Saturday, May 20, 2017

Daily Media Dice

My kids LOVE their screen time. TV, Kindles, Xbox...they love it all.

It's hard in the summer to restrict it completely. With temperatures climbing up into the hundreds for days on end, most kids don't play outside much. (And really...can you blame them?!) Neither of my middle schoolers have developed friendships where they call friends and get together with anyone outside of school. They either hang out with kids in our immediate neighborhood or they are alone.

I tend to allow more media than I should.

There are all sorts of ways that people restrict screen time. I know some people make their kids do chores first. I've done that plenty. Others make their kids earn media by reading. These incentives have the potential to work well.

But if I'm honest, I totally suck at managing systems like that.

I could give you all my excuses. I'll spare you.

I hate being the bad guy, too. Because I really despise the Xbox most of the time. I need days where there is NO media. But I don't like being the mom that says they don't get any media that day.

I'm just being honest.

So we're going to try something new this summer. Each morning one of the boys will roll the dice for the day. Whatever number comes up will correspond with the type and amount of media they will get for that day. I've said that I'm going to play along, too.

The boys helped come up with the system. I'm completely surprised that they're OK with "none" being an option 25% of the time. I know they're hoping they roll an "any media - two hours" every day.

Just knowing that there will be some days with zero media makes it easier for me to handle stuff. And I'm not being the bad guy when they roll a "none". It's all on the dice. (This is a good tactic when you've got kids that love to negotiate and bargain all the time.)

This is what they came up with:

DAILY MEDIA DICE
2. Kindle only - one hour
3. Kindle only - two hours
4. NONE
5. one hour each - any media
6. NONE
7. two hours each - any media
8. movie only
9. NONE
10. one hour each - any media
11. two hours each - any media
12. NONE
  • Movie only =  must agree on movie to be watched together
  • Any media = for one hour….you may play separately for one hour each or you may play together for a total of two hours. Kindles will be surrendered or blocked after your media time is consumed.
  • Any media = for two hours…the maximum amount of time any one child shall be on the Xbox is two hours. Time may be shared – but shared time counts toward your total. Kindles will be surrendered or blocked after your media time is consumed.
I'm hoping I've got all bases covered. And I just might allow a re-roll after lunch after they do chores and/or read. I'm not telling them that yet, though. I'm sure this system will evolve over the summer.

The last day of school is June 2. I love having my kids home! I hope this system cuts down on the begging for screen time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

getting a babysitter

Yesterday, a new friend that I met in B.A.C.A. came over to the house to visit. (Let's call her Butterfly.) We sat around and just talked for a few hours. (It was soooooo nice to have some adult interactions!!) Not only is this woman wanting to get involved with B.A.C.A., but she's also a CASA volunteer already. She really understands the complexities of child abuse and foster care.

She also volunteered to do whatever it takes to become a babysitter for us.

I figured I'd share with everyone what that REALLY means.

If Butterfly is going to become a "legal" babysitter for any of my foster children, she has to be willing to:

  1. get complete background checks done including FBI fingerprints (at her cost)
  2. provide a copy of her driver's license and social security number to my licensing agency
  3. get tested for tuberculosis
  4. have CPR and First Aid training
  5. take a class in restraints that is held at my licensing agency
  6. read a study guide about supervision of foster children and take a test
  7. read a study guide about childhood development and take a test
  8. read a study guide about the Medicaid Health Passport and take a test
  9. read a study guide about transporting foster children in vehicles and take a test
  10. take an online class about psychotropic medications
  11. take an online class about trauma
  12. take an online class about being a medical consentor
  13. take an online class about disaster response
  14. take an online class about identifying and preventing child abuse
  15. take an online class about infection prevention
  16. take an online class about shaken baby syndrome
  17. take an online class about sudden infant death syndrome

I barely know Butterfly. But I'm really not comfortable asking her to do ALL that just so I can legally go out to dinner with my husband for a couple hours. Even if Herman, my son...age 20, is to babysit, he has to complete all of those requirements.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do. I'd like an opportunity to go out with my husband every now and then. But that's a lot to ask of anyone. Especially a causal friend. Especially when that friend is already a licensed nurse. But she still has to prove her knowledge for my agency. Especially when that friend has already undergone background checks and trainings to become a CASA volunteer. And did I mention, I barely know my new friend?!

Foster care sucks.

Monday, May 15, 2017

you have to give them permission

I'm going to speak like I know what I'm talking about. I'm going to give demands and say things HAVE to be done.

Please know that I'm flying by the seat of my pants almost 100% of the time.

But this...this I feel pretty strongly about. I feel this way based off the, albeit limited, conversations I've had with adult adoptees. I feel this way based of off writings done by adult adoptees. And I feel this way based off the reaction my son has when I do it.

As an adoptive parent you HAVE to give your adopted kids PERMISSION to not like you.

Mother's Day pretty much sucks. The media gives it entirely too much hype. So even if I told my kids we weren't going to celebrate the godforsaken holiday, they would still be bombarded with messages that they are supposed to.

And that's rough for kids in foster care or ones that have been adopted.

Sometimes it manifests with negative behaviors from our kids.

I'm not going to speak about the negative behaviors going on in my house. My kids are older so know that they are older "nasty" behaviors that parents don't like. But it's not my place to embarrass my kids by putting all their life out on the internet forever. So I'll be vague.

I got an opportunity to practice some therapeutic parenting yesterday.

Out of the blue, I grabbed my adopted kid and took him for a drive. I showed him irrefutable proof of some things that had happened. I gave him an opportunity to tell me what's been bugging him in his life. I gave him an opportunity to fess up for the wrongdoings and to get whatever he needed off his chest.

He was embarrassed. He was angry. He did not want to talk.

He's also 13. This is pretty normal.

As we drove, I did some talking. He did some talking. And there was a lot of quiet.

Then, I told him I was pretty sure what had been behind some of the recent negative behaviors. I used my words to give him permission to be mad at me because of Mother's Day.

He doesn't have to be grateful. He doesn't have to appreciate me. It's totally OK for him to be angry on Mother's Day and to hate the whole thing. I told him that out loud.

He has spent his life trying to understand why his mother chose not to parent him. Why did she give him up? Why didn't she want him?

Yes. I call her his mother. Not his birth mother. Not his biological mother. I just call her his mother. Because she is. She carried him for nine months and then she made a decision I'm never going to understand. But that doesn't make her any less his mother.

And it is NOT my place to say that my presence makes it all better.

He didn't want to hurt my feelings though. He never does.

So it's 100% my job to tell him it's OK to have those feelings.

What I told him yesterday was basically that the behaviors are NOT OK. But if he's got words he wants to use, I have to suck it up and hear them. I have to validate them. I have to tell him there's nothing wrong with him for feeling that way. It has to be OK for him to be mad at me for adopting him. It just has to.

Because out of the adoptive triad - HE is the only person that had NO SAY in the matter.

My kiddo cried some. I begged and pleaded with him to just let it out. I offered up counseling services. I offered up everything I could think of. He doesn't want to talk to anyone but me about this stuff. So, once again, this drive was all I could do to help him. We talked about him wanting to meet his mom. I told him, again, that I was never given much information about her and his dad. They wanted a closed adoption. (At least that's what I was told. And I will forever regret being too inexperienced and naive to ask for an open one.) I told him that I "found" her on Facebook years ago and I look at her public posts. (I show them to him sometimes as well.) I haven't "friended" her because I wouldn't do that without his blessing. I offered to friend her. I talked with him about how I could send her a private message that she may or may not accept. I told him that he could start a Facebook account and message her. But that's about all I could do. I don't have an address for him to write to or a phone number for him to call.

And that was that. He didn't want to talk any more. He made no decisions about trying to contact his mom. He told me he was going to make repairs for the things he had done wrong. He went inside and it was like nothing had happened the rest of the day.

I can only imagine how hard this is for him. And it doesn't really get easier. It is different. His feelings will change. But I don't expect him to ever love the fact that he was adopted. He can love me. He can love our family. But it has to be OK for him to hate being adopted.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

general catch up

The babies have been here for almost four months. We've finally settled into a pretty decent routine on most days. They each sleep through the night more often than not. They turn to us for comfort. It's exhausting. But it's working.

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The babies' parents still don't have a visit schedule. I have NO idea why CPS is allowing the nonsense. I guess it's probably because I accommodate it whenever possible.

For example, they had a visit last Saturday, May 6. Mom looked me in the eye and said she was going to go home and look at Dad's work schedule. She told me she'd call the monitoring company to set up the next visit either yet that afternoon or first thing on Monday. They are court ordered to get four hours each week. They can have two 2-hour visits or one 4-hour visit.

She waited until Thursday the 11th to ask for a visit on Saturday the 13th.

I was mad. But I said yes.

Visits with their parents are roughly weekly. They've been doing them on the weekends for four hours at a time. They meet at a Burger King. When it's over, the boys are always incredibly tired and overstimulated. They handle the transition to and from the visits well, though. It's frustrating to me that Mom & Dad insist on always scheduling afternoon visits. But...I'm just the foster parent. It's not my place to do anything more than inform people that the time is difficult for the kids. I have informed. But I'm not going to do anything else. When the visits run until 5:00pm, the boys often cry from the time they get home until bedtime. Not having a nap just wears them out. I do what I can to fill that time and bedtime often comes early. The boys are usually a little out of sorts the next day. By the day after that, they're generally back to "normal". Visits are hard. They just are. They're necessary, though. Which is why I refuse to complain or try to do anything else. It simply isn't my place. Because let's be honest - even if the visits were at a different time, four hours in a Burger King would still be hard. The visit venue isn't going to change. So I might as well just suck it up and deal with it.

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The boys are video chatting with their family in California about two times a week. Nothing is official yet in the case. I've been told that it's likely the goal will change on the 23rd, when we go to court next, to "relative conservatorship". Rights won't be terminated. The paternal aunt and uncle will be given permanent custody...eventually.

I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like Auntie Carla!! I can't imagine how disappointing this is for their family. She shows an amazing balance between supporting the babies' parents and not making ANY excuses for their behavior. The family is going to be an awesome resource for the babies!!

ICPC takes forever, though. We all know it could easily be six months to a year before the babies are moved to California. And that's providing the judge allows the goal change. He should. But...this IS foster care and absolutely anything could happen! They will have to go through an official home study. It will have to be approved by Texas. Things will go back and forth between the two states for awhile. Then, and only then, will the babies move.

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Whiz is really starting to show an increased amount of anxiety in strange situations. When the babies first came, I took them almost nowhere...just to visits and occasionally out shopping with me. We didn't go out to dinner and we never got together with anyone else. It's obvious Whiz is aware when people (i.e. social workers) are talking about him. He's very aware of his surroundings! I kept his world small.

Yesterday I took them to get their pictures taken. We were the ONLY people in the studio. He had been fed. He wasn't tired. And still - Whiz freaked out by the end. I had him in the new (and quite comfortable) double stroller. He started screaming. This is very uncharacteristic for him. I tried to shush him. I tried to hold him. He didn't calm down though. He got more and more dysregulated. Then, right after I buckled him into his carseat, he vomited all over himself.

Anxiety barf is nasty!!

I said something about Whiz's ability to barf on command to Mom, yesterday. She laughed and said he's been that way his whole life.

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I called ECI for Whiz this week. His language delays are becoming more and more concerning to me.

He knows that language has meaning. And my gut tells me that he's developmentally advanced when it comes to his receptive language.

But his expressive language is VERY far behind.

Granted, he's using sign language. So he does have spontaneous speech. That is good! But he simply can't repeat basic sounds back to form words. For example, we read a book called The Belly Button Book. It's hilarious and says that hippos call their bellybutton a Bee Bo. Try as Whiz might, he can't repeat the sounds "bee bo". He turns two years old on July 2. He should be able to repeat basic sounds like that.

So as much as I DO NOT want to fill my schedule up with therapists, I think it's time to have an evaluation done and get a professional involved. I'm not really thinking that they're going to make that huge of a difference. But if I'm missing something important here, or if having a Dx helps Auntie Carla get a stipend when the boys move...I need a professional involved.

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I'm also thinking both boys need to see a doctor to be evaluated for FASD. I'm not convinced that either boy has the physical markers. But I'm not a professional. Both boys are tiny. According to my calculations, Whiz is in the 3rd percentile for height. I was told by CPS that Whiz has a heart murmur...or at least that he was born with one. Neither boy has language they way they should. Granted, Rex is only two weeks away from turning one. I was told by at least one speech therapist that "normal" development is one word at one. Rex does not have anything close to speech. He barely babbles. He isn't picking up sign. And he almost never uses anything but crying to get our attention. (Which, by the way, is very exhausting some days!) I do know that Rex was born five weeks early. So maybe that's playing into some of his developmental issues. Either way...I'd like it ruled out.

Mom also told me that two of her other children (Whiz and Rex have three half-siblings that live elsewhere) have an autism diagnosis. I double checked with My Genius Brother. He agreed with me, FASD and autism have many symptoms that cross-over. A doctor that doesn't do a thorough exam could easily diagnose a kid with autism when it's really trauma and FASD.

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The next court hearing is May 23rd. Like always, I will have to bring the kids with me. Even if they are excused, I will probably go to court. I want to know what's really going on. I want to hear what the lawyers actually have to say in this case. I want to know exactly what the judge has to say about the ICPC. I don't trust CPS to tell me much. Their current worker is an odd one. I can't quite put my finger on her. She seems good enough...but distracted.

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We survived Mother's Day. On Saturday, I had Whiz carry the bag in for his Mom with the photos that I had taken of the boys. I framed a 10x13 of the two babies together for Mom. Part of the Portraits Innovations package included some greeting cards. I printed those up with the "package photo" along with an individual shot of each kid. The front of the cards read "Happy Father's Day. Love, Whiz & Rex." I framed one of the cards for Dad and included it in the gift bag. That seemed to confuse Dad. He seemed disappointed that the extra greeting cards said "Father's Day" on them. I tried to explain it was part of the package and I included all the other sizes of the package photo in an envelope for them so they could give those to family members. I'm not sure he understood. Either way, I'm done with Mother's Day and Father's Day for the babies' parents. I'm having the 16x20 canvas photo that was part of the package deal sent to Auntie Carla, in California.

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And that about sums things up with what's going on with the babies. I'll try to write something about my forevers later this week.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Out Crazy the Crazy

When I first started learning about this whole therapeutic parenting thing - I found a blog called Welcome to My Brain. It totally changed how I thought about parenting. It completely turned things on end. In fact, I remember being a little scared. My kids were relatively young. I thought all of Herman's "issues" were related to his incredible stubbornness. TT and Bart were too little for me to really worry about. I wondered, sometimes, what God was preparing me for.

Well, Christine doesn't blog so much anymore. And she completely reorganized a lot of her posts and took a bunch down.

But her YouTube videos are available and they are amazing!!

This one is probably my favorite:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU_HJY8md-0

FYI: Don't watch that video WITH your kids. It's better if you implement the tips and they come out of nowhere. Believe me. I know this one from experience.

I'd like to add on to everything that Christine has to say about getting kids un-stuck.

For me, I've boiled it down to the fact that when my kids start to get dysregulated, they need to DO something to get un-stuck. They need to stimulate their senses in a new way.

That's one of the biggest reasons we leave the house when a kid starts to lose it. Go for a drive. Just get OUT. I know Christine says to go for a walk in the video. Unfortunately, that really triggers my kids and makes it worse. They don't want anyone in the neighborhood to see them upset. They don't want to talk about anything that's bothering them where anyone else could possibly hear.

When you're in the car, there is no expectation of eye contact either. That is huge!! Sometimes we run a basic errand. Sometimes we go to McDonald's. Either way, I make sure the kids left at home are safe and under control. If not, everyone comes. Then I grab the child that is upset and I just start driving.

So if we're stimulating the senses, leaving the place where the dysregulation is happening is SEEING something different. Stimulate the visual.

If I'm working to just keep calm, I enjoy diffusing essential oils. I don't necessarily believe in all the hoopla about EOs. Good Lord - I know that's a dangerous thing to say. Probably ranks right up there with talking about politics or religion. (LOL) I like having my house SMELL nice though. I do think that certain scents can help boost my mood. Most of the time, when I diffuse, it's for me. The lights on my diffuser are a reminder to me as well that I'm "on my game".

I also work on keeping order and not overstimulating everyone with the SOUNDS in the house. When I'm really on my game, I've got music playing quietly in the background. Again, this is more for me. But it's my job to be the external regulation. Though, sometimes, cranking up some music and dancing is a good way to get a kid out of a funk.

That leaves touch and taste.

TOUCH: One of my kids is sensory seeking when he's getting dysregulated. I've got several different things around the house for that. A simple vibrating massager is kept in the living room and it's always ready to go. And because we've talked about this so much with my kids, sometimes he will ask to take a bath when he's stressed out. The warm water covering his whole body gives him the input he needs. Of course I always offer up back rubs or hugs.

Along with touch is anything that stimulates the large muscle groups. Run around the block. Play basketball. Go punch a heavy bag. Do anything that gets you to move. When your kids are little, you probably have to do this with them. Sometimes mine will recognize the dysregulation though and choose to go move on their own.

TASTE: Like I said in my post yesterday, kids from the hurt places often have a harder time managing their blood sugars. I know I'm not exactly phrasing that right. It's not like they've got diabetes. But when their blood sugars dip - they get "hangry". This is VERY true for one of my kids. I figured it out when he was pretty little. And even though he's much older now, I pack snacks like the mom of a toddler any time we're going to be going out for a long time or if we're going to be doing something that I know is difficult for him. The last thing I want to have happen is for him to get hungry and have to deal with that feeling on top of the stress he's already trying to manage.

Dr. Karyn Purvis did a study during a camp with kids that had experienced trauma where they addressed this issue.
This first link describes the camp.
The second link mentions where they fed the kids at camp every two hours.
I took this information to heart several years ago. It's made a huge difference with my kids. And I can tell every time I screw up and my kids haven't been eating right. A bowl full of sugar cereal for breakfast and then a skipped lunch is a sure-fire way to guarantee there will be a temper tantrum of epic proportions at about 1:30pm when someone slights someone else playing outside.

Sometimes my kid(s) need a whole meal. Sometimes they need it earlier than when we serve lunch or dinner. I've learned to be OK with that. Sometimes they eat supper the minute they walk in the door from school. Sometimes, when I know it's been a rough day, I pick them up from school and we immediately swing through a drive-thru. I know it's crap food. But one of my kids REALLY likes crap food. And I'm OK with that. It keeps him level-headed and better able to handle life sometimes.

When they were little, I kept dum-dum lollipops in my purse. Sometimes stimulating the sense of taste with a piece of candy is enough to ward off a melt-down. The sugar, the strong flavor, the act of giving them something they like, is all helpful. Sour candy can work really well too.

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Please don't think I've got it all together and I remember to do this stuff every day! Believe me, I get it wrong as much as I get it right. But when I'm working hard to be on my game, these are tips I keep in my toolbox as they've been very helpful over the years.

Friday, May 5, 2017

McDonald's instead of punishment

When I started reading blogs written by foster/adoptive parents, some of the most helpful posts included actual things that happened in the home and stories about how the parents handled the situation.

I used to post things like that more often. With all the babies we've had in our home over the past few years, my actual blogging has fallen by the wayside.

Something happened a couple weeks ago in my house though and I thought it would be a good story to share. This is what therapeutic parenting (sometimes) looks like in our house.

When you go to trainings to become a foster/adoptive parent - you're often told that you'll have to parent differently. The scenarios you're given may or may not be good ones. I personally don't think I've ever attended a training session that actually taught me much. Many of the stories we'd read or act out were either too extreme for me to wrap my brain around or too simplified.

Know what I mean?

So this story is specific. It's not going to be exactly like what happens in your house. But maybe you'll get the gist of what I mean when I say that relationship HAS to be more important than immediate consequences.

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My kid was playing video games after school. I was in the other room working on something else. I could hear the tension building in my son's voice. He was getting angry. Really angry. Things weren't going right in the game and his frustration was mounting.

Verbally, I told him from the other room he needed to calm down.

Never in the history of telling someone to calm down has it ever been effective.

I stopped what I was doing and came into the room with my son.
"I can hear in your voice that you're getting upset. Your words are harsh and you're breathing in short breaths. Those are signs that you're getting angry. Do you need to stop playing the video game?"
I came to my son and got down at his level (versus standing over him). I used direct descriptions of behaviors that are harder to argue with instead of vague accusations. I didn't order him to do anything. I tried to let him have control over the situation.

It didn't help. He kept getting angrier and angrier. Eventually it got to a place where I told him that he no longer had a choice in the matter. He was required to be done playing video games.

He took the controller and threw it across the room breaking it.

Another child came in the room and tried to diffuse things. I told that child I had it under control and he didn't need to get involved.

Unfortunately, that made my angry child even more upset. He started making very dangerous threats. He tried to climb over the recliner in order to get at the other child and start a physical fight.

At that point in time I had to make a choice. I had four kids that needed to be kept safe. (Rex was sleeping so at least that kept one kid out of the mix.) I was afraid that if my angry child actually went toward his brother, the other child would lose his ability to maintain control and an honest-to-god fist fight would break out in my living room.

I put my angry son in a restraint.

My angry son was incredibly angry.

I hadn't used a restraint in what felt like years. It scared me. My mind was racing. I took him from standing to down on the ground. Over and over I told my son that all he had to do was tell me what he was going to do if I let him go. I needed to keep him safe. Where would he go to get himself regulated?

My son is sensory-seeking when he's dysregulated. So, as much as he didn't want the restraint, he didn't fight it at all. In a way, he wanted it. In fact, I let go of his hands completely and just kept him pinned close to me and he never honestly tried to get away. He did slowly drag me across the living room. He refused to tell me where he would go to get himself regulated.

I tried not to panic. But believe me...I was panicking.

I honestly didn't know what I was going to do to end the restraint if my son wouldn't tell me where he was going to go to regulate himself.

5:00pm hit and my husband walked in through the door from work. I unpinned my angry son and very, very briefly told Mr. Amazing what had happened. My angry son just sat on the living room floor - almost in a trance of anger and embarrassment.

I looked at him and said we needed to go to the truck. I told him we had to go to McDonald's.

And that's why this is therapeutic parenting. That's why this looks different.

I simply couldn't punish my son for his outburst right then. It would have been the wrong thing to do!!!

Instead, I HAD to meet his immediate needs. My son was hungry. He needed to eat dinner right then. My son needed to leave our home. For my kids, getting out of the house almost always helps with their dysregulation.

So I drove my son to McDonald's and let him pick out his favorite meal. He started eating in the car right away.

Without me having to say much of anything, my angry son told me that he would purchase a new controller with his own money. He would be grounded from the Xbox until the new controller was in our home. And he would apologize to everyone for his outburst.

He also told me about some things that had happened in school that day that had upset him. He was already thinking about what his possible triggers were that caused the outburst.

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Relationship is more important that forcing an immediate apology or dishing out consequences. Meeting the immediate needs of the child is more important that punishment. It's much easier, and much more effective, to handle consequences when everyone (and I do mean everyone - the parent and the child) has calmed down.

I think it's safe to say that most all kids do know right from wrong. Even when they act like they don't...they really do. And most kids want to do the right thing. They're doing the best they can. Honest, they are.

Escalating things when there is dysregulation in the house never helps.

Believe me, when my angry son threw that controller I wanted to lose my mind. I wanted to yell. I wanted to smack some sense into him. For goodness sake - he's a teenager. He knows better!! I know he knows better. I've been raising him since he was born. Never in the history of his life has it been OK to throw things across the room in anger.

He knew that, though. He knew he had done wrong. He did not need a lecture from me pointing out truths he already knows. He was embarrassed. He needed a way out. Plus, he was hungry. Lots of kids, especially those that have experienced trauma, have a harder time managing blood sugars and get "hangry".

So I gave him an immediate out. I didn't expect him to fix any of the issues right away. I met his needs first.

I think this is important whether the kid is 2 years old or 17 years old. All of our kids need to have their needs met. They'll have plenty of time "in the real world" to get their asses kicked when they screw up. It is NOT up to me to start that process early. And it certainly doesn't coddle my kids when I meet their needs. It shows them that I care. It helps them regulate faster. And it helps them stay connected. When they are regulated we can talk about what the trigger was. We can go over coping skills that our kids can use when they're triggered. We can make repairs for damages done.

But all of that is only effective if our kids are regulated.

And sometimes that means they get McDonald's after they throw a temper tantrum.