Tag Archives: InsideOut

“I’m Bored”

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“I’m Bored”

Those are swear words at our house and I react accordingly when I hear them. My eyes open wide and my mouth falls open as I slowly and deliberately turn toward the offender…

Then in my best Miss Hannigan impression I ask, “What did you say?”

This is usually sufficient motivation for my dear children to find something to do.¬†They have learned that Mom is always more that happy to help them find something to do if they need help finding something to alleviate boredom. ūüôā

Boredom is a good thing. I feel like my children have been raised in a¬†generation of constant simulation and 24 hour entertainment. They are told that life should always be fun and entertaining and if they are feeling bored then someone is failing in their duties. I for one can’t stand the entitlement mentality that has infected this newest generation. I refuse to feed into the sickness.

So my children, from the time they were little things, leaned that saying, “I’m bored” to Momma never brought the results they hoped for. Momma will not drop everything to be your personal activities director or live-in court jester. In fact Momma loves when her children are bored because that is when childhood creativity comes alive.

I have one child who still regularly uses the swear word, “I’m Bored.”

And it is Tyler.

What is interesting however is how he uses it. While sometimes used to describe his current situation, it is more often used to describe his emotional state…

“How are you feeling. Tyler?” asks Mom.

“I’m bored,” replies Tyler.

Like so many children that experience early years of abuse and neglect there are deficiencies,

holes in the educational, physical, spiritual and emotional web of their childhood. Some of these holes are glaringly obvious from the start, but other deficiencies are identified as time passes.

When Tyler first moved in with us our focus was survival. That turbulent year was filled with explosive temper tantrums that were intended to destroy and test loyalty. We were a ship in a storm, just holding on for dear life, trying to make sure we didn’t lose anyone to the 100 foot swells, and¬†riding it out the best we could. That first year was about survival and building trust. The second year was focused on managing behaviors and really bonding as a family. Our focus was on the external. Then we finally reached a point of stability where we could focus more on the internal and we saw that there were hurts deep within our son’s soul that needed healing

One of the big deficiencies we saw as we began to bond with him was in the area of identifying emotions.

We noticed that “I’m bored” was his “go to” phrase for any emotional¬† he felt other than happiness.

Fear, Anxiety, Jealousy, Sadness…they were all labeled as boredom.

This past weekend was Tyler’s final football game of the season. Their team, the Blackhawk Cougars, had an amazing run! They had an undefeated season. In the final game of the season they went up against Sto-Rox.They were an incredible team and it made for an exciting game to have these two well matched teams play against each other. In the end the Sto-Rox team beat the Cougars.

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The coach gathered the little cougars in the end zone for some final words.

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As the boys exited the field some were crying. There was a feeling of finality. The season was over and even though Tyler was straight-faced I could tell he was upset that football was over until next fall.

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Toby gave him a hug and told him what a good game he played.

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“How ya feeling, bud?” Toby asked.

“I’m just bored,” was Tyler’s reply.

“Do you feel a little sad?” Toby prodded.

Tyler replied with a nod of the head.

Tyler recently began seeing Tina, the wonderful therapist that works with Ozzie. He sees her once a week and it has been interesting to see how her approach with Tyler differs from her approach with Ozzie…

both so personal and perfect for their personalities and needs.

Having met Tyler a few times she immediately knew he would be a very different patient than Ozzie. Ozzie loves therapy because he loves to talk. She plans therapy sessions around crafts, activities and a lot of verbal interaction. She recognizes that Ozzie responds well to constant affirmation and is very maternal in her interactions.

She knew her approach with Tyler needed to be different. He responds better to completion and physical activity than talking and maternal encouragement. Before our first therapy session Tina approached her director about purchasing an indoor mini trampoline that Tyler could bounce on while they did therapy. Her director nixed that idea saying it was a liability issue so Tina came up with the great idea of buying a sit-and-bounce ball for him to bounce on during therapy. Her plan worked perfectly. He responded well to using the ball and it gave him a physical outlet for his anxiety during the session. At the end of the first session Tina turned to me, looking a little green around the gills, and said,

“I think the bouncy ball was hit, but I’m going to have to start taking a Dramamine before I meet with him. I feel so nauseous from watching him bounce up and down for an hour.” ūüôā

Welcome to my world!

In therapy we are addressing those early childhood “holes” I was talking about. Tyler is not one to talk about his feelings. He has a wall built around his feelings that is used to keep everyone out. I have discovered over the years, however, that his wall is built not only for emotional protection but also comes from lack of exposure and education.¬†As a result of¬†the first two therapy sessions I better understand why he uses the statement “I bored” to describe he emotional state. Other than happiness, he has a limited understanding of other emotions as well as a limited vocabulary for describing other emotions. This is what we are working on in therapy. Tina is exposing Tyler to a wide variety of emotions through a series of pictures and games. She is not asking him to identify his emotions. (We are nowhere near that point yet) she is just trying to build a vocabulary and understanding of the wide variety of emotions people feel.

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She is doing this with pictures. She has flash cards of faces that she holds up and he has to identify the emotion he sees. Right now we are keeping it simple with three emotions: happiness. sadness, and anger. As he guesses, she points out clues on the face that help us identify emotions like: scrunched up noses and wrinkles between the eyebrows show anger. He is getting better at seeing these clues, but she has warned me that this journey will be a slow one with Tyler. We have a lot of foundational work that needs to be put into place before he will be able to identify his own hard emotions as anything but boredom.

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One game we have started playing at home to make our therapy homework more fun and less threatening is an InsideOut game I found online. It is played with candy, thus making it a hit with Tyler! There are five categories of cards based on the five emotion characters in the movie: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. To play the game we take turns blindly picking a skittles out of a bowl and that skittles color coordinates with one of the five decks of cards. You have to flip over that card and complete the task that matches that emotion to earn the right to eat your skittles.

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Tyler loves it. Some of the tasks are hard for him, like name a time when you felt sad, but he knows he can always pass if the task is too hard. It just means he misses out on eating that skittles.

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Here is a link to this great, free emotions game:

https://www.getawaytoday.com/blogs/2015-07-23/free-inside-out-party-game

Like our journey with Ozzie, I know this  will be a long, slow road

But what a great teammate to be traveling with!!

We love Miss Tina!

(On a sad note: Tina just shared with us that she has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She is beginning the battle for her health now. Please lift her up in prayer. She has worked miracles in our boys’ lives, let us pray for a miracle of healing for her!)

Embracing Anger

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Holidays are sometimes hard at our house. This is one of the realities of the adoption walk. Celebrations are reminders. They are triggers. And with every joyful, exciting, out of the norm celebration comes hard behaviors. This is just my reality. I share this not out of bitterness but in an effort to be transparent. Holidays which used to be the moments to look forward to are now approached with cautious steps. It is the “boring” predictable days that are usually the easiest when raising the hurt child…

Holidays…well, they are a walk through a mine field.

Things have gotten easier in this area. The explosions that do occur as we walk through those holiday mine fields aren’t quite as destructive as they were in the early days. The rest of the family is “less” affected but the struggle that is still there for my littles.

This was evident on Rusty’s birthday.

What should have been a fun, no-stress, celebration day became a day filled with testing, manipulation and many lies told by one of my hurting little boys. Crazy lying like, “Rusty, we have to go up to the fourth floor first. They are giving away free Lego sets!” Lying meant to cause excitement, chaos, and draw attention away from the birthday boy. I knew we were dealing with jealousy and sadness over life losses but I didn’t fully understand the emotions of the day until we met with Miss Tina, our therapist, later that week.

She spoke to my little man (after I filled her in on our extra hard day) and asked what he was feeling that day. He struggled to admit he was feeling anything other than excitement for Rusty. She told him that she had no doubt that he did indeed feel happiness and excitement for Rusty,

“But,” she said, “I bet you were feeling some other emotions too.”

It was a slow, painful process, but over the course of that hour we worked at pulling out the thoughts and emotions of that day including: sadness, jealousy, and fear. He spoke of how memories of his birth home kept casting a shadow (my words, not his) on Rusty’s birthday celebration. He finally was able to express (in words) why Rusty’s birthday was so hard for him¬†after Tina asked him what birthdays were like in his birth home…

“They were regular days,” he said, “There was no presents or cake. It was just a normal day”

“That must have been hard,” she responded.

She then turned to me and asked me what I would have done, let’s say, for Ozzie’s 5th birthday. I began to cry, overwhelmed by the sadness I felt for my child.¬†Ozzie crawled into my lap and I explained how I would have made his day a celebration of his life and a celebration of his special place in our family.

I can’t go back and undo any of the past hurts or abuse from either boys’ early years… as much as I long to.

I can only promise that each birthday from here on out, for the rest of his life, will be remembered, celebrated, and valued,

valued because it is the day of his birth,

the start of his mortal journey on earth,

the beginning of an amazing life that will touch others and make a difference in the world.

And although I will work to make sure he never feels forgotten on his birthday again,

¬†I don’t know¬†if my efforts will ever be enough to make up for those early losses.

Birthdays…and holidays in general…may always be hard.

After this emotional breakthrough Tina brought us back to the emotions connected to that memory.

Ozzie is still struggling to name anger as an emotion he feels. He can say that he is happy, scared, sad, and jealous, but he can’t say he is angry.

Why?

Because that is the label he has placed on the father who abused him and he refuses to be that man. He refuses to grow up and abuse his children. And no matter how much Tina and I tell him that he is NOT his birth father and he will never be his birth father, Ozzie fears opening the door to that possibility by admitting he feels anger.

It is going to be a long road to heal those thoughts, but we have begun the process¬†by demonstrating what anger looks like within the walls of our own home. We are doing this in an effort to show Ozzie that anger doesn’t have to look like screaming voices, broken dishes and flying fists.

I have tried to make a more conscious effort to express my anger when I am feeling it. This requires me to be more aware of my own emotions and more vocal about how I’m feeling.

It has been wonderfully therapeutic to be forced to say, “I feel angry because…”

Ozzie can then see that anger looks different on me, and Grace, and Rusty, and Tyler then it did on his dad. We all feel anger but anger doesn’t mean abusive.

I have also been working at home with the little boys on some emotion awareness activities using the movie InsideOut. I will share more about our emotion awareness activities in an upcoming post, but while searching for some visuals from the movie InsideOut I came across a stuffed toy for the emotion anger. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to pick it up for Ozzie. I want him to learn to embrace his anger, and how better to begin than with a stuffed toy he can squeeze. We have already had the opportunity to put it into use by having him practice expressing his anger by using the doll as a puppet to speak on his behalf…

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“I am angry because Tyler took my car.”

Because it is the doll speaking and not him, he feels more comfortable about expressing those uncomfortable emotions.

It is just one more small step toward healing, but with each baby step comes feeling of immense gratitude for the work God is doing in all of our lives.

God is good!