The three of us agree that the joys and struggles of having more than one child with special needs are many. We have greatly appreciated hearing about Lisa’s transition to working to help both her daughters and we are learning a great deal from her experiences. We aren’t sure she really needs any advice from us but nonetheless we put our heads together to address some of our challenges and insights of managing life with two kids who battle RAD. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section and maybe we can pull them together in a future post.
Things to keep in mind:
♥ First, foremost, hardest, biggest thorn on the bush has to be that they are each other’s main trigger. Trying to regulate someone, when the one person that annoys them the most lives under their very roof, TIMES TWO, leaves me pleading with the universe for a break. It is exactly like having two 4 year olds constantly saying “He touched me!” “She got more milk than me!” “Don’t look at me!” on steroids. The actions, not the children.
♥ When you also have other children (ldw has 3, Dia has 4 and Christine has 5) each one could completely dominate with their needs and issues. Try to juggle everyone’s needs, pick battles, plan ahead, let things roll off your back, without driving yourself crazy or beating yourself up when it doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d like.
♥ They love to gang up on you, so TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Keep things simple so you can avoid some of those moments. You have to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis. You need to eat regularly and make healthy choices. Take your vitamins.
♥ Never feel guilty for sending kids to their rooms so you can have some downtime. Yes they have to be with us to attach but who wants to attach to an exhausted, stressed, feeling-down-on- herself mom?
♥ Separate them as much as necessary. In the beginning, make their interactions rare and highly supervised. Then, when you start to allow them more time to hang out, make sure you are available to coach them and have them practice using words, etc. For siblings, that trauma bond is STRONG, and it was a very long and slow process for us to teach them a completely new way to interact with one another. Yet, it was worth it. I rarely have to separate them now.
♥ Even when they aren’t bio-siblings and don’t share that bond, they can trigger each other in destructive ways so above applies.
♥ Chances are when one is “up” the other is “down.” Plan for it and enjoy the highs!
♥ Just say "NO!" to extra responsibilities. You will never regret cutting back on things, but I guarantee you will regret it if you push yourself too hard.
♥ The strategy or “school of thought” that works with one is worth trying on the other BUT may have a totally different impact. Be flexible to trying different strategies. For example, Nancy Thomas’ physical activities—jumping jacks, mini-tramp jumps, etc. worked well to get one child back on track whereas these same activities totally pushed the other over the edge to a full-blown meltdown.
♥ Be willing to try something again after some time has passed. If it is a good strategy it will probably work for both kids but maybe at different points in their healing.
♥ Don’t compare them to each other especially not in negative ways. It breeds hostility. However, we have found it useful because one of ours was here 2 year before the other one, to call attention to things one also used to do that has been changed to a more positive behavior. It seemed to give the other a concrete reminded of getting better.
♥ Finding support from others is so important. You can not do this ALONE! Pull your loved ones near, don't push them away because you are exhausted. Reach out and find others in your situation, it will make a world of difference, for all of you!
♥ For most of us, there is no one else around us who sees and understands what we do about our child. If they put on an “act” of good behavior and sweetness when others are around (thus making it harder for them to understand US) don’t let it get to you. ENJOY THE BREAK from the madness and treat it as a gift from your child.
Some other ideas that worked for us:
♥ Have them practice EVERYTHING including how to be with each other. In the beginning, we would have days where everyone taped a piece of paper on their backs and everyone else wrote something they like about that sibling/child/parent. We then slowly moved to saying these things out loud over dinner. It brought them to a point where they could actually say nice things about one another without melting or having their head explode. In fact, during this recent move, I watched my oldest gingerly packing away one of those pieces of paper, covered in loving thoughts from his family.
♥ When they were arguing with each other, making faces, or thinking mean things about each other validate their feelings that they won’t always like each other BUT that we are ONE family and we have to look out for each other and take care of each other. Sometimes I would let the face each other and guide them through getting all the “mad” out at each other and end it with the sharing of 1 or 2 positive things about each other. It always worked to diffuse the situation.
♥ Try really, really hard to help them be their own individual selves. My kids have started healing at different rates and in different ways. It is difficult to avoid just addressing them both the exact same way, because that is exactly what we did for so long. I made their lifebooks different, their life "timelines" different, etc. They both go to therapy back-to-back, so I would try to have discussions afterward in different ways with each of them. Of course you do many things the same, but it frees them to move forward at their pace when you give them a sense of separation.
It’s exhausting but we wouldn’t trade this journey for anything! We are all becoming better people as each day goes by. They are teaching us to be better moms and that gift is priceless!