I am continuing my series about lessons my dad taught me as he was going through the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease with an application to living with traumatized children. Here are a few more of those lessons:
Traumatized children need positive reminders
“Hi Dad it’s Deb”. Every time that I see Dad I introduce myself even though he is living with me. He has Alzheimer’s and he often does not recognize me. This means that I introduce myself to him at least 20 times a day. I wonder how it would be with the children that have severe behavior problems to speak kindly to them at least 20 times a day. “Hi Jimmy it’s Mom and I love you”. I know from being a parent of “normal kids” that I had a tendency to talk to them more when they were doing something wrong. How about switching the odds and having 20 positive reminders with only several “don’t do that” comments. Maybe the child would start to recognize mom and dad as positive influences in their life rather that always on their case. Food for thought. Give it a try.
Traumatized children need the parent’s presence
Why is my father sitting in the hall outside of the bathroom having his coffee? My mom is in the bathroom and she is his connection to reality. My dad’s world does not make any sense without her.
How many mothers have said “I can’t even go to the bathroom without my kids bugging me?” I wonder how it feels to be lost in the world without the presence of another person. How does it feel when that one connection keeps telling you to leave them alone? This is the plight of attachment disordered children. They depend on a parent for the world to seem whole but they drive that parent crazy along the way. They usually show there need for the parent by constant nonsense chatter or other obnoxious behaviors. Let’s keep in mind that what they really need is the presence of the parent and we can give them that presence in a respectful and honoring way. “Come here and sit next to me while I work on this project, you can help”
Thanks dad, enjoy your coffee in the hallway.
Insights into living with traumatized children
My father passed away a few years ago from Alzheimer’s. He taught me many things throughout my life but I would like to focus on the last few months because it relates to treating traumatized and troubled children. Though I tried to understand the experience of parents that love and live with these children I think living with my dad has enlightened me.
My father came to live with me for several months near the end of his life. I soon found that I did not have a moment to myself unless I hid in the bedroom and my husband stayed in the living room with my father. Dad was continually confused and often angry. He fixated on things like his car or his keys and would argue about if for hours. When he got upset he threatened to run away. This made us all sleep less soundly and my husband sleep on the couch guarding the door. We gave him lots of love though we only saw rare moments of reciprocal response. A couple of times we had to call the police to find him and bring him back home. It was emotionally and physically exhausting. I am in awe of foster and adoptive parents that do this for years. No wonder when they first see me they say “I can’t do this anymore”. Now I understand just a bit more.
Thanks Dad for giving me a window into the experience of families caring for troubled children. Even in illness you continued to teach me and I miss you terribly.
If you would like to read more about how the Center works with traumatized children please click on the link.