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Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Food is so many things to us- comfort when we’re sad or stressed, pleasure, survival, connection with family, friends and our culture, adventure, control. It’s no wonder, then, that food can be a stressful thing in an adoptive family. It pulls us back to our own childhood, has the power to create family warfare, or can be used as a tool for rejection or power. In the case of kids who have suffered deprivation, it can cause great fear and insecurity. For kids whose world is out of control, it can give them one thing to have dominion over. Let’s cover a few common food issues that adoptive families struggle with.

Hoarding (or “stealing” food)- don’t be surprised if you catch a child sneaking food or hiding it in strange places. The fear of starvation is deep-seated and very real. Instead of accusing your child or shaming, make sure they know that you won’t withhold food from them. Let them keep a couple of healthy snacks in an airtight container and let them have fruit and vegetables whenever they want. If the thought of waiting for dinner freaks them out, let them have a salad while the meal is being cooked.
I’ve often heard parents call this “stealing food.” The food in your house belongs to your child, so they are not stealing it, they are taking it without asking first. Explain to the child that all the food is theirs, but you need to help them meet their needs. Asking can be difficult for some kids, but establishing that as a habit can help your child realize that you provide them with good things. Go as far as to let them know that if they are hungry during the night, they can wake you up and you’ll fix them a snack. It builds connection for you to provide food. They may not have had an adult in their lives who took care of them in that way.

Overeating and gorging on junk food- start with a very small serving so your child can have seconds. Keep junk food out of the house and only have it occasionally if it’s a problem.
Pickiness- pay attention to what your child likes and dislikes or even absolutely refuses and look for patterns. Is there a certain texture that she can’t tolerate? A strong taste? It could be a sensory/ tactile issue. If you see a pattern and there are other clues as well, ask for an OT evaluation. Your child may need some therapy to overcome this sensitivity.

Refusing certain food- some kids have had trauma around a particular food. Maybe someone in their past lost their temper when a child wouldn’t eat green beans or mushrooms. Maybe there was an uncle or cousin who caused fear (and smelled like onions). We don’t know our kids’ back-stories and often they may not even remember. If there are a couple of foods that seem to throw your child into a bad place, let it go. It may have been fine when your mom insisted that you eat your peas, but compassion helps you understand that this is not a battle to take on with this child.

Food issues can be complicated. NM Fiesta Project Family Mentors are available to brainstorm with you about anything you are struggling with in your adoptive family. Find us at nmfiestaproject.org. While you’re there, check out the other services, classes and library available across the state.

Monday, November 21, 2016

My Child Always Needs to Be in Control

One of the symptoms of experiencing early, chronic childhood trauma can be a strong need to be in control. This is how it looks-
Mom: It’s time to take a shower now.
Child: I just took a shower
Mom: That was Thursday. You need a shower again.
Child: I’ll take a bath instead.
Mom: I don’t care. Just get clean.
Child: I’m going to take it after dinner
Mom: I need you to take it now. We have plans after dinner.
Child: I’m cold. I’ll wait until tomorrow.
Mom: Just. Take. A. Shower.
Child: I just remembered some homework I’ve got to do.

This may seem like a typical scenario for kids of a certain age, but you may live with a child who needs to be in control over every single thing- what to eat for dinner, how many cookies are in a package, who has bigger feet, what the weather is, whether or not to clean her room. It is often accompanied by “manipulation,” (if I can’t get my way, I’ll trick you into it) or rages (if I can’t get my way, I totally lose it).

If behavior is communication, consider what your child is telling you. His brain has been programmed to survive because his needs weren’t met from an early age. (Or they may have been met sporadically.) He has learned, in his deepest, foundational self, that in order to stay alive, he has to be in charge. Or he will die. This is not something he thinks about or plans out, it’s something less conscious. You can explain that he’s safe now and that he can trust you to take care of him, but until he has a paradigm shift and “gets” that himself, he still needs to be in control. He’s not trying to mess with you, make you angry, or create conflict in the family. It’s a symptom of a deeper trust deficit. He’s terrified.

The cure for this? Making sure you take the time to develop a connection leading to trust. Giving her choices, so she realizes that you are in charge, but giving her appropriate control. (You need to take a shower or a bath. Would you like to do that before dinner or after?) Listening and letting her offer compromises lets her know that she is being ruled by a benevolant mentor instead of a frightening dictator. Another strategy is to use humor to deflect the issue. I sometimes say, “It’s always nice to have someone in charge,” spoken with a smile and a wink.

The New Mexico Fiesta Project has monthly support groups across the state where parents can discuss parenting challenges like this one and learn from other adoptive parents. It’s a good place to get some ideas if you’re struggling. It’s a good place to share what you’ve learned. Visit us at nmfiestaproject.org to find out where one is near you.

Carol Gloetzner

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What is My Child's Lying Telling Me?

As adoptive parents, it’s always important to look at our child’s behavior as information. What is this behavior saying about my child’s level of fear, past trauma, or lack of trust? Lying is no exception. We usually recognize when the lie is told to avoid getting caught in misbehavior. That makes sense to us, even though we don’t approve. Nonsense lying, though, is a different. It isn’t logical to us to have our child make up fantastic stories or argue with us about the color of the sky. According to a recent study, lies are often used to avoid intimacy. Consider this- what if I believe that I am unlovable? That if you truly knew who I am, you would reject me? I would want to avoid having anyone know me, right? And the best way to do that is to hide my true self with a wall of lies, brick by brick, lie by lie. This not only protects me from being known, but also keeps me in control. My brain is wired to keep me alive by using those two strategies.
Lying is often a trigger for us as parents. What is it that makes a child’s lie feel like such an attack? Why does it make us so angry/ hurt/ afraid? Those questions are important to ask ourselves, because like everything else in parenting, our own issues are often the problem and dealing with our “own stuff” is the first step in dealing with our child’s. Like everything else, helping our child overcome lying always starts with establishing a connected, trusting relationship.
Many parents find that the most important thing in addressing a lie is to stay calm and make sure not to react. “I don’t believe you. I’ll have to check on that.” Another is to make sure you don’t set your child up with questions like, “Did you brush your teeth?” Crazy lying can be dealt with in a playful (non-sarcastic) way. “You should write that down. You have a great imagination. I wonder what would happen next?” Or “Push the Pause button.” “Wait. Don’t answer that right away. Let me know what really happened, not what you wish had happened.”

In any case, lying can be a challenge to parents and bring up our own fears and concerns. The NM Fiesta Project is a statewide organization with one goal- to support adoptive families. Staffed by other adoptive parents, we understand the joys and challenges of raising an adopted child. Visit us at nmfiestaporject.org.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Behavior is Communication

“We need to stop looking at our children’s actions as difficult behaviors and recognize them as symptoms.” (Denise Kendrick) What a difference perspective makes! Instead of, “My kid lies about Every. Single. Thing,” we can say, “My child needs to see me as safe enough to trust with the truth.” Instead of, “My son is such a manipulator!” we can see his world as so out-of-control that his fear drives him to be in charge at all time. Daughter sending inappropriate texts to boys? She is seeking love wherever she can get it. Defiance? Cutting? Backtalk? Potty training challenges? Tantrums? Look deeper. What is your child’s behavior telling you?
We don’t ever know our adopted child’s complete story. We don’t know the sensations that trigger memories. Smells, sounds, music, holidays, familiar-looking people, Walmart, specific events can all flip a switch in a child’s brain to make them react out of fear- and fear doesn’t always look like something we recognize. It can look like defiance, control, rage, stubbornness, charm, hyperactivity, or dishonesty.
This understanding doesn’t mean that we tolerate disrespect or that we become permissive, but with a different perspective, tempered with compassion, we can have reasonable expectations and teach our kids a better way. Taking every opportunity to connect with them is our most powerful healing tool. Spending time doing something they love, making sure to create a playful environment, stopping what we’re doing to really listen to what they say, letting them know that we’re on their team- these are all ways to help them know that they’re safe and they can trust us. It’s amazing how challenging behaviors resolve when a child develops trust and connection with a parent.
The NM Fiesta Project was created to help equip adoptive parents with the tools they need to effectively connect with their kids, realize that they are not alone in the journey, and show them community resources they may not have thought about. Find out more at nmfiestaproject.org

Carol Gloetzner

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Does My Child Have "RAD?"

In preparing for adoption, most parents are frightened when they come across the list of symptoms for Reactive Attachment Disorder. They hope and pray that the child they end up with isn’t one of “those kids.” It can sound like a horror movie- a child who wants control at all costs, manipulates, lies, steals, pulls the dog’s tail, or hides entire meals under her mattress. Most of us don’t know if we’re prepared to parent a child with such a scary diagnosis.
The truth is, adoption always involves loss. Even in the best of circumstances, there is trauma for the child. And let’s face it- most adopted kids experience more than their share. Trauma for a child is going to affect the trust they have in the world. “Can the adults in my life meet my needs and keep me safe, or do I have to fend for myself?” This trauma can translate into compromised attachment leading to behavior challenges. Like many disorders (think, ADHD) attachment issues operate more along a spectrum than an absolute. Although full-blown “RAD” is rare, most of our kids will struggle with the effects of their trauma, including a compromised ability to form secure attachments. An adoptive parent needs to realize that their child’s trauma and loss can affect behavior in many ways and we need to become skilled in reading our child’s behavior as a second language so that we can help them heal.
Whether or not your child ends up with a diagnosis of RAD or other challenges, there is hope. The NM Fiesta Project was created to support adoptive parents throughout the state. Visit our website at nmfiestaproject.org to find out more.
Carol Gloetzner

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Therapeutic Disney Quizzes

With three teens in the house, I'm always looking for creative ways to connect. Here's my latest exciting therapeutic intervention- quizzes! You know the crazy Facebook friends of yours that are always posting the results to a quiz about- "What Color is Your Heart?" "How Many Kids Should you Have?" or "What is Your Dream State?" Well, my 14-year-old jumped on the quiz bandwagon with "Which Disney Princess are You?" So last night, when it was her turn to stay up late with me, we sat on my bed and took quizzes. Here are a few of my favorites with links:

Which Disney Animal Sidekick are You?

The great thing about a quiz is that they ask a couple of really personal questions. And because it's a silly, just-for-fun quiz, you answer. Here are some from this quiz-
"I prefer to be rewarded for a job well done with- (pick one) a) cash, b) trophies, c) snacks, or d) personal compliment."
"I love hanging out with people who are- a) kind, b) dreamers, c) enthusiastic, d) witty"
"My favorite thing about myself is-  a) my ability to keep things real b) good looks c) charm d) optimism"

Is adventure more your style? Here's a Hunger Games Quiz-

This quiz is simply a list of true or false choices, such as,
"I'm really good at forming friendships"
"I''m not afraid to stab people in the back"
"I work best under pressure."
Many of the questions on this quiz have to do with how you perceive yourself and how you treat other people- an entire therapy session in one, fun swoop!

Or you might want to try, "What's Your Secret Super Power?"

Here was my favorite from this quiz-
"Which of these are most important to you? a) independence, b) power, c) kindness, d) knowledge, e) adventure"
How amazing are these as conversation starters!

And lastly, "Which Tanner Sister from Full House Are You?"  (I know, right?)

This one had annoying pop-up ads, but it was worth it to discuss things like:

"What's your drug of choice- a) candy, b) homework, c) cigarettes"
 or, "What do you fear the most? a) being left out, b) SATs, c) sharing a room

*One disclaimer- if you're doing a quiz with an elementary aged kid, you might want to check the content first for minor cuss words, other PG-rated content or unsavory sideline ads.

So there you have it! Need some teen/tween connection over pop corn and silliness? Take a quiz!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Don’t Miss This! April 22 (Professionals) or 23rd (Families)

According to our contract, Fiesta is required, once a year, to offer a training on adoption issues to professionals around the state. This year, we are collaborating with the NM Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc., and Davis Innovations in Santa Fe, to bring Dr. Scott Modell from Tennessee. (Some of you may remember Dr. Modell because he did a training for CYFD foster families a year ago.) Dr. Modell’s focus during both workshops will be to explain the vulnerability of kids who have disabilities or who are otherwise compromised through past trauma, to be targets for abuse. We need to be aware of the alarming statistics, but even more aware of what we can do to stop it. This includes- the things we need to recognize as warning signs of past sexual abuse, how to keep our families safe, especially if our child acts out sexually, and what to do if you think that your child needs help. Another factor is that we often teach our kids to be compliant with adults. How can we teach our kids to be respectful without inadvertently teaching them to be victims? This four-hour workshop is excellent for any professional that works with kids- social workers, therapists, teachers, etc. and we offer free CEUs which always makes us happy. The parent workshop is offered to TFC parents, CYFD foster parents and all adoptive parents. Everything is free and if you need a certificate of hours, just ask. Child care will be provided on Saturday on a limited basis. RSVPs are appreciated.

p.s. If you already attended a training by Dr. Modell, he tells us that this one will include enough new material to make it worthwhile. There will also be plenty of discussion and we hope our Fiesta peeps will be there to contribute. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Navigators News

It is hard to believe I am at the fourth anniversary of my children’s arrival. Looking back, four years ago, there were many times I was at a complete loss and felt isolated and scared. I was not new to adoption, having adopted my oldest daughter as a teenager some years prior. Having successfully navigated the teen years, I did not anticipate the challenges that were to come. Friends and family members were having babies and there were no ready playmates for my then four and six years olds. Those that I knew or encountered with kids close in age to mine had raised them from birth and the challenges they experienced were different. Often, rather than feeling more connected, the lack of shared experience made me feel more alone. 

There were times in the first two years, where my children could not sit through an activity for more than 10 minutes. As someone who is not the greatest of planners, this was very hard for me. Trying to come up with enough activities to get through a day could have been my full time job. I remember weekends stretching out for what seemed like forever, and when I felt like I should have earned a medal just for making it to bedtime. 

There were two things I really needed at that time; support and things to do with my kids. I am not alone in this need. All parents struggle, regardless of whether their children are biological or not. With adoption, some of the challenges are different. It was a relief when, through the Rio Grande Navigators scouting group, I met others who had or were going through similar struggles. These folks understood what it was like to have a child having nonstop tantrums every Saturday as my daughter struggled with the change in routine. They understood my son's indifference to my authority, and that his not listening was not "bad parenting".  

The Rio Grande Navigators is a family-focused scouting group that involves the whole family in monthly scouting activities, called “treks.” Kids get to meet other kids, build friendships, and earn scouting merit badges. Many of our kids struggle socially, however the parent involvement structure of Rio Grande Navigators allows for parents to help facilitate these interactions when appropriate.  Parents have the opportunity to meet other parents and build their own support system. The planned activities are interesting and often things the kids would not get to do on their own. I take my kids hiking all the time. But I likely would never have had them build rockets or set up a tour of a fire station. My kids look forward to the activities, though more than that, they are excited to see their friends.  Building on the family-focus, each family takes a turn organizing a trek once or twice per year.  Kids receive their badges, which they can display on their Navigator hat, twice a year during a formal celebratory Badge Ceremony. 

I am not desperate for the activities as I was three or four years ago. We can now enjoy each Navigators trek for its unique experience. But I remember a time, not all that long ago, when something to do for a few hours on a weekend day would have felt like a lifesaver. Though the challenges I have with my kids have decreased, when they arise, it is other Navigator parents that I turn to for support. 

I encourage others to participate in the Rio Grande Navigators, or start a Navigator scouting group on your own area, and become a part of our community.

Ilyssa Bozza

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Free Therapy Tool!

You know those mirror neurons you’re always hearing about reprogramming? How about the rerouting of neuropathways? Good news! Adoptive mom, Kelly Matney, has developed a great new therapy intervention to help re-frame the way your child sees himself, his family and his world. (Yes, she’s a genius. No, she is not a researcher or neuropsychologist.) It isn’t expensive and you don’t need to order advertised equipment. You already have the tool- your smart phone. Kelly catches her three littles while they are in “real child” mode- laughing, smiling, playing, connecting with each other, connecting with their parents (lots of selfies). Kelly takes a lot of photos. Then she deletes a lot of photos. The ones she keeps are precious- loving looks between siblings, hugs with mom, laughing at a joke with dad, fun in the snow, the backyard, the breakfast table, the museum. (Even if you get only one keeper out of 50, it’s as simple as hitting delete. 49 times. Lol) What is left is priceless. It is a chance to show your child how beautiful he is, how much his parents delight in him, how much fun you have together, and what a great family he has. If he missed those moments gazing into your eyes as a newborn, he has an opportunity to do it now. Because the trick is to make sure your child sees the photos. A lot. Make them into an album, make them into a book, browse them on the phone together when you’re stuck in line at the grocery store or doctor’s waiting room or snuggled up on the couch. Let your child know how cute he is (even if he's 15) and how much you love your time together. Those quick glimpses into the eyes of the child underneath the tantrums and attitudes, the sweet softness as your child is sleeping, petting the dog, or reading to his brother will change his opinion of himself and reinforce his value in your family and his world. And what kid doesn’t love to look at photos of himself?! Brilliant, Kelly. Brilliant.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fiesta 101

A few years ago, a group of adoption professionals, seeing the need, decided to create a program to support adoptive parents. They wanted to make it available to all adoptive families, not just those who had adopted through the state, but also privately, internationally, and within their existing family structure. They wanted to provide services to the entire family, including biological children with adopted siblings. They wanted to tackle tough issues like grief and loss. Difficult behavior. Race and culture. Mental health. Fiesta was the result. FIESTA is an acronym for Family Activities, Information, Education, Support, and Training.

In the five regions throughout the state, there are “Family Contacts,” who are adoptive parents that organize at least four opportunities for families to get together each quarter. These events are sometimes called, “Coffee and Chat,” or “Snack and Chat” or may be something like attending a community event together, meeting at a park or having a family game night. During a typical “Coffee and Chat,” child care is provided free of charge for all of the children in the family, adopted or not (because of liability, we are not allowed to provide this service to kids in treatment care). Our child care staff has strict guidelines like never being alone with a child, never putting a child in “time out,” keeping confidentiality, and most importantly, facilitating a planned schedule of activities so that each child has fun. The plan includes a short lesson or theme, a small motor activity like a craft, a large motor activity like a relay race, and plenty of time to socialize. Staff is prepared to engage with babies to teens. While the kids are busy, the adults can get to know one another, exchange stories and contact information to support each other through the month. Other family activities allow the families to enjoy and participate in a shared experience. Many long-lasting friendships have been formed through these activities. This is the “F” in FIESTA.

The “I” stands for information. Fiesta has a huge lending library of books and videos for parents, children and professionals who serve adoptive families. We’ll even pay for the shipping back and forth if you live outside of Albuquerque. You can find the list of resources on our website, nmfiestaproject.org

“E” is for education. We have workshops in every region once a month. Topics include attachment and trauma, discipline and nurture, understanding behavior, and self-care. Workshops that have been helpful in the past few months have touched on topics such as internet safety, IEPs, helping extended families to understand adoption issues, the challenges of FASD, and respite. Our respite co-op is a group of families who have attended this training and learned ways to be an effective “sending parent” as well as a “receiving parent.” After this required training, families are entered into a co-op where they can arrange respite among themselves. All of our trainings count as required hours for CYFD families.

The “S” stands for support. Besides the monthly networking events, Family Contacts are available by phone to help parents find answers to questions about everything from challenging behavior strategies to homework struggles. These fellow adoptive parents don’t have all of the answers, but can help guide you to professional help when needed or supply a listening ear. They can attend school meetings as an advocate and note-taker, sit beside you in difficult meetings, and sometimes even go to your home to brain-storm with you about situations you may be facing. Other supports that families rely on are our face book group and blog.

T is for Training. Once a year we provide a training in each region for professionals who work with adoptive families. Free CEUs are offered. 

The “A” means that all families are welcome- singles, kinship, LGBT, Spanish-speaking, and the people who support them. We have a family contact that is designated to support families who have members with disabilities. Pre-adoptive parents are always welcome.

New Mexico Fiesta Project exists with only one purpose- to support, encourage, and equip adoptive families in this state. Everything that we offer is free of charge and the project is fully staffed by adoptive parents. Please browse our site and borrow a book, plan to attend an event or training, or check us out on face book. We’d love to meet you!




Thursday, April 9, 2015

It's Fishy

I got sick once after eating crepes with seafood sauce in a restaurant. I thought I would die. I remember lying on the bathroom floor, unable to move, while four little kids were yelling for me just outside the door. I was the only adult in the house and I wondered if any of them would remember how to dial 911 if it came down to it. I survived, but my love of shrimp in creamy sauce didn’t. That was 30 years ago, and I haven’t eaten anything like it since. You can tell me that it is delicious. You can assure me that it’s safe, that you eat it all the time, that I have absolutely nothing to fear, but I will decline. I will dig my heels in and refuse. Yes, I know that it’s perfectly safe. Yes, I realize it isn’t logical. But my brain is all flashing red lights and loud sirens. Danger! Stand back from the seafood! It doesn’t even sound good.

One of my kids is fearful. Her fear-behavior doesn’t often look like defiance or control or disrespect (and for that I am grateful), it looks like fear. She is afraid to go down to the basement, afraid to take the trash outside at night, afraid of the coyotes that might come into the backyard and eat her, afraid to speak to someone she doesn’t know (or sometimes someone she does). It’s sad to see and hard to fix. How do you convince someone that there is nothing to be afraid of? It’s been especially bad recently because of some changes that have happened in her world. (She’s afraid of change.) I thought to myself the other day, “After all these years of helping her feel safe, why is she still so fearful? It’s perfectly safe. It’s not logical.” But then I remembered the seafood crepes and as the nausea hit me, so did a flash of realization. Her brain is all flashing red lights and loud sirens and it takes time and intension to overcome that. Her experience is not based on a one-time food poisoning trauma. It is based on too many experiences to count, some that she will never remember. Experiences that woke her toddler-self every night for months with the most heartbreaking, terrified screaming imaginable. Experiences that caused her to startle and cry out, wide-eyed, whenever the doorbell rang or the dog barked.

Then I think of other kids- the ones whose fear does look like defiance, lying, stealing and control. Their brains are also all flashing red lights and sirens- not always easy to put into perspective in the heat of the battle, but still there to provide a way to survive.

I need to remember that logic isn’t involved in what our kids believe about safety.

I might even order the shrimp next time.

Monday, October 27, 2014

From Place to Place

The Gallup group watched and discussed the DVD, "From Place to Place" on Saturday, Oct. 25.  This is a DVD about 3 adults who aged out of the foster care system.  One young man lived much of his adult life in jail.  Another young man lived his life on the streets and had a very difficult life, always seeking love and desiring family.  A third young woman, very much desired a forever family, someone who would love her forever.  She did get her GED and started college but as the documentary ended she was taking a break from school and was working three jobs and already had one broken relationship.  The bright spot of this DVD was that two of these young adults were invited to be a part of national forums to give input for foster care reform.  They felt pride and self-esteem because they were making a difference for future children in the foster care system.  


The DVD, while difficult to watch because of the pain in these young adults' lives, helped to revision us about the importance of the work we do. Even though we see the struggles of children who have become a part of forever families through adoption, we could see how much greater the pain can be for children who never have a forever family.  

Brian Kruis, Fiesta Contact in Gallup

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding Your Rhythm

As an 18 year old young mom, I was clueless.  I really didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Diapers, sleepless nights, teething, and don’t get me started on the terrible twos.  Eventually, we found our rhythm.  As a 42 year old adoptive mom, I was clueless.  I really didn’t know what I didn’t know.   Tears (both theirs and mine), fears (real and imagined), slow to trust, sweet and loving one minute/stubborn and defiant the next, tantrums (both theirs and mine). 

I have discovered that the things that worked with the older kid have no impact on the younger kids.  There are days I find myself frustrated when nothing seems to work and I can’t get through.  Then I hear “Mom, guess what happened at school today”, and I know we’ll be ok.  I don’t have to have all of the answers and that’s ok.   Finding our rhythm this time around is a little trickier.  Some days it is like navigating a mine field.  But most days it is such a blessing, filled with laughter and playfulness. 
April Chavez

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Cost of Healing Trauma

One of my favorite Authors, Bryan Post, said recently in a training video that trauma has the ability to impact people for the rest of their lives regardless of whether it was a physical trauma or an emotional trauma. Whether the harm came from a wound of omission or wound of commission, we all bear the scars of our past.

As a Mamma to five kids- three biological, who were all born into a loving and supportive environment and two sweet blessings who are originally from Ethiopia, I have firsthand knowledge of how kids behave differently in a number of situations based on their history.

No one escapes a trauma as significant as a separation from a birth parent without causing trauma. Our bodies respond from the trauma by means of coping or dissociating. Coping.
As a Fiesta Family Contact, I sometimes receive very panicked calls from families struggling with the kids they dearly love. These kids, just like my own, have been in a stable environment for several years yet there is very little peace in the home. Their behaviors ebb and flow just like all kids but the contrast is evident. The inability to cope with change. The need to hoard food. The perpetual insecurities that plague their little hearts. The need to never be alone; or, always looking to tune-out. They need structure, routine and grace. It requires a parenting style that is different and often seems illogical.

And yet, in the midst of the constantly changing mystery of therapeutic parenting, there are tiny victories. As years of stability begin to  wrap around their bodies- their bodies are telling them it is ok to let that guard down. And they do so, slowly. Remember our kids are always healing and growing. You are changing the trajectory of their lives, by allowing them the time and patience to go through this grief. As we transition back to school, remember to keep your schedule mellow and calm so that they have space in their lives to process through their trauma. One day, one hour, and one conversation at a time!
*Sarah Sanchez *
For updated info check out my blog at SanchezSeven.wordpress.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Surviving Our Blessings

We know we are blessed to have our families. I can't imagine being without my quirky family, my husband and I being alone- and having free time, discretionary income and peace and quiet. I'd like to imagine it, but I can't.

And having gone through some pretty tough times with my kids, I've given a LOT of thought as to how to keep myself going so I can help my family keep going. And what it comes down to is this: I HAVE to take the time to recharge. It's not optional. It's not selfish. It's not uncaring. It is essential.

If I wear out emotionally, or physically, or worse still, have a temper tantrum, I risk damaging the hard-earned attachment formed between me and my child. I risk reminding them of the unsafe situations they have come through. I would not tell you I've never been there, been at that temper tantrum phase. I was raised not to lie. But I WILL tell you that I have learned to guard against "going there." I've learned to assess my needs and take care to at least TRY to meet them. I stay away from "the edge."

I've learned that I am a much nicer person, much better mom if I regularly commune with my sewing machine. I am kinder and smile more if I take the time to put even the tiniest drawing or watercolor in my art journal. And I couldn't do without my weekly "therapy" sessions at McDonald's or Carl's Jr when my most excellent friend and fellow adoptive mom joins me to solve the problems of the world and our children (unfortunately, they never stay solved.)

People being so different, what works for me and gives me something to smile about could be quite different for you. My husband doesn't even sew on buttons, and while he's amazing with a straight-edged ruler and a technical pencil, wouldn't pick up a watercolor brush if his life depended on it. No, his thing is football and re-runs of the History Channel with a little puttering and home repair work thrown in. Fortunately, the kids and I break plenty or toilets and towel bars for him to repair.

Do your family a favor- keep those batteries recharged. Check the Fiesta calendar and join us in trainings, activities and events this fall.

Phyllis Radtke

Looking Forward to a great Fall with Fiesta in the Gallup Area with these Great Events:

October Training:  10 Brain-based Strategies to Help Children Handle Their Emotions  with Tina Payne Bryson Ph.D.

When: Saturday Octover 4, 3-6 p.m.  

Where : To be announced

CEU’s and/or training certificates will be available. Please RSVP by Wed Oct 1 by calling or texting to Brian Kruis (505-488-8697) or Sheila Kruis (505-488-8696) or email us @ bpkruis@yahoo.com or skruis@gmcs.k12.nm.us

November Training:  10 Things  Adoption Search and Reunion with Sharon Roszia MS

When: Saturday Nov. 15 2-5 p.m.

Where:  Grace Bible Church, 222 E Boulder Rd. Gallup, NM 87301

Training certificates will be available. Please RSVP by Wed Nov 12 by calling or texting to Brian Kruis (505-488-8697) or Sheila Kruis (505-488-8696) or email us @ bpkruis@yahoo.com or skruis@gmcs.k12.nm.us


That's the main thing I can say.  WOW!  Judy Deinema, Occupational Therpist
from Albuquerque came to Gallup  on Saturday, September 13 to do a training on Sensory
Integration issues.  She gave  practical ideas for students who are overwhelmed
with everything coming at them.  How do we help them focus, calm down,

THE COMMUNITY IS HUNGRY to learn practical ideas for helping kids.  We
opened this training up for adoptive families and professionals who work with
our kids.  The training was on a Saturday so we didn't expect a great response
from professionals- but were we ever wrong!!  We had more people wanting to come
than we could handle.  We allowed 45 people to come to the training: teachers,
special ed, pre-school teachers, counselors, shadows,
assistants, and professionals are looking for practical answers!!!

THEIR RESPONSE?? Overwhelming positive evaluations.  Every participant
thought it was helpful.  So many said, "We need more of this." Some said,
"This should be mandatory for every new teacher".

WOW! What a valuable day!! Thanks so much Judy for sharing your knowledge!

Have a great day!
Brian Kruis

Thursday, July 31, 2014


It is nice when friends or professionals take notice of how special our children are.  When parts of their personality connect with another adult, it can be some relief to parents.  On the flip side of that, I have had ‘friends’,  ‘professionals’, and even family-members subtly cross that line.  You know, when you just have that nagging gut feeling that something isn’t right.  As I process those times, I realize that I am starting to realize some very important lessons.  My child cannot afford for me to ignored these lessons.

I have noticed that some individuals are drawn to children that seem to need extra help of some sort.  The children sometimes have struggling relationship with their parents or other adults.  The children may have a challenging personality.  These adults may feel a connection to the child that reminds them of an unmet need from their childhood. Their intentions may be benign, but if not kept in check, there are potential for problems.   The non-parent might feel they are better equipped to meet the child’s need even more than the parent.   Unfortunately, I do not know a way to measure this but it becomes dangerous when the need they are longing to meet is their own. 

Of course, these situations can be placed on a spectrum- small problems to major problems.  Not all of these situations cross over the line to some sort of abuse.  So, what are we worried about?  One thing that is very important to keep in mind is that not everyone who is building a relationship with your child is a potential problem.   Mentoring has a very powerful place in a child/youth’s life, as long as it is safe. 

Two of my children have had adults in their lives that have crossed the line.  Once all was taken care of, one of the realities that I learned was that my child really did want me.  They did not want secrets, even though there were fun things that came with secrets.  They were so relieved and I watched the stress leave their bodies, when I took control of the situations.

The number rule is to follow your gut.  Is it concern or fear?  If it is fear, it might be your own ‘stuff’ bubbling up.  If it is concern, talk to a trusted balanced person in your life; talk through it.  More than likely, clarity will come.

Is your child young?  Does your child have attachment struggles?  They need you.   Do you like your child and spend quantity and quality time with them?  Other people can pick up on these subtleties too.  If you find out there are secrets being kept, or ‘special’ things between an adult friend and your child, this is a huge warning sign.  It is not usually the overt signs that we have a hard time seeing, but the subtle signs.

For me, one of the important lessons in these situations is not just to know what to watch for, but to ask where my relationship with my child is.  Does my child experience daily acceptance, enjoyment, and love from a relationship with me? 

I can easily live in fear of the lurking ‘Boogey Man/Woman’.  I can spend a lot of energy in being angry and resentful at those adults who cross those lines. 

The greatest reminder for me is me!  Where is my responsibility in all of this?  Am I easy for my child to approach?  Am I too busy?  Is my resentment building up towards a difficult child?    These are all great things to be mindful of.

The other point to remember is our children that we have adopted come from a place of brokenness and neediness.  They give off signals that, more than likely, they do not recognize.  Be sensitive to those you surround yourself with.  Be aware of who is around your kids.  Do not down-play when they are uncomfortable or really drawn to certain adults. It is always our job to keep them safe and to teach along the way to be aware.

YOU are who and what, your child needs.
Monica Cohu 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Parenting and Family Fun

When our kids are difficult, snarky, super challenging or - dare I say it?- raging, about the last thing we want to do is have fun with them. Fun- what's that? In our heart-of-hearts we'd probably rather be about a million miles away.

But does that solve the problem? No. As their parents, we still have to work through their behaviors and their acting-out, and at the same time that we're raising our "children of trauma," re-build their childhoods with memory-making fun activities.

It's up to us to show our children what CAN be, what fun is.
They need us to build memories with them. Memories of camping and Wet 'N Wild, and blowing bubbles in the back yard, wrestling with the dog, planting tomatoes, and smearing icing all over the counter when we make those chocolate cupcakes.

I've got seven kids- six adopted- and heaven knows I've made my fair share of mistakes while raising them. I learned as I want along, so I didn't usually make the same mistake twice. But the mistake that I truly grieve is letting my snarkiest kid get away with "killing" the family fun. That was SO unfair to him.

(Yes, I said to Him)

If I had it to do over, I would have drug him along on the usual family outings, and if he needed to be on the periphery, scowling, while the rest of the family had fun, so be it. At least he would have had the OPPORTUNITY for fun, would have seen what fun looks like; the rest of the family would have had fun : and with his flair for editing and re-writing the past, I can imagine that by now, as a 20+ year old he will have written himself into the memories.

We aim- during Fiesta training child care- to give your child fun, educational experiences. Our trained therapeutic child care providers will do their best to make the hours together pleasant and memory making. You will have fun, too. Join us for our next fun event!

Phyllis Wood Radtke

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Regulation Deficit

We talk much about trauma being a “developmental disorder” because it is.  It is important to recognize in our children the deficit of being able to regulate themselves (keep their thinking, emotions and behavior under control).  One of the biggest arguments that I hear against practicing therapeutic, or attachment parenting is, “My child can control himself when he wants to or when he wants something”.  Looking at a child’s behavior from a purely external view shows the statement to appear correct.  This sets the stage for uses of punishment and consequences, which in turn sets the relationship up for failure. Why do traditional techniques and strategies seem to work with some children?  Some do for a temporary fix.  Are they really training our children and youth to calm themselves in healthy ways, for the long-term?   Science has taught us that if a child is not experiencing consistent calm peace, their neurochemistry of chaos cannot change. 

 For years, sometimes longer than we parents realize, we are to be containment for our children’s feelings.  It is our job to be their “internal regulator.” With relationship comes the ability to speak into their lives. At specific times we begin to teach them how to regulate their own feelings.  We step into sharing the containing, then eventually we hand the job over to them.

If you are at the store and your child begins to be disruptive (in any way) you usually give a verbal warning or a look.  Stop it!”   As moments continue, the child begins the behaviors again. Your frustration increases, along with feeling the lack of control flowing away.  After several times, you may give a threat, “If you don’t stop that, you will lose TV tonight”.  Or you might try bribery, “If you can control yourself until we get to the car, I’ll buy you a candy bar”.  These techniques can work for a period of time. That is why we use them again and again.   Unfortunately, they only work for short spurts.  They are not teaching internal regulation skills and they are not building a mutual relationship between you and your child.  It actually places pressure between the two of you.

First of all, the use of punitive consequences can come from a feeling of losing control.  The parent cannot get her child to behave the way the parent is comfortable with.  Then, as the behaviors continue to come up, bribes and threats continue, the parent begins to feel like a failure, and possibly resentful of the child.  In turn, the child’s anxiety increases and he experiences hurt and anger.

Now, let us take a look what is going inside the brain.  Our children that come from compromised beginnings measure dangerously high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and their oxytocin (love hormone) is measured dangerously in deficit levels. 

Look at how the technique of bribery works.  The child is stressed (negative behavior). The parent gives into the candy.  There is a short oxytocin release (the child feels good) but the child has not learned how to regulate her emotions.  When the sugar kicks in, behaviors begin to increase. Then the sugar drops, and behaviors continue to increase.  Now, a bigger-better external means of regulation is needed, and so on and so on.   When this calming wears off, it met by the release of more cortisol.  The child begins to see external means as regulation (very similar to how addictions work), instead of increasing oxytocin through relationship.  Points and rewards work this way also.  Sometimes when we use these traditional techniques, they work for a while.  A child may hold it together as long as she can, then out of exhaustion, she cannot anymore. 

Consequences work in a similar neurological way.  A negative behavior occurs. More cortisol is released.  A consequence is given, more cortisol floods the brain.  We take away or send away (time out), even more cortisol is produces.  The use of relationship to regulate is not happening or being taught.  Cortisol is now rushing through our child. Survival is in control.

 Relationship is not about techniques.  It is about being in-tune to where you are emotionally and where your child is emotionally.  This is how a child will learn regulation.   Regulation through relationship only counteracts cortisol by releasing oxytocin, but builds up reserves of oxytocin.  That is self-regulation. We cannot just look at what we see externally, but understand what is internal.

Monica Cohu                                                                                                                                                                                              

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Food Issues, Mommy Glasses, and the Movies

We went to the movies today. I was excited because I only had the two little kids with me- everything is easier with two kids instead of five. Frankly, over these last few years, attending the theatre with two toddlers with attachment issues has been a battle. The tension oozing from my youngest was tangible and lasted from the second we entered the theatre until long after we had left. They have been in our home for 4 ½ years now, and as I waited in the concession line for the lady in front of me to order 97 separate items, I had time to analyze how my parenting approach had changed.

I choose to take the kids out to the movies because most of us enjoy it immensely, but to keep within the budget we go to the dollar theatres and we share popcorn and drinks.  It is simple, efficient, affordable and fun. If we stay within these guidelines we can go to the movies regularly. The family has talked this through and the kids are happy to share if it means getting to attend more frequently! Happy Kids + Happy Mom=Win/Win

 Enter into the scenario a traumatized toddler with food and anxiety issues. As we settled into our first movie three or so years ago, I had all the kids seated. I had explained to the kids that as soon as the movie started I would go stand in line and bring back popcorn and soda. I was the only adult, so I wanted to be gone in the concession line for the least amount of time possible. My little man started in, “I want a drink, I want popcorn, I want coke, where is the coke, why can’t I have popcorn?” And for the next 10 minutes it felt like he was standing there with a fire hose drowning me with his verbal demands. He was so insistent and worked up that he was crying, sobbing, completely unable to regulate himself. We were already in melt-down mode so I left him with an older sibling and sprinted to the line and came back with 2 sodas and a large popcorn- crisis averted. Right? Oh no! If someone dared ask for the soda to be passed down for a sip he would be sobbing and obsessed with holding it AND the popcorn.

 Let’s pause this story for a moment. This is emotional tension on steroids. This emotional tension was exhausting for me. I wasn’t used to living in an environment where there was so much chaos, and especially over something so simple. For the first few years of parenting our traumatized (post-orphanage) kids, I was convinced that they were the reasons for the disconnect. Obviously right? Healthy, normal kids don’t often act like their life is in danger at the thought of sharing a soda at a theatre.

 I have since learned to change my expectations and movie strategies. I already know in advance that all my kids have strengths and weaknesses. Food is a tender area for this little man. I could have had him share a soda today and he would have survived. But survival sucks. I don’t want my kids doing the minimum, I want them to thrive. So I bought that boy his very own large soda AND I let him hold the popcorn. Because it isn’t about the soda at all. It is about loss. And he has allowed me to look into his little heart, and what he is capable of saying to me at this time is, “I need more- more time, more hugs, more love, more attention, more structure, more food, more snacks, more, more, more.” This used to drive me crazy, and it still does sometimes. But I can look at his cries for soda and put on my special super-duper-Mommy glasses and see that what he is really saying is that he is still scared. And I’m truly thankful for the fact that he is voicing his needs. Emotions and fear are hard to process, even for adults. If I shut him down, I’m never going to get to that next layer, because I guarantee you there is more coming. Grief and loss can be an invisible wave that washes slowly into your psyche or it can be a tidal wave that rocks you so hard your head is spinning. The waves of grief that surround our traumatized kids are always there and it is up to us as parents to look past the behaviors and realize that these kids have different needs than the ones who were rocked and cooed at during infancy. Sometimes it is a simple fix like plopping $6 for a large soda. But it is bridging the gaps in his brain. As we continually meet these demands, his little brain is forming new pathways, he is learning to relax, and he is learning to trust. Not bad for 6 bucks!

 Just to test my little experiment, I asked if his sister could have a sip of his orange soda about 30 minutes into the movie. And while he complied, I could see his fear filled eyes reengage instantly. That is where he is; it makes me sad for him. Bryan Post says that “trauma has the ability to impact us for the rest of our lives.” It is completely true. Do not be fooled, time does not heal all wounds. Relationship, eye contact, routine, consistency, can begin to heal some losses- but only if we are mindful of what is driving the behavior. -Sarah Sanchez

Friday, March 21, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do When Your Child is Out of Control

Alamogordo Training 3/23/14, 2pm at the Alameda Park Zoo in Alamogordo NM
If you have an out of control child, then you need to be at the Alameda Park Zoo at 2 pm this Sunday, the 23rd of March.  Serena Talamentes will be presenting a class on things to do when you have an out of control child.  Come join us and bring your out of control child with you.  Our well qualified childcare attendants will entertain them while Serena gives you precious nuggets of instruction on how to deal with out of control behavior without pulling your hair out or pulling their hair out!  We will provide a light lunch for you and your child.  CE hours will be awarded, also.  While Serena instructs us in the AFOTZ (Alamogordo Friends of the Zoo) classroom, your children will be allowed to go into the zoo with our childcare attendants.  They will enjoy games, exercise and seeing the zoo animals - and maybe come back with some awesome feathers!  So, if you're like me and need help with out of control behavior, run - don't walk - to the Alameda Park Zoo this Sunday and get some helpful tidbits from Serena.  You can RSVP to me, "T.", at 575-491-7246 to save your space in the class.  Hurry and get there, but don't speed because if you get a ticket, we may see an out of control adult!  C'Ya Soon......."T."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Alcohol and trauma are a bad combination, but all too often kids who have suffered prenatal trauma due to their mother’s stressful circumstances also suffer neurological damage because of the way she used alcohol to cope with the stress. Dr. Kodi and Dr. Kodi, neurobehavioral psychologists from UNM, (and married tag-team instructors) explained to a group of adoptive parents in Albuquerque that the consumption of alcohol by women who are pregnant is still happening in spite of public education, service announcements and media attention. Most women know that drinking alcohol when they’re pregnant is a bad thing. Often instead of this knowledge resulting in changed behavior however, it results in denial. The doctors said that many women will readily admit to using a variety of drugs while pregnant, but few will admit to using alcohol. That was one surprising fact among many- binge drinking is worse than daily intake, thinner drinkers pass on more alcohol to their babies than heavier ones, younger moms are at less risk than older moms for having a child with FAS, alcohol is by far the most dangerous of drugs to use when pregnant and a child can have FAS without the facial features that accompany it, depending on when in the pregnancy the mother was drinking.

But this wasn’t just a training on neurology and interesting facts, even though there were plenty of pictures of the brain, charts and graphs and real science, and those things are important to know about. The best thing about the training was the hope available to parents who are raising kids with alcohol issues. Kids with FAS need their environments to be quiet and calm, not stimulating. Their brains cannot take in too much at a time, so a parent needs to slow down and give a child a chance to process a request. Social stories and visual schedules are good techniques for these kids. They may have a hard time understanding cause and effect, so teaching these things as early as possible can prevent them from becoming a problem in the teen years. It’s good to know that resources are available through UNM to get a good diagnosis, behavioral strategies and gain better understanding of the condition. Please call me if you want to learn more… (505) 270-6219

Thursday, February 27, 2014


 Sometimes it's good to get together and just talk!  We may laugh, we might cry - heck we could find ourselves  laughing and crying at the same time!  Parenting kids with trauma backgrounds is not for the weak of heart!  Please join us for dinner around 5:30 @ the LaFamilia/Namaste building - 40 Hob Rd in Los Lunas.   (FREE child care).  Check out the NMFIESTAPROJECT.ORG calendar for more information.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gallup Adoptive Parents: Eat, Meet & Greet!!

On Saturday, March 1, Gallup Adoptive Parents will meet at Camielle's sidewalk
Cafe for a time to share, support and relax together.  Camielles is offering 50%
off in support of adoptive families.  If you want to join the group, call Brian
and Sheila Kruis at 505-863-2645.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

But I Never Said I Wanted to Be a Foster Parent

Many people contact the state when they come to the decision to adopt. Primarily, they want to add a child to their family- they anticipate the fun, the snuggles, the pride in having a son or daughter, the challenges of raising a child into an adult. They have probably looked at their options and have come to the conclusion that they want to give a kid from their own community a chance to have a stable, loving family. Maybe they’ve seen a Heart Gallery portrait that touched them, maybe searched out a child online, but usually they just have a general idea of the kind of child that would best fit with their family. Then they make the call and go to an orientation or Raft training and learn that CYFD only issues foster care licenses- not “adoption licenses.” This can be confusing, (“Don’t we hear all of the time about all of the kids that need to be adopted?”) or even infuriating (“I said that I don’t want to be a foster parent!”)

But here’s the deal- social workers aren’t trying to find the right kid for your family, they are trying to find the right family for a child. Adopting a child is not like buying a used car where you find the right model, low mileage, upgraded options, and then negotiate the best price. Kids in state custody are actual people with ideas, specific talents and gifts and always, always a lot of hurt. You can’t order one with the characteristics you want, like a sci-fi movie. They are already assembled and already there. One way to find them homes is to put them in temporary care with a family that doesn’t want to adopt and wait until a “forever family” comes forward. In storybooks, this process takes a couple of weeks. In reality, and more so in the past, this process has caused further damage for the child because they were inevitably moved many times before they ended up in a family that wanted to adopt them. New Mexico joined many other states in deciding that they would find a better way to find a child permanent parents. “Concurrent placement” is the strategy they have chosen to help kids find stability with the least amount of system-inflicted pain.

Being a foster/adopt/concurrent parent in this plan involves a paradigm shift (one of many in the life of an adoptive parent). The question changes from, “How can I find the child that I’ve dreamed of?” to, “What do I need to change in myself and my circumstances to help a child heal and thrive?” These changes can be difficult. They may involve becoming vulnerable and open to establishing a relationship with the child’s first family. (That may be as large as welcoming them into your home or as small as sending pictures a few times a year- it’s important to a kid to know where they are from.) They probably mean that you need to learn some very different ways of parenting than the ones you grew up with. (The trauma experienced by many children requires closer supervision and a priority of connection instead of perfect behavior.) They could mean that you have to take on the risk of loving a child as your own and letting go. (Even though CYFD tries to place children who are legally free with families who want to adopt, they don’t always know if Aunt Mary will step forward at the last minute.) Or not loving a child right away and taking your time to nurture a small flame of caring. (Kids with so much hurt can be slow to trust and to attach to you as their parent.) There is sacrifice in this lifestyle, but there is joy. You think you’re signing up for a sprint, but it becomes a marathon. This is not for the faint of heart. But for that one child, it is worth it.



Thursday, February 6, 2014


Gallup families and professionals learned much about Truama behaviors 
with Traci Trippett on Feb 1.  We learned about what kinds of trauma
behaviors affect people who have suffered trauma and how we can respond to
help children with trauma behaviors.  Thanks for the equipping!!!
>>> Brian Kruis

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


We had a great training this last weekend on "Healing Research" by Karen Purvis.  TCU has been great collecting research and sharing the most effective ways that we can help children with trauma!  This is a great DVD training.  Brian Kruis, Galllup

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quiet Defiance

One of my children is not always compliant. I know. You thought they were all perfect. Those subtle, little, annoying not-quite-doing-what-you-ask kind of mini-behaviors can set me on edge. Here’s how my evening went- I noticed that one of my sweet ones was sitting on the couch playing video games and I obviously didn’t think before I said, “Are you playing video games? Did you get permission?” (Silly me.) “Yes!” Sweet One replied emphatically. “I asked you if I could play Words With Friends and you said Yes!” Oh, the sincerity of children! Except that she was lying. Now, this particular child is fairly stable and doesn’t often lie, cheat or steal. Except that a sister just had a birthday and received a tablet. Sweet One does not own a tablet. But wants one. Badly. (Silly me) So I sent her into my room to wait while I decided that she needed an extra chore. After a little talk, she was asked to clean some spots off the kitchen floor. (I know, that consequence makes no sense at all- silly me.) So she laid crossways on the kitchen floor while spraying Fantastic on random places and watching it dry. So my husband, logical thinker, sent her outside to seek and destroy the dog poop in the front yard. Easy job. Not much poop there. So she went- because she is sweet and quiet and has never in her life said a disrespectful word. But she left all of the doors open on her way out. And when she got to the front yard you could hear her wailing for blocks. Let’s just say that, because she in inherently sweet,  eventually we got through it, she paid her ridiculously sentenced debt to society and we had another little talk and moved on to dinner. (Where is Bryan Post when you need him?) I have proven, once again, that no matter how many books you read, no matter how many tools in your parenting toolbox, sometimes you just lapse into the “old  ways” and do some pretty mindless things.  And I have determined to never be quietly defiant ever again. Lesson learned. Silly me.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chronic Illness and Therapeutic Parenting

My name is Sarah Sanchez and I’m the Family Contact for Rio Rancho. Intentional parenting in general is a lot of work; parenting kids with attachment issues or troubled pasts requires you to function at a level most parents can’t comprehend. When my husband and I decided to add adoption into our house we were ready- physically, emotionally, and financially. We had three biological kids and knew we had more resources to share. During our two-year adoption period, I was involved in an auto accident that I was struggling to get over. We brought home two toddlers from Ethiopia and were thrilled to have them in our family. Two months after they came home, I was rear ended once again, but this time I wouldn’t recover. Here I was with five young kids, two with attachment issues, one with severe dyslexia, and one with gluten intolerance. And I was ill, not often, ALWAYS. Not only were we doing attachment therapy, speech, and OT but I had to be at the doctor or chiropractor a couple of times a week for my issues. It destroyed our plans to keep the kids in the house as much as possible because I had to take them to these appointments, which caused chaos when we returned home. This year I was fortunate enough to get a diagnosis of Lyme’s Disease and undergo treatment. It had been masked by the accidents, but it had been there for years, causing chronic pain, and fatigue- morning, noon and night.

I continue to meet parents who are in a similar situation as I am. They are struggling to meet the needs of their “hurt” kids, but with the added intensity of their own chronic illnesses. This lays the foundation for a potential disaster.  For myself and so many others with chronic illnesses, we have spent a fortune on medical care. Many families find themselves unable to hire help for cleaning, sitters, and tutors because so much of the available resources each month are going into dr appointments, therapy, etc.  The following points are the things that I’ve found essential to parent hurt kids while living in physical pain:

1.      Ask for help.   I struggled to ask for help early on because I felt like this was something “we” got ourselves into, and “we” needed to handle it. I eventually realized that I needed help from healthy people in our lives to get through this time. Another strategy was doing bedtime dates- put kids down early, and try to stay up and enjoy the quiet. Again, for sick people this is tough.

  1. Self Care- Do it.  Taking care of yourself and your relationships is difficult when you have lots of kids, because their needs are endless. I’m  now better at giving myself permission to shut the door, go to bed early, or rest. My limitations as a sick-parent are real and hard to swallow some days. But here is the thing- even healthy parents have limitations, ours are just greater. Grieve the loss and then form a plan- what is realistic for you to accomplish today, this week, this month, etc. Consider having an understanding friend help you sort out a plan. Consider joining the child-care swap available through FIESTA. That way if you are having a bad week, you have another pool of folks to help.

  1. Grieving.  Parents living with chronic issues face a lot of losses. It is hard to acknowledge the “huge loss” of “this is not the life I planned for my kids”. Because you face losses everyday with your kids- I can’t take you to the park today, I don’t have the strength, or you have to go with me to this appointment because I can’t afford a sitter, I can’t do laundry and dishes today. I felt like I was failing on so many levels. But I needed to form new expectations as a sick/disabled Mom, and ditch the “high” expectations I had for myself. That process is grievous, I felt like I was always “compromising” which also felt like a loss. I learned that there are therapists who specialize in working with families who live with chronic illness.

  1. The NEW Normal??? Whatever that means. For years I had Doctors tell me to focus on a “new normal.” For us, this meant our kids couldn’t (currently) be involved in extra curricular activities. This breaks my Mama heart regularly, but it is necessary. We have learned to play more games at home, host more movie nights and do home-based activities. They do have a mom who, even if I’m on the couch, can provide emotional love and support. It also means my home and my car almost never look the way I want,  because I can’t keep up. I can be upset about it and disrupt the emotional atmosphere of the house (we all know how well our hurt kids respond to that), or use the opportunity to teach my kids many, many lessons. For example:
                  *We care about people more than possessions. If someone among us is weak or sick, we must care for them-it is easy to do this FOR our kids but much harder to let it be us that needs the care.
                  *We try to focus on the many things we have, and not dwell on the things we want.
                  *Growing up in a household with special needs teaches kids to be empathetic and caring. It has taught all of us to be generous with our time and resources for people in need, and they would all agreeJ

In closing, if you too are living with a chronic illness and trying to be an intentional parent in spite of things, you have my sympathies. It is beyond difficult and often lonely. Many people will not understand, and you have to be ok with it. Let me leave you with a quote that I think of almost daily.
ATTITUDE   by Charles Swindoll
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

Sarah Sanchez