Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hypervigilance

Once again I must admit that no amount of training can really prepare you for parenting trauma.

My girls have PTSD. (How could you not after living through the trauma they lived through?!) I can't say that they are hypervigilant to the point of it disrupting their lives. But it does become more noticeable as evening comes closer. I think it's also why they have such a hard time falling and staying asleep.

I have read about hypervigilance. I thought I knew what it was. However, I now know what it feels like. And I don't like it one bit!

I have always wanted to have the house where all the neighborhood kids hang out at. I do enjoy having tons of kids around. It's fun to watch them invent games and the rules that go with them. I love having an extra face at the dinner table. We've been in this neighborhood for a year now and we're finally in that place. I think there were at least a dozen kids or more in and out of my house all day yesterday.

Unfortunately, two of those children come from a history of trauma.

A dozen neighborhood friends and trauma do not mix well.

I was in hypervigilant mode all day yesterday. I was dealing with arguing, tattling, fights, fits, tantrums and more. I felt an overwhelming need to helicopter over everyone. Not physically -- I am such the OPPOSITE of a helicopter parent! But I had an ear out to everything because the little fits escalate so fast with my girls.

Maybe I'm just whining here. I'm not exactly sure what my point is.

Except maybe to say that I have a glimmer of understanding as to how they feel. I was physically exhausted yesterday. The stress level I carried all day hurt. I had to stop regularly and force myself to take deep breaths. If they even feel half as uncomfortable as I did yesterday, it would explain a lot of their behaviors.

I'm just not sure what to do with it.

I don't want to stop being the house where neighborhood kids play. I don't think that would be fair to my boys. I know cutting the girls off from friends wouldn't help them either. The only time things are "normal" for them are when they are playing. Everything else scares them to death. (You know, things like family dinners, hygiene expectations, bedtime, rules, structure, etc.)

I'm struggling with how to parent them separately from the three children we already had in our home. My boys have started to pick up their nasty little behaviors to see if they work or not. I'm so damn limited as to how I can parent the foster kids. I'm not with my boys. I've caught myself saying, "I will NOT tolerate that from YOU young man! The girls talk to me that way and I don't like it. But you absolutely will not!!"

But what do I do about it?! I really don't want to start going corporate on my boys.

The arguing, tattling, fights, fits, tantrums and more are wearing me out! I feel guilty wanting my old life back. I feel guilty about how angry the girls make me. I don't enjoy so many of the things I used to be able to enjoy. The constant disrespect and sense of entitlement drain me.

So I guess I am just whining. I picked it up from my girls.  :)

4 comments:

jendoop said...

It is so much to bear and it is unlike parenting untraumatized children, some people won't understand this - You have to have a different set of standards for foster kids in your home. Hopefully over time you can transition the girls over to your full rules but they do need some consideration for what they've been through.

My kids have tried to get away with what my foster guy does and I don't stand for it. That could be confusing somewhat to them, but they haven't been through what he has and he deserves some time to get used to our rules and structure. Plus he needs their example of good behavior.

As far as friends over, maybe you could decrease it at the most stressful times of day. If it will help your family don't be too resistant to a bit of change. Structure helps so much, it helps kids that haven't been able to control their lives feel some predictability and safety about what happens to them.

That's my 10 cents of advice. The new normal is far from normal but I believe God can increase our capabilities to deal. Or conversely we admit to ourselves what extra stuff in our lives has to be set aside to take care of what really matters.

MamaFoster said...

lol, oh my. i couldn't do it.

happyhome said...

Praying for wisdom for you. I have none of my own to offer. I can only imagine what you and those in your family are feeling as you deal with this, but I know the LORD is your strength. You are showing those girls HIS love through your firmness and consistency and those will begin to pay off.

marythemom said...

We are very open with our kids in letting them know that life is not "fair" in our house. I agree with Jendoop. Kids can understand that there are different standards for different kids (they don't have to agree with it, and they'll throw it in your face all the time, but they get it), just like the rules are different when you're dealing with different people. School rules, one parent being stricter than another, grandparents, therapists... kids know that rules and expectations are different depending on who they're dealing with.

Every child in our house has slightly different rules and dramatically different expectations. I sit down with all the kids individually on a regular basis and explain to them why things are different ("You know you have issues and this is what you need right now. Your sibling didn't have these issues so she has already earned this privilege." or "You know how we sometimes cut you some slack when you're sick or have a lot of homework or we know you're having a really tough time? Well we're doing the same thing for your sibling. She/he didn't learn how to behave/ handle this issue when he/she was little so we have to help him/her. That means it's not going to seem fair sometimes. It doesn't mean we love either one of you and more or less. We do have higher expectations for you and this means you also get more privileges.")

We do sometimes make decisions that effect the whole family based on what's best for one child, and that doesn't seem fair, but we also see that it's made the biochildren stronger too.

Life is not fair! And my kids have come to appreciate that (check out our discipline method the FAIR Club on my blog if you want to see how).

Mary in TX