Thursday, January 27, 2011

Home Again... until Tomorrow

Arrived home last night to an interesting array of issues, none of them major -- just the day to day stuff of parenting teens.

Today I may actually head to the coffee shop for a couple hours so that they don't think I"m dead. After going 2-3 times a week for years, I haven't been in 2 weeks... I love going there, but the past couple weeks I've either stayed home on purpose or I've been on the road.... I'm sure they miss me. ;-)

Something has occurred to me lately that I've been using as I am working with my new case load of families and that is how little kids/teens really know what they are doing or what they want. Especially those who have been in the system for a long time become very manipulative and will change their story to please whoever they are talking to. ANd for some reason the system is all about listening to them.

Many teens in the foster care system have a ball with the ways in which they manipulate the people around them. They have teams of people who are getting paid to help them, and they often see it as an opportunity to see what they can get. Thus they repeat information incorrectly and set people up to work against each other. They become masters of manipulation.

One of the things that I have been saying lately is that we almost need to ignore the specifics of what the kids say. Now, I'm not saying that we don't listen to the words, but honoring their requests or acquiescing to their demands probably isn't wise. Most teenagers, for example, don't want to be adopted, but they have no plan for after they age out of foster care. Do we listen to them and say, "oh, ok, no big deal. Just stay where you are?"

These are questions I've asked for years. Yes, independent living programs and those kinds of arrangements are good for some kids, but most kids would do much much better in homes.



Treasured Grace said...

Wow, great insight, something I see a lot but hadn't quite put words too. I am dealing with a 16yo, she has had 4 failed placements, not including her own birth family. Being close to the end, here aging out occurs at 19yo, so we have 3 years. But how to figure out who she is, where she will go, how she will get there in just 3 years. Still while dealing with the trauma, neglect and attachment issues she carries around with her:(
Its difficult to navigate, her peers draw her in more and more. Her attachments appear superficial but I can see the longing and desire for more!
Thanks once again for sharing your journey with us out here. I have learned many things from reading your blog and have been greatly entertained!!
Keep pushing on, you are a great Mom:)

kidsaregreat said...

Totally agree! Teenager's are NOT mini adults even though they think they are. As a society we have gone from being protective of our children and teenagers to allowing them to dictate their every move. Try subbing in a junior high or high school for a day and you will be amazed at what is allowed. I understand the battle of adopting teenagers and a lot of the time we really can't control what they are going to do. I wonder if it was stopped in the system if it would make it easier for them to be adopted.

Cyndi said...

Interesting, almost in the same way they play their adoptive parents to get what they want.

Reighnie said...

My child who is in RTC right now is the kid who learned how to play and manipulate the therapists and myself.

Since she's been in RTC (barely coming on 2 weeks), I've been able to see how she used our feelings against us. We felt sorry for her and all the horrific things that had happened to her. We took everything that she said at face value and she played on that. She was verbally abusing me by playing mind games and continuing to play the "poor me" card. Her therapist actually went way overboard and SHE even bonded with my child believing she was helping my child.

At times, I would question it all because I have her four other siblings who also have RAD and they weren't behaving in such a way.

A lot of the times, I think we are giving our children excuses for their behaviors. Sure they are afraid. But we are trying to make it all better by sweeping things under the rug that we really shouldn't do. We let them get away with things other children normally wouldn't.

I see in the case of my daughter that she really doesn't know what she has done. She was used to getting what she wanted out of people but she went too far this time.

I was told that I probably shouldn't call her for two weeks so she can get a taste of being without us. I thought this was cruel. But after she attacked me again, I agreed to it. Now I have her calling me. Her latest call she was crying. I don't answer the phone. I know deep down her therapist is right.

I feel bad...but I feel bad about myself. I don't think I'm having the reaction I "should" be having. I no longer feel sorry for her. I just keep hearing her call me a F'ing B because I didn't bring the right clothes she claimed she had on her bed to the RTC.

I also wonder if the people at RTC are getting it. They see her crying on the phone but she called me that name in their house when they had walked away. Do they know the whys? Do they even care? Are they making these last two weeks pointless by telling her comforting things, is that why she's calling me to earn some more manipulation points? I hate that I even think that way about a child. But I have to step up and take the responsibility for making it ok for her to be that way.

I think it's sad what these kids have been through but after 18 no one out there is going to care. In fact, people care less and less as they get older. No one is going to hand them a get out of jail free card for having a hard life.

As much as we want to believe them and make it all better...I think they are still going to have to be accountable for their actions and I agree candy coating things isn't wise.

That's why I do like this new therapist. He's trying to find the root of the problem ad he's stripping away all his personal feelings and reactions to the things my daughter throws at him. By doing that she's slowly learning she can't manipulate everyone.

I'm hoping that will make the difference.

Sunny said...

Well I've known many cases where kids are listened to over the adults and I've never known for it to have a good outcome. Unless a child is genuinely in FEAR of doing something, I would hesitate to listen to them to determine what is best.

And as far as being master manipulators, you are spot on. Again, this can end up seriously biting them in the butt down the road. (As your son and my daughter have both experienced.) It's the 'be careful what you wish for because you just might get it' that they really don't understand.

Teens/kids live in the moment and therein lies the problem of them trying to plan for their futures.

The entire system is driven by the wishes of the children, even when it's NOT in their best interest. Very,very sad.

r. said...

Most teenagers, for example, don't want to be adopted, but they have no plan for after they age out of foster care. Do we listen to them and say, "oh, ok, no big deal. Just stay where you are?"

Even kids who don't have a plan for after foster care, may still be capable of sabotaging an adoption that was pushed on them against their will. So in that case, even if you don't respect their wishes, it's still possible they'd end up no better off, if their relationship with the adoptive family ends up badly enough. So I guess the real question would be one of data-- how likely are kids to sabotage the opportunities for adoption and/or family relationships, if they didn't want these things in the first place? If it's a low risk, then I'd say there might be a reason to listen to their wishes less. If it's a high probability, then I think there is reason to respect kids' wishes, even when we think they don't have their own best interests in mind.

I don't have much experience with adoption myself, but I do remember what it was like to be a teenager, and I remember that if I was truly against something, I was often willing and capable to sabotage it...