Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Overcoming Mommy Paranoia Regarding Your Child's Mental Health

       Have you ever been accused of being a paranoid mom, the mom who sees a diagnosis behind every behavior? If you have a child with RAD or FASD or other mental health diagnosis, chances are you have heard something like, "All children do that," followed by a long suffering sigh when you mention a concern you have about your child. I know I have had that experience and when that happens, I am learning to remind myself why I see things differently than someone who has never experienced the trauma and drama involved in parenting a special needs child. Many adoptive/foster parents have only bits and pieces of their child's mental health history, making it difficult to know when to be alarmed and when to give the child time to heal emotionally. Knowing what you are dealing with is half the battle, if you know why your child cannot follow directions, is inclined to violence or is "mommy shopping," you can begin seeking the help he needs. Many of the disorders and health problems that afflict our children from hard places, will only get worse, much worse if they aren't treated.

  The hard part is getting the correct diagnosis. Children's mental health services are flooded and it is not at all uncommon to wait anywhere from 3 months to a year for an appointment. Then chances are, your child will be evaluated and the doctor will recommend getting this or that test done because your child doesn't exactly meet the criteria necessary for a diagnosis in his area of expertise. So you wait some more and quite possibly take your child to a scheduled appointment only to find that somehow your child's appointment was changed, but no one knows how it happened. You reschedule the appointment. Then when you finally meet with the doctor to discuss the test results, he discovers a vital part of the test was left out because...well no one really knows why. So you schedule yet another appointment. You will quickly learn that nothing moves quickly in the mental health arena.

  While you are scheduling and rescheduling the appointments, your child is growing steadily worse while you are becoming more and more frustrated and concerned.

   That is one reason why some of us become paranoid parents.... we want to begin seeking help as soon as possible because it can take so long to get it.

Another reason for our concern is the simple fact that our children have a lot stacked against them. Many of their mothers did not receive adequate prenatal care, nor were they in a good place emotionally during their pregnancy. Maternal stress and fear can wreak havoc with a developing brain and nervous system. Add substance abuse and violence and the poor infant is born with even more strikes against him.

  Then there is all the trauma they experience after birth. They may have had a mother who didn't know how to bond with her baby, maybe she didn't know you have to feed a newborn at least once every 2 hours. Many of these mom's don't have a support system and a visiting nurse can only do so much and so the baby suffers some more. 

 These children aren't placed in our homes because they were cared for in their previous homes. They are scared, often in pain and many of them haven't received adequate medical care. 

  Foster parents see things like:

-gorging or hording food

-violent tantrums, and not the 30 minutes to an hour screaming fits either

-bruises, burns and other signs of abuse and neglect

-children who duck and cower when you come close

-self harm and/or harm to the other children in your home

After parenting children like this for a few years and working with a mental health system that often fails to provide the necessary care our child needs, not to mention the emotional toll this has on our family, is it any wonder we become a little paranoid when we witness similar behaviors in our other children?  

When we watch our children from hard places enduring the affects of the trauma they experienced in their previous home, we want to protect them from anymore pain, which is also why we watch each twitch and tantrum with unease.

 If your child has come through harrowing experiences and appears unscathed, you may find you still can't rest easy because statistically they shouldn't be doing as well as they are. 

  The next time you talk with a mom who seems overly concerned about her child's  mental and emotional well being, smile and assure her of your prayers. Chances are your answer will ease her burden in more ways than you can imagine. 

   I can be a paranoid mom and I am learning to balance what I am seeing with truth and facts rather than feelings. When my son decided it was time to go "Shopping for a new mom," I panicked and thought RAD. PTSD was on the heels of that thought and of course when you reach that stage, you no longer think rationally. Dean helped me by viewing the facts. The first thing wrong with this point of view was, You do not "get RAD" when you are 8 years old. Attachment disorder, maybe but not full blown RAD.  

  When my daughter threw nasty words my way because she didn't want to get her pj's on, I almost cried, surely she won't have attachment problems! I forced myself to think through the situation, big brother had yelled those same words when he was upset earlier in the day. While it doesn't make it right or okay, she is only repeating what she heard. She doesn't hate me or think I am a mean mom. 

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