One of the things that isn't mentioned very often (well, outside of therapeutic parenting circles) is the reality of secondary trauma. Secondary trauma is trauma that happens as a result of living with someone who is affected by trauma and its effects are very similar. Trauma is trauma regardless of how it was acquired. I think this is possibly one of the most difficult things for me as a result of raising a child coming from a very hard place. I know J. and I are affected, but we are also adults and have an understanding of what is going on and have acquired an arsenal of techniques to counteract the swirling emotions. Our younger children do not have the same abilities.
This is particularly true for G. and L. and often times I find them to be emotionally much younger than their chronological ages as a result. I don't write about this very often, but sometimes I feel the need to give it some space, both to be honest about what life is like around here and to let others know that they aren't alone. It also doesn't hurt to give some education to people who are thinking about adoption. It's best to go into with eyes wide open.
On the plus side, having become therapeutic parents, we feel better equipped to deal with the emotional needs of our younger children. While my research/reading is often centered around meeting the needs of my significantly delayed children, sometimes what I turn up as a result helps my other children just as much or even more, such as the new card game I found.
I was ordering something from Amazon (games to help increase executive function) and saw on the list of 'things other people ordered along with this' the mention of a card game called, Mad Dragon. It was an Uno-style game that had questions written on the cards that were supposed to help children manage angry feelings. L. has been going through a particularly difficult time in dealing with big feelings, particularly when it comes to disappointment or frustration, and I was feeling just a little desperate, so I ordered it. Normally it is not something I would have tried as my children tend not to enjoy overtly didactic games, and nor do I.
I had told L. that I ordered a new game for her and what it was about to lay the groundwork a bit, and since she is all about something new and different, was excited. When it arrived yesterday, she had to open it immediately and we had to play it. At this point I still had deep, deep doubts about its effectiveness because even though I have tried and tried to engage L. in discussions about ways to calm down and how she feels when she gets so upset, but she would have nothing to do with it. I really wasn't sure a card game would change that.
Well, I am here today to eat crow. In the past 18 hours we have played it three times, once with all the little people. L. loves it. Not only does L. love it, but there is something about the game that allows her to discuss the questions on the cards. I have even gotten her to practice deep breathing for use as a calming exercise multiple times... something she would have nothing to do with up till now. This morning, with everyone playing, it felt a bit like a group therapy session with everyone chiming in answers to the questions and everyone showing some real insight into their own unique difficulties. Probably the best thing is that it is giving everyone the same language and since the game focuses on not only helping yourself calm down, but your friends, they are starting to be aware of how they could help a brother or sister calm down. This is probably the best twenty bucks I have ever spent.