As the holiday season approaches, my phone lines and emails are lit up like Christmas trees. Wild eyed mom’s stop me in parking lots. Parents of children with RAD and Attachment Disorder are screaming for help from the roof tops across the world as the season of giving and love begins. What is the problem?
VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS DANCED IN THEIR HEADS?
The painful memories and flashbacks come crashing through their minds as seasons past clash with seasons present. Reminders of the families they have loved and lost stab deep at their young hearts. They may have memories of violent battles, or being dragged from the arms of a screaming birth mother echoing through their days. Many children in foster care were moved during the holidays. It is the highest suicide season of the year as those with mental illness and depression struggle with their inner pain. Many abusive birth parents self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. The use of both has been shown to be higher during this time of year. Often we don’t know what haunts them. Be extra patient and empathetic as the trauma memories drive them into inappropriate behaviors until they get healthy enough to trust parents with their hurts and fears using words instead of destruction.
DECK THE HALLS..
Years ago, as the decorations and stockings were unwrapped from storage to be displayed and each little voice rang out with glee at discovering an ornament they made in school or a treasure they remembered I saw the pain of the new child who had been in another family the year before. I quickly raced to paint the child’s name on a stocking to try to ease the feeling that she “did not belong” or was not a part of the family. The following year I purchased special ornaments for another new child and had a special stocking personalized and ready. It still did not erase the fact that there was no history or happy memories as the other children did so many “remember this!” and “look at this! It’s my favorite”! It hurts and that is all there is to it. We must be sensitive to their pain.
THERE AROSE SUCH A CLATTER,
Children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned often have severe self-esteem issues. When we load them down with gifts that they don’t feel they deserve they quickly destroy them or blow up with a huge release of feelings. Unprepared parents are shocked at the reaction to the gifts they give out of love to “ make their child happy”.Don’t be shocked! Be ready! The gifts are not as important as the child. I usually have good luck with books, Legos or art material that I keep in the family room and give them time to use each day.
The Christmas lists that my children write are the lists for what they are planning to give, NOT what they are demanding to get. It is the season of giving, however, the number of expensive items that you purchase is NOT a measure of your love for the child. Give your time, singing together at home, hiking or caroling, visiting nursing homes with hugs to share, cooking for the homeless. Show your children what giving is about. That is a gift worth keeping and hard to destroy. The children with the “gimmes” can change into children with the gift of giving.
HO HO HO..
This is a time for traditions no matter what your religion. Traditions are important whether it be decorating a tree, lighting the Hanukkah candles or singing hymns around a manger scene. As the memories of seasons past come back to haunt your child why not fill their mind with new memories sprinkled with lots of laughter. Serve breakfast with a Santa hat on, feed them reindeer food with lunch (salad), rent a snowmobile and go have a blast. Sing around the tree and have homemade eggnog (blue is a fun way to serve it) (Martha Stewart stand back!) Buy squirty whipped cream and paint mustaches on your children and dog. When your child prepares to throw a tantrum break into song loudly with a favorite holiday tune (unless you have already lost your mind and taken the child out shopping!). Rudolph? Yes, paint your nose red and have a great day. As long as a child with RAD cannot push your love away you will succeed!
January 2 comes every year. Just hang on until the roller coaster comes to a full stop. And a quote from a great book…” this too shall pass” has kept me going through many nasty Novembers and difficult Decembers. It has some great chapters in it telling the history of this special holiday that I like to read to my children. My favorite chapter for this season was written 2000 years ago by a doctor named Luke 2:1-20. Reading from a very old book all snuggled up on the couch in front of the wood stove on a snowy Colorado evening with children who need (but do not want) my love, fills me up. I love a challenge! We can make a difference!
THE SEASON OF GIVING..
May I take this moment of your time to say how much I appreciate each of you parents that continue to love and fight for the mental health of your child. What you give each day is beyond measure. You are priceless gifts to the world. Each child you help will touch others. The future of our world is brighter because of your love. I am honored you took your priceless time to share it with me. I believe we are all in this together. The world will be better as we help each other heal the children. From my heart I thank you and wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happier New Year!