenting some
 very difficult teens and tweens, please read both those articles!! 
Long story short, they both really struck a note with me.  We are asked ALL. THE. TIME. about how we're doing, what people can do to help us, how our kids are doing, etc. It rarely ever changes anything, though.

I realize that situations like ours are very tough to understand. It's human nature for people to believe what they see. That’s why eye witnesses are allowed in courts of law.  However, what most people don’t understand is that in cases like mine, where 90% of what they see is darling, well behaved, and very engaging children whose biggest problem is that they have stressed out, frustrated, overly strict, controlling, and angry parents is really an acting performance worthy of an Oscar award!! They also don't realize that what they do see really IS the illness!! That charming, well behaved, engaging "normal" side they see of our kids who struggle with attachment disorder is actually carefully calculated manipulation designed to hide their own true colors and the shame and guilt they feel over the stuff they know they do. They deliberately do it in order to convince people they're the victims and their parents are the crazy ones. Most people also have absolutely NO IDEA how incredibly destructive it is to our kids and our entire family when they buy into it, too.

As one of my friends pointed out yesterday when I shared a version of my thoughts on Facebook, our kids aren’t the only ones who are award winning thespians, either.  We as parents often are, too.  So many of us, and most definitely myself included, have been so beaten down, run over, judged, and criticized so many times that we plaster on that fake smile…until we absolutely can’t hide the stress and pain any more.

Yet, as the author of this second article mentioned, whether most people want to accept this piece of truth or not, most people really do only ask questions such as “How are you?” or “What can we do to help?” out of social obligation and because they have no idea what else do say.  They say they want to help, but when it comes right down to it, they only want to help in ways that work with what THEY want to do or in ways that are comfortable or convenient for them…and they also know that most people will never actually take them up on their “offer.”

Sadly, during those times when we do find the courage to be honest and actually answer those questions of "How are you?" and "What can we do to help?", the overwhelming majority of the time we learn exactly what was said by the other authors...people really don't want to hear the truth, they can't handle the truth, they don't know what to do with it, or they want to debate the truth, especially when we tell them the best help they can offer is not to give our kids treats, trinkets, or gifts and not to touch them or let them zone out!!  During those really off times when they do hear or see the realities of what we live with for themselves, they either minimize it, tell us “all kids do that”, or turn their backs and don't want to be involved…because, let’s face it, sometimes our truth and reality IS painful, ugly, and consuming.

We've also learned the hard way, I suppose you could say by falling into the trap and touching the hot stove one too many times, that there's also often an ulterior motive driving those questions, too. That ulterior motive is usually "What can I do to change you and make you see and do things my way because your story makes me really uncomfortable amnd I want you to change it so I don't feel so rotten, inadequate, or guilty about being around you." Or worse...that ulterior motive is really "What I'm really looking for is justification for what I see before I report you to the authorities and slap yet another one way ticket through hell on your family!" 

Of course we know that's not always the case with everyone! Believe me, we also know who those of you are who are actually sincere and really are seeking to be supportive of our family and our situations. You're the ones who are still reading, who didn't scroll past this post, and actually took the time to read the attached articles...and then you said something to us about it! You are the ones we are so very grateful to have in our lives, too. 

There is one more thing I would like to add this author's very good response of how you can help, though. When seeking to understand what families like mine are dealing with, please respect our children's right to and need for privacy. Please don't pepper us as parents (or our kids!!) with questions about their birth families and what happened during their early life that lead to their adoption. The truth is that regardless of who the child is or what the details are, their stories are bitterly painful and ugly and our kids carry a LOT of shame, grief, and guilt about all that happened to them. Our kids also carry a very real and very deep seated belief that all those things that happened to them are their fault, too. No matter how ridiculous any of the rest of us think that might be, it's real for them...and it drives a whole bunch of very real issues, too.

So, when seeking to understand our family and situation, please don't take it personally if we are evasive, choose not to share details about their story, or if we put the brakes on conversations about their adoption circumstances or birth families. We do so because it's inappropriate for us to share such things, especially in casual settings, and it's also very hurtful to our kids when we do. If you know us...or you know families like us, please accept what we offer, hold what we do share as sacred, please don't gossip about it or us or them, and don't assume you know what really happened. I can 100% guarantee that if we did share a little tidbit with you, it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the real story.

In cases like this, it really is both safe and appropriate to assume that the things that happened were horrible, are scary and overwhelming beyond what you can wrap your head around, and one of many reasons we choose not to share their story is that we know that it would literally traumatize you. Please, please, please try to understand that if just hearing their story from us has the power to do that to do that to you, consider what it has done to our family and what actually living every little gory detail of it has done to our kids. If and when they can finally find the words to talk about those things that happened AND if they feel like they want you to know about those things, they will tell you themselves.

Otherwise, yes, do keep loving us.  Do keep praying for us.  By all means, please do research and learn more about the illnesses and conditions we struggle with.  And then, please don’t keep your distance, even when we can’t participate in or aren’t up for social events, activities, or even conversations.