I've been having a string of "those" days of parenting. I have two children, both adopted, aged 2 and almost 4. The two-year-old came home at ten months from a state orphanage and struggled with some major ambivalent attachment for many months. He bit, punched, kicked and head-butted me specifically in very painful ways and then screamed in panic if I got more than 10 feet away from him, month after month after month. Now, he seems to be doing pretty well, bar potty training derailed multiple times. The older child was always the one without major difficulties. She has a very intense and extremely stubborn temperament, which never bothered me because I do to. She came home at 3 months from the same sort of institution and I always figured she had come home early enough that she didn't have attachment problems. I recently went to a seminar that opened my eyes to the possibility that she too might be having attachment anxiety. She has ever since infancy had a tendency to destroy property and once every day or two she goes through an extreme period where she runs around destroying things, pulling things off of tables and breaking things in a frenzy. If she is stopped, she will simply continue with it. Nothing but a night's sleep seems to be able to break the cycle. She won't do time-in or time-out or anything of the sort without a tantrum that easily lasts an hour. She has had some jealousy around her brother, who came home when she was 2 and a half and appeared very well adjusted but not more than I would generally see as typical. In any event, the behaviors are destroying property, constant hitting and grabbing (every few seconds without exaggeration), out of control whirling, refusal to cooperate with routines (dressing, undressing), attempts to make more work for parent (throwing items needed for given task), laughing at others in distress (parents or other children) and inability to sit down and regain calm in a time-in or time-out type situation. I have read at least every type of parenting book out there if not every specific book. I've tried talking and explaining, cooperative rule setting, positive reinforcement, natural consequences, regular old frazzled-mama consequences, reward charts, taking away objects, neutral time in a quiet space... and so on and on. Every child would like more one on one attention but I think ours get more than the average. There is always a parent with them and only the oldest goes to preschool and that only twice a week and she loves it. Oddly enough the teachers report that she is a model child at preschool. I do a lot of active and fun things with both children and make time for the older child one on one, when the younger child is napping and for the younger child when the older one is in preschool. Basically, I am frazzled. I am exhausted. We have no possibilities for babysitters. While the attachment issues of our younger child are better in that I can now be within sight, rather than within a few feet, he can't be left with anyone else, so I have never had a break in years. I don't like how I am getting angrier and angrier. I'm not the fun Mama I used to be and want to be. I need to find some options for how to deal with out of control behaviors that don't just leave me constantly saying, "No, we don't hit. No, we don't break things. No, we don't tear books." all day long with no hope of progress in sight. Any advice?
((((hugs)))). BTDT. This age is so hard when they come with issues. Mine finally changed completely when she started school. We had the same issues of hour long plus tantrums and nothing would stop it. I took everything out of her room except the bed, so when she went on a destructive streak, she had a place to go where there was nothing to break. I kept doing the same thing over and over again in regards to consequences for behavior. When mine was 2, I literally put her back into time-out over 40 times just for one instance of TO. It was an hour later that she finally stayed there for her 2 mintues. I also get the crazed Mom thing. It is because there is never any down time for us. We are on guard constantly. The anxiety level is extreme and that makes for stressed out parents. Some days were better than others. I wish I knew the answer because I too read every book I could and nothing worked to truly make it better. Age made it better. Being in school really made it better.
Well, I would no call it the RTS syndrome (the Road To Strep) because that is what I got along with a massive viral cough and a mouth infection "that only affects individuals with compromised immune systems" supposedly. In any event, my doctor's diagnosis of the purely physical symptoms without discussing it with me was "You are overstressed by children." :P I still don't know how not to get it though.
Is there any possibility that your two children were alcohol exposed in utero? It's often hard to tell in the toddler or preschool days whether you are dealing with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or with an intense child, but if there was alcohol exposure, it could explain some of the impulsive behaviors, the failure to understand the concept of consequences, etc. If there is FASD, once your child hits school age, the implulsiveness will be more apparent, and there may be other symptoms, such as learning difficulties Sharon
We live in the Czech Republic, where open adoption is completely forbidden, so all we have is what is "reported." And in neither case was alcohol or drug exposure "reported." In my daughter's case it is less likely actually because the social worker I spoke to knew her birth mother long term and was very convinced that she was not into alcohol and said that she lived in a classical family household with several other small children that she cared for well and a long-term partner. Then again, with FASD, it doesn't take much. Supposedly, one time of a lot of alcohol (such as could happen if a person was very distressed by finding out that she was pregnant and didn't know what to do about it) is worse than an alcoholics low daily dose. So, one never knows and unless you are dealing with full-blown FAS, which I have seen first hand in a child I tutored, you can't really ever know for sure, even in school age.
Hi, I remember when your son came home. I'm glad he's doing better but what a hard road you've been on. Have you looked into food related sensitivities for your daughter? My dd had the exact same behavior and for her a diet free of dairy, gluten and all artificial ingredients (food dyes, preservatives, sweetners) has been virtually a miracle. It sounds overwhelming (at least it did to me!) but we went dairy free (pretty easy, even with a kiddo who ate something dairy at every meal) and over a couple of years removed the other things. My dd has some other processing challenges (sensory and visual) and those too can impact her behavior (seeing double can make you pretty grumpy), so we've found ways to work with that. Just a few ideas, because I know it's exhausting to parent a child who is struggling so much. Please let me know if you want anymore info. Susan
Thanks, Suzeb1. We have pretty definitively determined that artificial colorings and even just raw sugar exacerbate the problem. The holidays unfortunately provided a lot of opportunities for experimentation. We live in a country without much in the way of dairy or gluten substitutes and where doctors are a bit behind the times and tend to just throw drugs at you, so we're more or less on our own in trying to determine food sensitivities. One thing that I see as an issue is that her behavior is much much much better at preschool than at home. I know that happen sometimes with kids with emotional stresses. They can keep it together for part of the day and then tend to let it all out where they feel safest (at home). But it tends not to be the case when food sensitivities, processing or ADHD are the major factor. That said, I'm still not convinced there isn't more going on than emotional stuff. Recently, she has been most focused on stuff and everything being "mine". I know that happens with preschool age kids but I've never seen it to this extreme. That sounds like attachment issues to me objectively, but she certainly doesn't have the kind of easily identifiable attachment issues our son had and has largely worked through. Thanks for the advice in any event.
I think you need some respite. Someone in your extended family perhaps or the father needs to give you some time to be alone. Even if it's simply an hour a day. A two and four year old together is enough to stagger a parent if there are no other extenuating circumstances. I think that the fact that the 4 year old is able to keep it together during preschool speaks volumes. Children who have been abandoned or have experienced issues that tap out a parent often exhibit behaviours that are symbiotic with the level of stress the parent is feeling. Out of necessity these children develop a sixth sense which served them well to tune into the people giving care. When you think about it; it's self preservation. I believe that most mothers and infants develop a sort of communication that exists in some form undetectable to other people. It happens with colic. I've talked to people who had to deal with colic and it seems that when the primary caregiver was away the colic was easier to manage. It's like there is a hum of stress the child picks up on so it's helpful if the mother can detach and look after her stress. Even if it's for a short period of time. Feeling overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness or poor parenting; it's normal. If you can time yourself out. Tell the kids you are taking five minutes to regroup. Call it what ever you want. Tell them you need to close you eyes whatever. See how that works. If you can get them out of familiar territory. A walk where their focus is not you. Anything. Try having a picnic in your living room rather than eating at the same place. Shift things around so that they aren't triggered by routine. It helps sometimes. I remember once making a tent in the living room and sitting in there; telling my daughter I was on a time out pretending I was at the beach when she was small and driving me nuts. It worked. She became fascinated with the concept of seeing me pretend. I talked to her afterward about how good it felt. She took a turn at it. Do you read to them? Can they sit still long enough to engage in a story. That can set the tone to help them focus outside the present.
Everything being "mine" is a preschool thing, but in kids that have some underlying issues it seems that what might be a simple milestone in emotional develop turns into an extreme reaction. I know you're sort of boxed in where you live without the benefit of up to date medical/psychological specialist to visit. I wish I knew of anything to help you help your kids and yourself. (((hugs))) I know you have said before that your DH is reluctant to move to the States. Maybe it's time to revisit that discussion based on the welfare of you and your children.