His Mercy

"His Mercies Are New Every Morning"

A Thought

In this life we can not always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.." :) Mother Teresa

Prayer Quote

“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Healing Begins At Home: Being A Therapeutic Home

In my last post, I talked about my own person views on Attachment. I didn't feel it was worded very well, because I am not feeling very well right now. But I do believe I must have gotten across what I wanted to say, based upon a couple of responses. :)

One of the questions was from Diana. She asked, "How have you dealt with balancing this need for kids to process their trauma and express anger over it, with keeping things loving, present, and compassionate in your home?"

This is a very good question. I remember when I was little, I would feel rage inside, but I wasn't allowed to express it in any way. It was perceived as rebellion. Much of it was hurt. Was there rebellion. Yes, but not just because. There was reason behind it.
I remember going into my closet one time and saying 3 curse words, 3 x's each. I laugh about it now, a little, but I still remember that hurt child. I remember the incident, well and I remember not being allowed to "feel". So, in that closet, after I was finished with my secret tantrum.... I was consumed by horrible guilt and shame. How could I , a Christian girl at that, dare to do something so awful. And, I repented to my Lord. I was 8.
When I finished praying, I actually felt better, and left my closet to go back into my real world.
But that feeling of being pushed to the brink has stayed with me for my whole life.

Honestly, If the person who hurt me had just said they were sorry, or apologized, or if somebody ELSE had recognized that I had been mistreated, I don't think I would have needed to rage. That is important to remember. I think a listening ear, can be enough. Just to understood, can be enough.

God can use the terrible things in our lives to bring about Good! In me, he brought about repentance and dependence upon HIM, and in the long term, he later brought that recollection and understanding of what happened and how I could better understand children in my care.

As we took the parenting classes preparing for the worst with our Anna, I could identify so much with the hurt child. I cannot go into details, but I remember moving so much as a child that I stopped making real friends for a while. I figured, "Why bother, we will just move again and I'll have to start over all over again."

There were many other things I identified with. I also remember during a couple of years in my life having a dog. I remembered spending time with her and caring for her.
She was where I would go when I was upset, and she could help settle my heart when I was upset.

So when the girlies came, one of the first things we did was get animals. Animals have a way of reaching the heart of a child. Even the hardest of hearts can be taught to be loving and compassionate.
When Anna came, she was so full of rage that she would put her hands in the air and stiffen her body and shake. Sometimes she did this several times a day for no reason at all. She nearly looked like she was having a seizure, but she wasn't. I remember giving her, her very first pet chicken. I watched her like a hawk (no pun intended) to make sure she didn't hurt the chicken. I would sit and listen to her play, and realized she had no idea what to do with that chicken, just like she had no idea what to do with her first baby doll.
With her doll, she held it by the foot and asked me to baby sit it, because she had to go to "wook"...
I told her no, I couldn't because mommy's need to stay with their new babies and love them. She got so mad at me and said, "BUT I HAVE TO GO TO WOOK!" LOL
I said, "your baby is your work!" "She said, "Are you gonna watch my baby or not?"
I said, NO, I am not. TO which she picked up a fake phone and called a fake friend to watch her baby! " LOL

I didn't intervene at that moment. I just cracked up and figured, we have much work to do. LOL

So, I said, Anna, how do you hold a baby? She didn't know. So we wrapped that baby up and placed it in her arms. And she learned her first lesson in nurturing.
I also told her lots of stories in the rocking chair about bringing her brothers home and how we cared for them. We would just talk and converse and she learned during our rocking chair experiences.

With her chicken, she would stand over it and shake at first, but with learning how to care for her baby and speak kindly to it... (this was work too) she learned to talk to her chicken in the same way. She fed it, gave it water and made sure it was cared for.

We added sheep. Oh my goodness, you would not believe how she became Mrs. Boe peep!

One day she couldn't get them to do what she wanted them to and she cam in all red faced just sobbing, "LET's KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! Let's just EAT THEM!!!!" LOL
I calmed her down and learned that they were not cooperating with her animal school.
So we washed her face and got her cooled off, and we sat together in the rocker.

I asked her how she would feel if we got mad at her when she didn't cooperate? She thought about it. I asked her also, "do you think maybe they don't understand?" "It is your job to help them understand and teach them." So we went over ways to help animals trust us. Repeat repeat repeat! And she also learned about animal behavior, what is normal etc.

After that incident, she became known as Anna the Animal Whisperer.

She can make those animals do ANYTHING and she is kind and gentle to them. She is always studying some sort of book on animal behavior. LOL

When Sarah came,
we purchased a Play School Family Doll House for her and Anna for Christmas.

We bought lots of family members so they had enough to play with, and I would watch them interact. You can learn a whole lot about what is in your child's heart, by watching them pretend "family". There were some pretty interesting interactions that took place with that doll house. This was our "therapy" house. They just didn't know it. :)

I would observe, and most of the time didn't need to intervene too quickly. But when somebody would pretend to yell at a child, or get violent, I would intervene....
I'd say, "oh dear, that is sad." Do you remember that? The answer might be yes, or "no I was just playing."
Either way, we would talk about how that kind of thing in real life isn't ok because it hurts us. I would let them know, of course it is ok to feel hurt if that happened to you, and then I would guide them about what to do with that hurt.

God does not want us to keep our hurts. He wants us to give our hurts to him. Do you know that he holds our tears in a bottle? They are so precious to him, he doesn't forget even one! And we would have a simple lesson in giving our hurts to God and forgiving those who hurt us.

These times took place in our home 24/7. There came a time when I didn't have to worry about how the girlies would play with that doll house because they received what I shared with them readily, and learned new ways to be "mommies".

I also read them lovely books on wonderful mommies. The Mennonites have wonderful family books that are read a louds. You can find many of their readers here.
The girl's favorite was Annette and Samuel on the Farm and Kitten in the Well.
Another fabulous book was "Conduct for the Crayon Crowd" by Edna Gerstner.
They are little stories about family life and how it is related to God.

One of the things we have done a lot of is singing songs like "Stop and let me tell you!" and when you say "stop", we say something positive. It is a fun game that makes us think on the positive and not concentrate on the negative.

I also came up with our imaginary tool box. We put inside the things we need at the moment. This was a huge help to them. I told Anna, 6 years ago, "Daddy has tools to use to work on cars and he keeps them safe in his toolbox. You don't seem to have any tools to help you". So we went through the motions of opening our tool box and putting in, "Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness,Self Control, Faithfulness and many other tings.... tell the truth tools, keeping our hands to ourselves tools. Etc.
If she were going to start a rage, I would say, "what tool can you use?" Many times this would stop her in her tracks and she would think about a tool to use, and use it.

The girls also keep journals. We started journaling about 2 years ago. They can write anything they want and it will not be erased or corrected. Many times they have written about their past experiences, and they bring it to me to read. I always ask, "Are you ok?" And I get a smile and a yes mom, I am fine! We have wept together, and laughed together. And of course, we always pray together.

I do not try to give them all the answers, like I understand everything, because I don't.
Some of my deeper conversations with Erika have included us weeping together and me saying, I don't understand why you had to go through so much. But I DO KNOW, from the bottom of my heart that God intends it for good. And I do believe that, I know that she does too.

We repeated much of the same things with Erika that we did with Anna and Sarah, and frankly, when she first came home, I thought I was going to be glued to the rocking chair for life. LOL It didn't take too long to get everybody settled.

We have also added painting and art to our lives, and dancing. It is a great outlet.

Erika's adjustment has been amazing.
But honestly, she is one of the most steady, resilient, content people I have ever met. She is at peace. And it is apart of her natural makeup.

When I mentioned in my last post about our son being incredibly sensitive,
that is the same description I would give Anna.

She and our son Joe, shared a lot of the same types of behaviors. So while trauma is a trigger for those, I think how a child heals, is greatly dependent upon what their natural makeup is like.

As Sandy spoke about traumatized horses, I'm sure there are some horses that recover easier than others, yet have been through very similar circumstances.

I think the biggest thing I have learned is, "If it isn't going to matter in 100 years, don't sweat it now." Sort of a take on "he won't be going to college in diapers." :)

We want to focus on healing yes, but we want to focus on future. I knew when my daughters were whole, when they stopped looking at the past and started planning for the future.
Before, there were no plans for a next birthday or a next holiday. That had never happened to them. But now, oh my, they plan way ahead, and we are in that plan!

I think emotional healing is like that onion I have talked about before. There are layers of understanding to it. You heal what you understand, but then, as you gain more knowledge, you may revisit and need to heal some more.

I like to see our home as a beacon of light to show the way out of a very dark place.
I try to make sure my arms are always open for hugs, endless hugs, even though sometimes I am tired. I want to be available in the middle of the night, or anytime, to just be there if they need me. Because that is what mothers do. I want them to remember my smile, to remember me warmly caressing their hair, and to remember that I always always love them, even though I am not perfect.
I also try to model what I want them to do. If I am wrong, I drop what I do and I apologize, sincerely and ask their forgiveness. In doing that, it opens the door for them to do the same.
Healing starts at home.

The wounds this life causes are not to be forgotten totally, lest we repeat history.
They however can be used as a crutch for life, or, can be used as a spring board that can launch us into a wonderful life.

I'm sorry this is so long. :)


Diana said...

No appologies needed. This was a great post. We already do many (most) of the things you mentioned here. Tee-hee-hee, I've even borrowed your toolbox idea. My guys are very concrete thinkers, so I actually made a box full of tools for them to use. Our house has been in such commotion and upheaval for the last little while, especially with the basement and a lot of stuff still in boxes from the move, that I think it's been misplaced. Thank you for the reminder to find it and use it again. :-)

Our biggest thing is that sometimes no matter how loving or how kind or how whatever we are in our responses, I have one son in particular who STILL explodes and goes into a rage. Sometimes we can effectively cut them off and stop them, sometimes we can't. There is no question that both boys are healing - we all are, really. But boy, when that kid blows, he BLOWS. It doesn't take much to set him off, either. He doesn't accept no, redirection, or correction in any form. It also seems that the more he starts to attach, the more aggressive and violent he's becoming during those blows. Its to the point now that it really is becoming a legitimate safety concern for everyone else in the home.

I guess the answer of what to do is just keep on keeping on and keep on turning it all over to God.

Christie M said...

I know for our son, it took a long time for him to settle down. He was about 7 when I was no longer worried. His major rages had stopped, but he was prone to them for a while.

I think much depends also upon the child. That extremely sensitive child, like our Joseph and our Anna, can process things much more slowly and carefully.
I know exactly what you mean about freaking out about a regular request.
We had to ask our son, "Which PJ's would you like to wear to bed, blue or red?" We never said, "It is time to go to bed." LOL

With Anna, I wanted her to hold on to the shopping cart. I didn't say, "hold on to the the shopping cart. " In stead, I said, when your brothers were little, they held on to the cart to stay safe. I want you to be safe too.
She would hold on, and then realize, "hey, I just did something she asked!" and she would let go. The cart would stop, and she asked, "Aren't we going to shop?" I would repeat. I want you to be safe and I would point to the cart handle. :)
Our first trip to the grocery store was 4 hours! LOL

As time passes, it gets better. Of course there are no 100% guarantees in life. There are unforeseen factors including mental illness.
BUT.... you cannot go wrong with Lovingly guiding your child, even if things are never totally normal. After all, what is normal? :)

I know some kids from long ago, that I thought would turn out awful, and as adults, they are wonderful and caring.
It ain't over until it's over! :)

Tony and Dawn said...

Great posts! I like the story of Anna and the chicken and her telling you "she had to go to work". Isn't it a blessing to share God's love!!

Ericka said...

So glad I found your blog. We are gettting ready to welcome a little one from distruption and we are preparing (as much as we can) to be her 'healing' home as well.
I pray for her that her heart is open and resilent as well :)

Lorraine Fuller said...

Hey, have you seen this?
Photos from Haiti with some familiar looking legs that got donated!

Christie M said...

I saw them! Thanks for the link. I know one was Erika's leg for sure! LOL

mommajeane said...

I loved this post... and I love all the pictures you added. A picture is worth a thousand words- and by the faces and expressions that are so natural you must be doing some very positive things in your family.I love the look on Mike's face in the first picture...He thoroughly enjoys helping her and watching her do it. We love our animals and how much they do help heal... they are even great for me when I am hurting.

Anonymous said...


Annie said...

Thanks so much; I'm trying to get better at this attitude....I haven't needed it previously, strangely - but now some therapeutic parenting is essential.

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