Today is a guest post by an amazing woman. Her name is Brenda, and what makes her amazing is her willingness to understand, grow and change for the sake of her daughter and grandchildren. I met her while in Orlando and everyone was abuzz about the trauma mom whose MOTHER came with her. We were all immediately in love. Not everyone has that kind of support. Not everyone has extended family who are willing to at least try to "get it." I know what it's like to have parents who supported our therapeutic parenting, even when they were clueless as to what exactly it was. It is a gift that we all need. I asked her to write to the other grandparents out there, and create a post that can be shared.
Brenda, thank you.
Disclaimer: I have daughters and granddaughters. Lots of them. That’s why I use she/her/daughter/Mom/granddaughter, etc. I trust that anyone smart enough to get to the internet can transpose this into the male gender and not be offended.
My husband and I traveled to Ethiopia to assist with bringing home our two adopted granddaughters. I am not sure how it happened, but of all the orphans in Ethiopia, we got the two most beautiful. Really.
I am writing this letter because I wish someone had told me these things before I started “life in the RADish Patch.” That’s what my daughter calls living with children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder and PTSD as a result of the trauma they suffered before they were adopted.
I am not an authority on this subject. I am just a grandma (called Honey) who wants to be the best Honey she can be to all of her grandchildren. Here are a few things I have learned about grandparenting in the RADish Patch. Maybe it will be of help to you……
Do not follow T-Shirt psychology. You know those cute T’s that say, “If Mom says NO, ask Grandma!” This is the kiss of death if you want to be a good grandparent to your RADish. RADishes are experts at playing others against Mom. If they can get you to overrule Mom, they have added one more thing to their list of all the reasons Mom cannot be trusted. A RADish’s Mom must always be in charge….not Grandma.
Do not act on the advice of bumper stickers….you know, the ones that read, “Let me tell you about my grandchildren!” Just because your daughter gets up the courage to share her RAD adventures with you does not mean that you should divulge them to the Ladies Club, the Flower Club, at prayer meeting, or to your hairdresser. BE CAREFUL. Just because she tells you about the feces smearing incident does not mean that you can share that with Aunt Kate. If your daughter wants to tell cousin Susie about her child’s night terrors, that is her place, not yours. My motto: SAY LESS, PRAY MORE.
Extended family dinners are not just a holiday. They are critical opportunities for RADishes to learn. Food holds many, many triggers for these kids. Never forget, the MOM rules the table, not the grandparent. Let Mom take the lead on what goes on the child’s plate, whether or not they have to eat it, whether or not dessert is offered, and what table manners are used / excused. Even if you never let your daughter put her elbows on your white starched tablecloth, it is not your place to critique the eating habits of a RADish. Get over it – or you may be eating Thanksgiving dinner alone.
Number three (above) applies to eating out as well. AND to other public places. Often, RADishes get nervous in new places and situations. If their actions make you uncomfortable, you better get a tougher hide. If you come across as embarrassed or disapproving, they will surely use their behavior again and again. Follow Mom’s lead about how to deal with the tantrum or whatever is going on. Toughen up.
Do not assume that you know what is best for your grandRADish. Even though you raised half-dozen kids of your own. Every child is different and every RADish is different. Spend time talking with your daughter about your grandRADs to find out what kind of play is fun for them? What activities are threatening? What calms them down? Are they allowed to use scissors or knives? If Mom says “no sharp objects” you don’t have to know all the details. Shut up and follow Mom’s instructions.
This is a hard one, but very important – DON’T SAY STUPID THINGS! A few examples
- Every child threatens to run away.
- You need to discipline more…she would not behave that way if you did.
- She is much too old to act like that.
- You mean you hold a seven year old like a baby and give her a bottle? Are you crazy?
- It’s just nightmares. Don’t get so worked up.
- That is a ridiculous form of punishment for a child.
- Pets are good for kids. We got her a puppy. And a kitten.
When you realize that you have said a stupid thing, APOLOGIZE. We are all learning.
Don’t get your feelings hurt if Mom does not allow your grandRADish to spend the night with you. Trust me, Mom would love a break, but this little person’s life has to be kept simple and stable until she can handle the new experience. Mom knows best.
Most parents of RADishes find themselves in financial turmoil. Whether from therapy bills, medication bills, one parent staying home, or any of the million other things that happen to young families. Be sensitive to this. Last Christmas I gave my daughter the registration fee to a conference for Moms like her. Toys should be purchased that can do double duty as therapy tools (like doll houses for role playing).
Finally, educate yourself about children with RAD and PTSD. Read books by experts, but most important, read blogs like this one so you can begin to understand the challenges your daughter faces as the Mom of a RAD child.
I love my grandRADishes just like my other grandchildren. But, I have to deal with them differently. In doing so, I can be an important part of their lives.
The Mom of a RAD child pours her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy into the heart and soul of their child every moment of every day and night. The child’s past trauma has rendered them incapable of giving any energy back – at least for now. Your daughter needs you more than ever to “fill up” her depleted energy stores.
SHARE THE HEARTACHE * BE AN ENCOURAGER * REJOICE IN THE PROGRESS * LOVE YOUR CHILD AND HER CHILD UNCONDITIONALLY * DO NOT JUDGE YOUR CHILD’S PARENTING OR HER CHILD’S BEHAVIOR
One day, your daughter will call you and say, “Mom, we had a breakthrough today! Your granddaughter hugged me and I think she meant it!” It will be a great moment – worth celebrating!
May God bless your experiences in the RADish patch,
(photo by Laura McBride)