Throughout the last 6 weeks we have learned more than we ever thought we would have to about how to best deal with a child that is exhibiting attachment issues. We have really leaned on a couple of very nice experts and they have come through each time for us. We also really appreciate one of Sara's friends and blog reader for her advice as well, it has worked quite well too. Thanks Kate!
Here's a taste of a few of the things that we have implemented or tried with Parker:
- Daily events poster: This is poster that Sara put together that shows Parker, through pictures, what each of his weekdays is going to be like. We go through it each evening prior to bed and when he wakes up in the morning.
- 4 STARS equals a prize: Each evening that Parker goes to bed without fighting us, he gets a star. Each morning that he gets up and brushes his teeth and gets dressed without fighting us, he gets a star. Each time he reaches 4 stars in his STAR JAR he gets a prize. We just implemented this one, but he is loving it thus far. If only we can keep this up, because bedtime has continued to be our most challenging time of any day, and that is putting it lightly.
- Weekly calendar: This is poster that Sara again has put together that shows Parker what is on tap for each day of the week. According to the experts, getting him comfortable with each days activities is key, but it would also be very beneficial for him to start thinking into the future, be it only a week into the future. This could facilitate him not worrying as much about whether we are going to pick him up from school, or worrying about us not being there for him when he wakes up in the morning. This also seems to be going quite well.
- Time-ins: This is the tough one. When we made our first call to our social worker shortly after we arrived home from Ethiopia, our discussion was basically based around how to properly discipline him when he is acting up. The school of thought for most children is to put them into a timeout when they misbehave. That school may not be appropriate for children like Parker. The opposite mode of discipline has proven more effective, the time-in. We go through days where we have 3 or 4 time-ins with him and each is not any more fun than the previous. In a nutshell, a time-in is when we instead of sitting him in a chair or putting him in his room by himself, we hold him and talk with him until he settles down and seems to understand what he did wrong and how to handle himself moving forward. This can be difficult b/c needless to say, he doesn't enjoy time-ins. He will scratch, and bite, and kick, and hit sometimes just trying to get us away from him, but we have to simply ignore that and finally, after a period of time, he does settle down. I don't know if I described that very well, but it has been effective, although no fun at all.
It is interesting and, frankly, comforting, reading other families blogs who seem to be dealing with circumstances not unlike ours. In the midst of one of Parker's episodes, one can feel quite helpless and alone, but once those feelings pass and the feelings of what am I doing wrong, or what can I do better subside, relaxing and reading about how others have handled similar situations is invaluable.
In an effort to be as honest and forthright as possible for those that might be reading that are experiencing the same thing, there will be feelings of "what have we done?", "How can we get through this?", "Did we make a mistake?", but I must say that having had feelings like that makes every little instance of your child acting the way you have taught them, or changing his/her behavior for the better, or simply smiling at you and telling you that he/she loves you are some of the most rewarding moments you can have.
We are far from in the clear when it comes to issues with Parker's behavior, but I do think it is getting better thanks to the ideas I wrote about above. Now we are hoping that as we continue to work with Parker each day, he will become more and more comfortable with us and his moments of discontent will slowly decline to a more manageable number.
Who am I kidding? I hope they go away completely, but I am also more realistic than maybe I used to be.