Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Attachment Challenge

When traumatized kids are having times of whickity-whickity-whack, all of the basics tend to go out the window.

Those basics then become painful for us to do. Sometimes they are nauseating. No one can ever explain to you what it feels like. Knowing you NEED to hug your kid 10 times a day, but this is the same child who has violently pushed you away with every breath ... it's not normal and it. is. not. easy.

I get it. If no one else in your life gets it, my friend, I GET IT. Traumatized kids have a deep desire and need to repel others because they believe they can only trust themselves. They do it, not just with their words, but their very stance ... walk ... facial muscle tone ... breathing. Some of you are thinking, "What the heck, lady?" while others are jumping up and down in front of their screens right now screaming, "Yes! YES! She really DOES GET IT! It's not just ME?!?!"

Yup. Just the way they walk ... or stand. It's enough to make you go running down the road screaming like a lunatic.

Our kids have such a high cortisol level that their body odor is not "normal." Don't believe in the power of our own scents and pheromones? Live with a traumatized child. Unfortunately, their body chemistry is working in the opposite direction of what most of us would want. It's not typical body odor. It is not immediately repulsive. It's just a slow constant. I cannot put it into words, but many of you experience it.

So, I realize what I'm proposing today is going to really tick some of you off. Like ... really. I am going to ask you to make a one-week commitment to three of the basic tools of attachment ... with ... YOUR child. Yes, THAT child. The child whose clothes you can't stand to fold, and you're not even sure why, but just holding them and looking at them triggers a post traumatic stress reaction to your core.

Yeah ... that kid.

And I'm asking for A WHOLE FRIGGIN WEEK just a week. I also expect you to come up with some sort of reward at the end, for yourself. The emotional aspect of love is reciprocal. When you are the only one giving, it chokes the emotional feelings until they are completely dead and gone. Nada. Zilch. Not even a tingle. You need to reward yourself for doing this every day for a week - for giving your child the life-changing medicine they so desperately need, even though it is really difficult and challenging for you to give it to them.

I will be rewarding myself with food. Probably something involving chocolate and ice cream. I will not decide until the week is over, but it will be fattening, and it will be EXACTLY what I'm craving on that day.

Here is the Challenge:

10 hugs a day
10 minutes of FUN attachment-inducing games (involving touch and/or eye contact)
20 minutes of doing something fun YOUR CHILD wants to do

For seven days straight. They cannot lose any of these things - no matter what. They get it every day for a week - no matter what.

Make a chart, if you need to. I have to make a chart. With five kids, it's amazing how fast the day goes by without meeting therapeutic needs. Ten hugs a day is A LOT. I also am making it a challenge so I WILL DO IT! I'm not super human. I don't want to do this. I still have the hurtful things that were done and said over the past 30 days swirling in my head. I need accountability. Congratulations - you're all my accountability partners. We need the refresher. I need the refresher. I know I need it, because I hate the idea so very much.

So, comment that you're doing it with me, if you want. More than that, blog or journal about the week. I would love to link to any of your posts next weekend. Tell us how it goes, what you hate, what you discover, what you see in your child, etc. I'll do the same.

The comment section is also a great place to list ideas for the 10 minutes of bonding activities - finger play games, clapping games, stare contests, relay races holding things forehead-to-forehead, etc.

Here we go ...

59 comments:

happygeek said...

I don't have a traumatized child but I've taught them. I have a glimmer of how hard this can be (just a glimmer) and I will be praying my face off for all of you who do this.
Because they absolutely can repel people by the way they breathe.

slow pony ride said...

I love you and right now I also hate you a little. :)
I'm in. 30 minutes of fun is a lot to ask you know?
Lush

Lorna said...

I'm in. The hugs are the hardest part. Who am I kidding. . . it's ALL the hardest part!

Dianne said...

You are killing me. I know I NEED to do this, but ohhhh every pore is screaming NOOOOO.

Give me a day or two to talk myself into it.

I can do it.... I can do it....

Simply Moms said...

Get in a bath w/that kid. Wash their hair and let him/her wash yours. Some might want to wear bathing suits.

Sleep in a bed w/that kid.

Play the "Staring Game." Make the prize good ;)

Play catch with a big ball. The trick is you must maintain eye contact. Don't look at the ball.

Hand Games like "Miss Mary Mack" etc...

Cuddle up on the couch and read a short book together. Take turns reading.

Tie one of each of your legs together and each of your wrists. Now together...go make a sandwich. Teamwork!

If you have a pre-teen or teen aged daughter...do her make-up (even if she doesn't normally wear any) ....and hair.

Ask your child to take a photo portrait of you and you take one of him/her. Frame them on a wall next to each other.

While sitting across from one another...ask your child to draw a portrait of you. You draw one of him/her.

Start two journals. In one...your child can ask you any question and you must answer. In the other...you may ask your child any question and they must answer. Leave the journals on each others beds every night for peeks into hearts and growing understanding.
(What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What are you afraid of? Do you have any regrets? What makes you laugh? Do you feel safe? What does family mean? Have you ever felt forgiven? etc....)

Keep on keepin' on,
Dawn

brenkachicka said...

others are jumping up and down in front of their screens right now screaming, "Yes! YES! She really DOES GET IT! It's not just ME?!?!"

Oh that is me! I was totally doing that!
I had no idea about the body odor. My little guy is five. Yet his feet are disgusting. The smell is terrible.

The challenge you set forth is very similar to what we go though in Parent Child Interaction Therapy. (PCIT) The positive "special time" you spend with your kid actually fills their attention up and they really do demand less of you later. I was skeptical at first, but it's working! I have seen lots of improvement with my little Phineas!
The challenge is on. It will be easy since I am already doing it as per the therapist's homework for PCIT. But I have days when I forget. He turns into a horrible monster and then I remember, Oh, yeah. Forgot to do special time today.
The key for me is to do the special time BEFORE he is challenging me. Like right away in the morning provided he wakes up on the right side of the bed!

Jazmin said...

Can someone come give me 10 hugs in a day? It sounds almost unthinkable and I'm not a traumatized kid.

Diana said...

I'm not repelling the idea and choking in horror - but I, too, know I can do better and I need to do better...but more importantly, my kids need me to do better. So, I'm in. I'll even take it on x 3.

I will be making a chart as well and will be linking to your challenge over on my blog.

new rad mom said...

Ummm, ok. (nausea) 10 hugs a day, you have told me this before and I have made an honest effort. My head is still ringing from the shoes that whoped me in the back of the head but I will try again. I thought I was doing great with 3 hugs a day, saying prayers with him and making him look at me everytime he spoke to me (thats a hard one). But 10 a day. I'm in!

So glad you mentioned odor, I felt kinda mean and wanted to ask someone why the child that laothed me smelled! LOL Its like if this job is not hard enough already....haha

Game idea:
We played a game with a balloon where we had to sit about 4 feet apart and look at one another to "tap" (key word is tap, you will get pegged with it if you dont make "tap" clear). Keeping the balloon off the ground. It was a great was to celebrate together through our teamwork when we beat our own record.

Country mom said...

Of course you would ask this today. Today is the last day of school. My son's all time worst time of year. Today is the day before a holiday weekend, so, not only are all the kids schedules changing, but on Monday Dad will be home instead of work, and my neices who are always here weekdays won't be. Add to that that all the younger kids except my Radlet have places to be in the mornings next week. (guess that gives me time with him, though he'd rather watch the teens play video games). It wasn't on purpose, his sister has summer school for failing a standardized math test (don't even get me started) and his cousins are doing a volley ball camp for girls. The teens have jobs and one is showing a hog in the fair so they will be busy. What does my son hate more than anything in the world? Time alone with me! So OK I am going to try to use that alone time with him. I won't let him go off in his room to play. I won't let him watch TV. This is not going to be easy and he will fight it!

Lauri said...

I'm in....(gulp)

yes-I'm a man said...

As I sit at home with a child who has just been suspended from school for the third time this semester, and see no understanding of how much he has hurt me, or others, I'm thinking..."you're nuts." You've lost it. 10 hugs? 30 minutes?

Why not? I'll try anything once. I, too, will need to chart myself. Making one right now.

Stacy said...

I don't have a traumatized child but I have a child with behavioral problems that traumatize me! I'm in. 10 hugs a day - he sure could use them - and so could I!

Kerrie said...

Dang, I think you were reading my mind. I had already given MYSELF the challenge. Except the 20 minutes of whatever she wants to do. I'm going to have to do some deep breathing to get to that one. Because I already know what it's going to be. She is going to want me to sit down and draw a bus and color it in for her EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I kid you now. She will. Just watch. I don't know if I can do it.

The odor thing? I had no idea it was cortosol. I always thought it had something to do with pee, but then that stabilized and the smell is still there. Interesting.

~Christina said...

I realized how badly I need to do this when truly every fiber of my being is screaming, "NOOOOO!!!".... I gain more respect for you with every post you write:) :)
I'm in! :)

Teresa said...

Okay, I'm in... albeit with some big gulps about having to listen to 20 minutes about Pokemon every.single.flipping.day.

I'm putting stickers on MY chart!

Little Wonder said...

lol...reading all the comments. My head knows this is what I need to do. But right now I'm thinking running the other way might be a good idea too.

ugh

Ok....so much easier said than done and I know how I never follow through with these things....

If I could go 1/1 with my B things would be so much easier. But 1/9 with B being one of those 9 is so much harder....especially when 3 of those 9 are under 2.....

Oh, me of little faith...(yes I know the real saying).

Jennifer said...

I am in!

I NEEDED this post because my son's last day of school is June 3rd and his behavior is OVER THE TOP!!! He is pushing every button I own. *gasp*gasp*gasp*

I can do this!

Roblynn said...

If the ole' stiff arm hug counts we are in. She is a pro actually at the whole body stiff hug. I love a challenge!

That Crazy Family said...

Wonderful, wonderful challenge!! Count me in!

waldenbunch said...

I.am.in. though I'm really irritated at you right now. If the 20 minutes involves me getting in our frigid above ground pool I'm so going to be mad!

Christina K. Brown said...

Do I have to???? (In a whiny mommy voice) O.K. just because they need it so much, when I die from this, I am going to haunt you. LOL

Jennie said...

shit.
I'm in.
damn.
crap.
bugger.
ugh.

okay, okay. I'll do it.

Brenda said...

I'm good at the last 2. Not so good at the first. Fine. I am a tree hugger.

meagan101430 said...

You already know that I am in, kicking and screaming, but I am in. Bathtime is a great way to provide the ten minutes of bonding, drawing with soap or shaving cream, maing bubble beards, etc!!

Does making faces on the sliding glass window at her count before she had to clean it???lol

Jennie said...

linkeroo on my post, fyi.

and just because I have to do my own RAD attitude on you for suggesting we do this, Nancy Thomas says TWELVE hugs a day for trauma kids.

(oh great Jennie, now Christine is going to change the challenge. nice.)

BTW, the smell. It's an odd one, isn't it? It's not like typical BO. Kind of like sour milk + poop + sweat + rotting meat + vomit. Sissy's HAIR even smells like it. even after she's freshly showered and I've personally witnessed the shampoo in her hair. SO weird.

Annie said...

Just thinking how lucky I am not to experience that repulsion. It is surely NOTHING but God's grace Somehow I immeditely forget wrongs. I had such great parents that anything other than regulated loving-kindness "does not compute". I think I'm the opposite of a RAD kid. Nothing but goodness and kindness resonates with me; the bad stuff just doesn't "stick". That is a HUGE blessing.

It is also a curse because while it is a blessing to immediately forget my radlet telling me to "go die", I also forget that I told Easy Son #1 that he couldn't watch TV until homework was done....

I DO, fortunately, remember to do all those hugs/fun/attention-I-don't-want-to-give to the radlet.....but I am realizing that I fail horribly to give it to the Easy boys #1 and #2. I take their sweetness and goodness for granted. So - let's see how I do this week with every one of them.

Cathy said...

I never even heard about RAD until I stumbled on this site from McMama's. You have impressed me so with your attitude and insight. My kids are supposedly normal, but they don't always act that way. I'll keep reading and learning. Thanks

Cathy Givans said...

NO, NO, NOOOOOO!!!!!

You are suggesting that I spend an EXTRA 30 min after restraining and smelling his funky BO...I have never met an 8 year old that NEEDS deoderant! AND I have to do something HE wants....YIKES...I can only imagine.....

SIGH.....of course I'm in...you know I'm in...I don't wanna be in....but I'm going to be in. I know I will be doing a lot of reading....

Of course, you know this means I have to do this times three right? The other two aren't so bad...I can handle them...but HIM...the one that makes my whole body cringe sometimes just to hear his voice....

I love him, really I do...I just can't STAND to be around him...but I'll do it...DEFINITELY going to need a chart.

This will soooooo involve blowing my diet outta the water!

HUGS and praying your way for your week too! :)

kel said...

im in (i think!!!) even though right at this MOMENT i feel like hugging her till i dont hear her complain, boss, bitch, moan and whine ....... oh this is gonna be fun!!! making my chart, setting alarms, putting up reminders. right now i need all the help i can get, this challange could not have come at a better time cause i really am having trouble engaging at the moment. wish me luck. good luck to everyone . :)

Sean's Ladies said...

In. (sigh)

totally get distracted in the day with all the kids to do the power hugging. I need to set my phone alarm or something.

some ideas---
take 6 small stickers. have child close eyes and you hide them on her. then she opens eyes and has to find them. switch. oodles of trust (also may have to put a hand on the child while eyes are closed so she knows you are still there)

lap bouncing games like "this is the way the lady rides." stop singing and bouncing if child breaks eye contact.

have both parents swing child back and forth in a blanket. sing song of child's choice. child must maintain eye contact to look for surprise (like a wink, kiss, etc.)

dance together

the child walks backwards as you guide them by holding hands. end with a twirl.

mimmic each others nonsense words, changes to silly songs or while making faces.

Sing Open, Shut Them. Do it several times. Pause at different points to give them chances to catch your eye.

scavenger hunt with loving clues from mom. end in favorite snuggle place.

tubby that smell away. use deodorant/yummy lotions. anything to help the connection times.

color a coloring page. each person must color the spot and with the crayon of the other's choice. cross over/intertwine arms.

slowly feed each other a bag of fruit snacks. one for one. give words of affirmation. (ie feel my love going down down to your tummy)

lotion each other's hands

Colleen said...

ok. I am in. I am making my chart!

lmfarm49 said...

This sounds like a great idea- of course, my challenging one is sleeping- I may feel differently tomorrow when she is up and I actually have to follow through with it!!
I need the challenge to do better and be a better parent. Thanks for the incentive.....hoping and praying for positive results!! (Now where's my stash of dark chocolate?)

marythemom said...

Not only do I not want to, but I can't think how to do this with my almost 17 year old. He's depressed right now so there's nothing that seems fun to him (actually nothing is fun even when he's not depressed). Plus he's mad at me for catching him using chewing tobacco and having the school escort him to all of his classes (tomorrow is the last day of classes too). So I respectfully decline. Great idea though!

Mary in TX

CORoots said...

I'm in! I think I'm usually pretty good at this, but this is definitely aiming for the stars and I'm stoked! Especially after this past week and my mistake of engaging in his fight tonight. Ooooh, yay! I linked to it too!
http://puddingwithoutmeat.blogspot.com/2010/05/attachment-challenge.html

krazier mom said...

I am a Mom of a menatlly challenged now high school gradutaed RADS young lady. New challenges, no more fun than earlier ones.
I am up for your challenge. I will have to remind myself to do these things though.

smileysk8 said...

I'm in. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth b/c of it. I hate this challenge and I can't believe I am in. But I KNOW she needs it. This is after the worst day we have had in a very long time. So, I am not feeling loving of huggy, but I will do it. One week. 10 hugs a day. I can handle that much more then the 10 minutes of fun and for crying out loud...the 20 minutes of her choosing the fun. Thanks for the challenge. I love hate you. Now I am feeling RADish.

Sarah & Crew said...

Wow, for a while I thought I was nuts about the odor thing. When the boys came home, they had it. The Mister thought it was all the pollution detoxing from their system. But as time went on, it would go for a while. But every time a big issue came up or some trauma/stress was triggered, the smell would come back. Now I know that when I smell it, something is not right, even if everything *seems* fine.

I'm in, too. But it's hard, and I really don't feel excited about it. It's a relief to see I'm not the only one who has a hard time even wanting to hug their kid, let alone doing it.

You rock!
Sarah

Molly said...

I'm in! Thanks so much for sharing with us. It is nice to know that I'm not alone. Feeling very alone lately!

J. said...

yep, I'm in, even when they wet the bed on purpose and poop their pants.

Sue said...

I think this is a GREAT idea. I mentioned it to my son this morning and he thought it was an awesome idea. I figure if he knows and is fully on board he will have no problems reminding me if I forget (either by words or actions). Now I just have to figure out how to do 20 minutes for each child without the other getting jealous, or trying to sabatoge my time with the other. Daddy's leaving next week and I'll be flying solo...perfect timing for some good bonding! Thanks for being such a good inspiration.. You rock!!

Alison said...

I grew up in a home without hugs. It never ceases to amaze me how unnatural it still feels to me to hug my children once they older than 2 or maybe 3. So sad, it shouldn't feel unnatural.
I need to keep working on this, on them, and on me. My children need to more than know they have my love, they need to feel it, every day.
Excellent challenge. You're an awesome mom, keep it up!

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

You are totally my hero Christine. It is so validating to hear you saying the things that are going through my head - but that I don't admit even to myself! Like the smell thing. I have always felt so horrible that I don't like the way my attachment-challenged child smells. My other two kids smell amazing to me but with this child it's not the same. Thank you for explaining why that is and helping me not feel so bad about it!

I am totally taking your challenge and will post about it on my blog too. Thanks for being such an encouragement in a world where most people have no idea what this is like. Luv ya.

ColleenaMareena said...

I am in! My kids don't have any attachment issues, but I have been lame recently, and I really needed this.

My husband and I are planning on beginning fostering in a year or so, so we're trying to learn as much as possible beforehand. I'm so glad I found you!

T and M said...

I don' like you very much right now, Christine. Not very much at. all. *Witness truly pouty mommy who has recently discovered the joy of a peeing five-year-old toddler.*
I'm not starting til Sunday though. And you can't make me. Her goal is to make us send her back to her old family yesterday. If I do that I don't have to be a good mommy. Ha! So there.
What do you mean yesterday is gone and you can't do the past.
Crap.
*stink face glare* I.don't.like.you.

I do love you though.
Fine. I'm in. But I'm not gonna like it.

-T (still trying to get M to read the challenge, much less DO it.)

Bring on the ideas!!!

blondeoverboard said...

i'm in. while my son was raging at me the other night, screaming his head off about how he's f'd up and it's all my fault that he hurts other people and that he'll never ever ever get better because i'm a horrible parent i caught myself thinking and on the verge of telling him to get out of my house and my life. i've never experienced that before, it really shook me. i knew there had to be a reason your blog appeared in my life when it did.

blondeoverboard said...

oh and the smell thing... i had no idea! i'm throwing his stinky teenaged backside in the shower twice a day, 7 days a week and it just. does. not. stop! i'm glad to know i'm not crazy

Misty said...

thanks for mentioning the smell thing... that's pretty amazing to me- but you are so right...

ok- I am taking the challenge. Three days late (i hope there wasn't a time frame) and I am sure I will whine the crap out of my blog...

Kelly Morris said...

Oh man! I feel so convicted! My flesh is screaming!

Hyperventilating.....grinding teeth.....ok, I'm in. It's important to do.

My three adopted kids need it.

Kelly
www.themorristribe.com

*Peach* said...

I'm an adoptee with a son who was traumatized by being born premature and living in the NICU for the first four months of his life. I have no problem giving him 10 hugs a day, it is like healing balm to both our souls. But I can only imagine how hard it would be to try to give that same natural love to a stinky child that wasn't your own.
It is very difficult to see my son so filled with anxiety and distrust. But I "get it" instinctively as an adoptee. I pray for all of us who are learning to trust and trying to help others learn. Bless you.

Barbara said...

10 hugs, OK....
I'll start tomorrow. I'm so used to the skinky poopy fingers and the pee soaked clothes but the "I won't brush my teeth ever" breath is going to be bad.

The Lundys said...

oh crap (which seems to be the general consensus). i'm unofficially in. we're going thru major transition to life on the road still, so i don't wanna, but i should wanna more. dangit. in!

Reba said...

I am late jumping in, but I am willing to meet the challenge. This is a good time to start since school is letting out (I am a teacher, she is in school too). We will have more flex time during the day to do the fun stuff...

Kendall said...

I am new to this blog, but oh how i wish i would have found some of you three years ago! I have been struggling with this for so long and have felt CRAZY!!! I so appreciate everyone's honesty. Jennie, i love the way you try to describe the "smell." So true!
Anyway, I know i am starting late, but i am going to try the challenge with my 3 1/2 year old.
Thanks everyone!

Maura Clegg said...

reading this I KNOW it is something I should - no, something I NEED to do, but like others have said my heart & head are screaming NOOOOOOOOO

I'm going to dwell and obsess about it for a bit before I commit

Lisa Green said...

I just saw your post. Let me say that we adopted our son at the age of 4 from China. I was not his idea of the perfect mama. He went from Little Emperor (from his foster family) to middle class. It has been 6 years. 6 years of being rejected, refused, yelled at, discouraged, tests, therapy, having people refuse to babysit or never to come back to babysit. 6 years of wanting to love this child and trying to show him love just to have him run away. Did I mention therapy? IEPs, more doctors, tantrums, and finally came the antidepressant. For those 6 years I hugged him-whether he wanted it or not, I squeeze in a kiss when and where I could. I always tell him I love him and how proud we were of his efforts. We are finally seeing a turn around. We were told he didn't have attachment issues but adjustment issues. I don't care the label-tell me how to help this kid. Finally we went to a psychiatrist. I said I don't know what else to do. As she looked through the file (can anyone relate to medical files that are 6 inches thick on intake!)and said you have done it all. Let me see him a couple more times and then let's try medication. I was avoiding this hoping and praying it didn't come to this. But it did. The changes came slowly, but now he is hugging me! His grandma came home from a trip and he proudly presented her with a necklace he bought her with his own money. He goes out of his way to do something special for members of his family. Finally! But the most precious thing he ever said to me was this "thanks for all the hugs". Yeah I cried then, crying now. There is still a long road ahead. But I am hugging my kid each day until I no longer have breath in my body. BTW, his smell has started to change too-is this possible? I always thought it was because he was just genetically different.

Justine said...

I think it was serendipity that your name came up on my fb account today. I have a child who this week we discovered has been acting like 007! She has been scaling a 9/12 slope roof in the middle of the night and then climbing (in bathrobe!) down a 40!!! foot ladder. She then creeps into the garage, gets her crocs, and then creeps around the house, and up onto some garbage cans to climb through my bathroom window. From there she sneaks into the kitchen to forage for treats. Upon discovering that she had done this four times we told her what danger she was in. She had no clue and got tears when she realized she could have been killed. She should have been terrified of the dark and the valleys and slopes she had to climb to get to the ladder. IF you could see the ladder and how she had to step out into the night to even reach it!! The top is at the peak!! I told her that I want her safe so I would put treats by her bed so if she woke and felt the need for sweetness, (which gives her happiness, because she still misses her mum, and is clearly not attached even though she wants me love! Explain that one!!!!! :*((( ) then she would be safe in having them. I then slept on her floor (after she was asleep so she didn't know) so that I could be sure she didn't go out the window. Goodness, what frightens me is that she is sicker than ever now!! :((((

holly wallace said...

i've recently stumbled across this blog and i'm dying! YES YES YES i'm in.....and only because you clearly get it....
you SMELL it too....
wow----
I'm amazed and I'm in!