I am knocking on wood and praying I'm not going to jinx us as I write this... but... our girl is doing better.
Much better in fact.
A few months ago, I wrote openly about how Allie had always struggled behaviorally and emotionally and how we had finally began to seek help for her. You can read that post HERE. She was diagnosed with anxiety and insecure attachment, and described as "emotionally delayed".
We have continued our counseling sessions most weeks since the spring and are incorporating the tactics we've learned to better handle her behavior and emotions. It's been hard, trying to stay fully committed to the plan our counselor has laid out for us. It's time-consuming and can be really tiring. Some days we're on top of it and doing great, other days are HARD. Those days we collapse in bed, exhausted and overwhelmed. But we try again the next day.
And it has really helped her and us. We've learned that she's not misbehaving on purpose; she truly doesn't know how else to behave. So we're learning ways to help teach her and give her some healthier coping strategies. We're trying to give her the balance of structure and nurture that she needs. It's not always easy and we're certainly not perfect at it! But hopefully we're on the right track.
Looking back, the summer was so hard with 4 kids home for the first time, and her competing for attention with her siblings. Her insecure attachment means that she's always fearful that she will be left behind or left out. It's a constant balancing act trying to meet all their needs. Things got a little better once the boys went back to school and she could get more of my time and attention.
When she started school a couple weeks ago, I was really worried how she would handle the transition and not napping 4 afternoons. It was ROUGH at first. She really regressed in her behavior and we saw a lot of the outbursts, tantrums and defiance that brought us to counseling in the first place. It was scary to be back in the place, let me tell you, but THANKFULLY she seems to have adjusted well back into her school routine. She loves school and thrives there. It's truly our saving grace!
She's also playing soccer for the first time. It has been rocky; she has games and practices where she freezes and refuses to participate. We were about to give up and quit, but she seems to have decided she likes it now. We'll see, she always keeps us guessing!
Studies have shown there are visible differences in the brain of children who have been through a trauma like adoption. The trauma of it can actually change their brain and make it difficult for them to function appropriately. When kids miss out on developmental experiences, their brains aren't given the chance to develop properly. Adoption expert, Dr. Karyn Purvis, says, "Your child's brain is simply not the same as a child who has been protected and cared for since conception forward." When stressed, she relies on coping strategies such as fight or flight, acting out, defiance, or shutting down. Her instinct is to use manipulation and control to get attention in any way she can, even if it's negative attention. The counseling we're in is helping to reverse some of those effects that the trauma has had on her sweet little brain and heart.
There's a great kids book called "How Full is Your Bucket" which describes the idea that everyone has a "bucket" that needs to be filled with love and positive things in order to be happy. We have joked that it seems like Allie's bucket seem to have a big hole in it; no matter how hard we tried to "fill her bucket" with attention and love, it was never enough. I'm happy now to say that it seems like that hole is shrinking!
We have been making life as routine and predictable as possible. She still gets overwhelmed and overstimulated very easily. The less stressed she is, the better so behaves, so we try to prevent our schedule from getting too overwhelming. She leaves for school after lunch, so we spend most mornings before that just hanging out at home. Naps are a priority on days she does not have school. We also try to let her make little choices throughout the day so she doesn't feel like she doesn't have to control everything.
Another thing that I truly believe has helped her is Maggie. Those girls are 2 peas in an pod. Allie is an unbelievable big sister to Maggie and I think having her sister to love on and relate to. It's such a blessing and I know that God had the two of them planned from the beginning.
We continue to keep up with the things we've learned from the counselor, having special "Mommy and Me" time every day, time practicing obeying, etc. And most importantly, we continue to pray for her and are so thankful that God has helped guide us to a better place for our girl.
I think she'll always be a bit of a difficult one to handle. She is a spitfire, full of opinions and a fierce determination to have her way even on her best day. Changes and transitions will probably always throw her for a loop. She's easier to be triggered and harder to calm down. For example, last night, she got mad because Sam took her dirt. DIRT. Which led to a 30 minute tantrum. I feel like she is a fragile egg that we are anxiously and hopefully trying to hold up for fear that if we drop her she'll break. It's a scary feeling sometimes, and some days we truly feel like we have no idea what we're doing. But we know that God isn't going to let her fail and we trust He's leading us in the right direction.
And for now, the meltdowns and fits are fewer and farther between. She is more willing to obey and cooperate. She's more willing to accept no. We're learning to handle it better when she doesn't accept no. She's going to have tough times; she'll have times where she regresses, but it seems we're making progress to mend that hole in her heart.
We're so thankful to have seemed to have turned a corner with our girl. And we're thankful for everyone's support and understanding!
My sweet Allie: We love you SO MUCH. We know that God had you planned for our family and has a great plan for your life.. We're so proud of you, so blessed by you, and we'll ALWAYS take care of you and be your forever family!
Soccer can be overwhelming.
Crashed after school!
But boy does she love going to school! It's truly one of the best things for her.