Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Life Lesson's, Progress & Finding The Grace For One More Day

I have found that we have to be very intentional about teaching life lessons to our children. Trauma and brain injuries on various levels, seem to have robbed them of the ability to see and apply lessons that one may not have to make a conscious effort to instill in a healthy child.

One of the biggest is the mind set that, "I messed up, now it is no use to even try," which results in a severely restricted life style because the child cannot/will not rise above the circumstances. Their poor choices become a self fulfilling prophesy. "I told you I was no good, now I have proved it."

Someone with a healthy self image will realize that, "I messed up, but everyone messes up, so I need to stand up and try again." Not our children. We can talk, cajole, bribe, let them wallow in their misery, attempt to boost their self image, and talk some more.... it doesn't help. If I am honest, there are times when I think, "You want to be this way, then fine. Sit here in misery till you are ready to work on your life." While there are times a child has to sit and stew for awhile, our children will remain there for weeks, months, even years because for them, the issue goes much deeper. It is a truly dark self image many of them struggle to over come. If adoption is part of the equation like it or not, many if not all, will struggle with the question of, "Why wasn't I wanted," or, ""If my mom/dad loved me they would have done xyz to get me back." Their minds can't grasp the hold trauma/addiction and generation's of abuse and neglect can have on a person. As a parent who has never suffered what they have, my words don't carry much weight because, and rightly so, they know I have no idea what it is like to live in their circumstances.

Recently a child has healed to the place where we are able to explain that, "You messed up, so consequences/boundaries will follow because they are necessary to keep you safe, especially when you are in this mood. BUT you do not need to stay in this place of despair, make good choices and then we will reconsider the boundaries. Prove we can trust you to make good choices and more freedom will follow."

The other week the child made a poor choice that directly affected an upcoming activity. We had a rough week, because she felt that is was useless to even try. So I sat her down, and laid every thing out on the table. "You did ___________, this is the consequence of the action. Your current actions prove that our decision to withhold you from ___________ were correct. However, if you can prove to us that you can handle this activity by making good choices and working on your life, we can possibly reconsider." When I think healing is not taking place, I look back to 6 months ago and know we could not have had this discussion, it would have been too much expectation, too much at stake and she would have failed ...which would have proved in her mind that she is a, "bad person who can't do anything right," ... her words, not mine.

Well guess what, she got her act together, she worked on her life, she tried and she earned back her privilege to participate in the activity we had removed due to her lack of trying to make good choices. I smiled, hugged her and whispered, "See I knew you could!" I didn't dare say more, because her self esteem is too fragile for much praise and over doing it would have flipped the scales.

We recently spent a few days at the cabin with my family. Biking on the old railroad bed, is always a highlight....but not when you have to ride with mom and dad while your brother n cousin ride ahead. Dean gave her permission to ride a bit ahead of us, but the rules were, "Only so far ahead." Well the distance widened and widened, until she was no longer within shouting distance. Dean pulled her aside and told her she needs to bike with us. She promptly shut down and refused to ride correctly. I finally pulled her off the trail and asked, "What is wrong?" 
"I want to ride ahead and now dad won't let me!!!"
"Riding ahead was a privilege you had to earn by riding with us and following the rules, remember?" A little nod... "When you proved that you are trying to make good choices, dad left you ride ahead but only if you stay near by. When you rode farther than dad gave permission, he said you have to stay with us, right?" 
"But it isn't fair!!!!"
"This isn't about fair, this is about obeying the rules and making good choices. Now you have a choice to make, are you going to accept your consequence and make good choicyes, so that dad may consider giving back the privilege of riding ahead, or are you going to be grumpy and tell yourself that you are just a bad person who always makes bad choices and never gets to do anything?" She gave me a sheepish look and I reminded her of her how she had earned back a negated privilege just days before. "Why did we give your privilege back? Because you were grumpy n didn't try, or because you worked on your life?"
"Because I tried."

"Very good, and this is the same way. You need to work on your life before you earn privileges."

She biked in silence for awhile, but was soon chattering about the things she saw and all was right with her world again. It is instances like these that prove that yes, healing is taking place. All the time, effort, tears and prayers we pour into our children's hurting and broken hearts and brains that have suffered extreme trauma, really are making a difference. Little by little, step by step!

Parenting is hard work, but trauma and brain injuries compound an an already difficult task one hundred fold. When your child's progress is so slow, you really can't see it unless you look back over the years and carefully analyze the whole picture, it can feel hopeless. Blogging had helped me see that, yes we are making progress! 

Joseph was able to bike the whole trail without one melt down. Two years ago we weren't very far into the ride when he shut down and quit. As we rode over the stretch of trail where the first spectacular melt down occurred, Dean said, "Remember the last time we tried this?" Granted, we have learned a few things since then, things about stimulation, not giving privileges that he cannot handle just because we are at the cabin, eliminating sugar and gluten, among a host of other things. However the fact remains, Joseph is making progress, Kiana is making progress despite the fact that Dean and I still feel as lost as ever most days, but each day we get up and by God's grace, try again. 

This paper hangs on our refrigerator where our children can easily see it. Having a visual reminder that Respect, True Words & Actions plus Obedience = Privileges and Better Relationships has been very helpful. 

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