Support from friends

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by thedafan, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. thedafan

    thedafan New Member

    Hi everybody! I'm new here.... my best friend's adopted 8 year old daughter was recently diagnosed ADHD with conduct disorder and she's having a very hard time dealing with it. She's a very gentle soul herself, and dealing with this has been excruciating for her. She's been going through it with her daughter for years in a kind of denial (all her friends and family saw this coming), but now she has the actual doctor's diagnosis and is coming to terms with it. I'm trying to learn more about this disorder -- especially from the parent's point of view -- so I can be more empathetic to her situation, when I happened upon your support group here. But perhaps you can help me too... When my friend tells me stories about her daughter's behavior (usually stories about her abusing friends at school, stealing, or lying outrageously with no remorse), I get very upset. It's frustrating for me because my friend and I have such vastly differerent parenting styles, so even on the best day, I'm biting my tongue as I'm trying to be a supportive friend. My kids, while they have their problems, are not like this at all, but I'm not there every day going through what she goes through, so I try really hard not to make any suggestions (though occasionally i do despite myself). Do you have suggestions for what I could say that might help her and support her through this? I hope that doesn't sound like I'm stupid, but in all actuality, I'm stymied. What would you need to hear from your friend?

    Thank you!
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome to the board and bless you for wanting to be a support and good friend.

    One of the best things you can remember is that none of this is your friends fault. She didnt ask for this, she isnt causing this and she cant fix it with normal parenting "fixes". Telling her to give the child a few good licks just isnt going to do much good. Trust me, if that was all it took, my kid would have been an angel!

    You could check out the book "The Explosive Child" from the library and read it to get a look inside the kids mind.

    Tell your friend to take frequent breaks just for herself even if those breaks are only for an hour. She has to recharge her batteries.

    You are a good friend to care about her.
  3. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Welcome! You are very kind to find out the best ways to support your friend. Do you know if your friend would be willing to seek out support for herself, either by joining this or another online community or by participating in a face-to-face support group through organizations like NAMI ( or the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health ( Parenting a child with special needs can be a very bumpy journey, and it's helpful not to have to travel it alone. You might want to steer her to these helpful organizations.

    Many of us have found the book The Explosive Child by Ross Greene helpful in parenting our extra-challenging children. You might want to suggest your friend pick up a copy at her local public library or bookstore. It's also available through the link to Amazon on this website.

    I'm not sure how to broach this subject gently with your friend, but I'd be very wary of a diagnosis of ADHD with conduct disorder for an 8-year-old child. Conduct disorder is typically reserved for the over-18 crowd. Furthermore, it's not always a helpful diagnosis (same with ODD) because it describes a set of behaviors that are fueled by an underlying cause. When the underlying disorder is identifed and treated, the ODD/CD behaviors typically improve.

    Do you know what kind of doctor diagnosed this child?
    Do you know whether she's ever had a neuropsychological evaluation?
    Do you know whether there are mental health or substance abuse issues in the bio family tree?

    Again, welcome.
  4. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    When my difficult child went through the worst year of his life two years ago his behavoir turned off all of his friends and I felt I lost all of mine. Because he was gone much of the first quarter of our very little school he missed out on that "bonding" time that the classroom goes through at the beginning of the year. He was also put on Clonazepam which became a disinhibitive and he just could not become part of the school. The kids did not trust him and he became mean. It was so hard for me to watch and the hardest was that my friends did not know how to help either. I don't think they were purposely turning their backs on me. I think they were just at a loss as I was and didn't know what to do either. Being around me and difficult child became uncomfortable - no one knew what to say, even me. I started to feel very isolated and hopeless.

    I know how hard it is for you to make this friendship work but believe me, your friend does need you. She needs to be assured that not everyone is viewing her child as a monster but is looking at these as behaviors that can be helped once the root cause is found. Remind her that her daughter is reaching out and asking for help. She doesn't know how to make her life more comfortable and when she gets frustrated, her reaction is to fight back.

    We find that these kids need a creative way of disciplining. Anything a normal child gets will often be viewed as harsh punishment from a difficult child's point of view. They do not see a spanking as a "wake up call" to know that being naughty will hurt. They look at it as the powerful person hurt me so if I get angry, that is what I should do, hurt back. They do not always see that taking something away from them is a consequence, same thing, when the powerful person gets angry, they take my stuff away so that is what I need to do when I am angry. In other words, difficult children see things much more black and white and not so much as a learning situation for them to improve their lives. Time outs sends them the message that we don't want them near us - they don't connect it to the behavior. Everything is so personal about how we judge them and not the message we want to send that they need to work on their own character.

    Every kid is different. I think difficult children need us to somehow reach their hearts. To let them know that we still love them and know they are hurting or frustrated about not "fitting in". We are not judging them or punishing for the sake of putting them down but we want to help them see their mistakes and grown and learn from them.

    If you get a chance to talk to your friend's daughter in positive ways (even a happy greeting when you see her and ask how her day is going)and make all your interactions with her uplifting, that will also help your friend. It was encouraging to me whenever anyone had something nice to say about or to my difficult child the year he was being a monster. When people could tell him they see the positive side of him, it uplifted me and gave me hope also.

    Thank you for being such a good friend. Try not to get too discouraged when this friendship will seem like work on your side. It really will be important to your friend and the daughter for your help in this.

    If you are able to find ways to help your friend destress by either taking the girl for a few hours or taking your friend out that will also be helpful.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Bless you for your good friendship, however the child's future and the way she is handled has a lot to do with many variables (I adopted six kids--twice it did not work out). Please understand that parenting style often has no bearing on how a disturbed child turns on. Some of it is the luck of the genetics and most of our kids here do not respond to typical parenting styles anyway. So I'd go easy on her in that regard and continue to bite my tongue. To me, with hindisight about damaged adopted children, I think the best you can say is, "I think you should get her evaluated completely by a neuropsychologist. I hear they do the BEST evaluations and your diagnosis should be checked out." I would not offer advice beyond that--just a listening ear. You are raising kids you gave birth to and it's different from her situation. You can't know how it is for her or her child and none of us enjoy hearing suggestions from people who haven't gone through it. You may also encourage her to join an adoptive parent support group.

    If the child was drug or alcohol (or both) exposed before being born and was she adopted at birth or later (which can prompt many problems). Was she sexually abused in foster homes? Does she seem to have trouble attaching to her parents?

    Unfortunately, our adopted kids, with their "iffy" histories and often poor prenatal care, have many issues that other kids don't have and without a real history, it's hard to predict if her diagnosis is even correct (often diagnosis. are wrong). We had to take my son, the one who was adopted through foster care, to many professionals for diagnostic purposes, including one who specialized in figuring out if kids were alcohol exposed/damaged in utero and those who understood the complexities of adopted kids. Alcohol exposure can and often does cause alcohol related organic brain disorders and the kids seem to have no conscience nor do they learn from experience. This is neither the parent's fault or the child's fault. It's truly brain damage and the child needs constant monitoring. Often they are unable to have a conscience. And then some kids have been tossed around so badly as young ones that they have an inability to attach to others (attachment disorder which is pretty much CD). It requires INTENSIVE attachment specific therapy and very specific therapists. These kids learned to depend on one person--themselves--and do not reach out to others and, at the worst end of the attachment spectrum, have no caring of others because at those early years nobody took care of them. It is a very difficult problem to deal with. Google both Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum in your search engine and you may get some good ideas.

    Your friend has her work cut out for her, especially if it took until now for her to realize she had a big problem because early intervention is the best treatment. Would your friend be willing to post here? It would really help us if we had more details. Is there criminology or antisocial behavior on her GENETIC family tree? They are starting to discover that kids born to criminal parents for some reason have a higher rate of crimonology themselves, even if raised away from them their whole lives. Hereditary is a huge thing. Was her early developmental history all right? Does she have quirks? Explosions? Does she seem not to "get it" or to understand right from wrong?

    Welcome to the board. :D
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2009
  6. thedafan

    thedafan New Member

    Hi -- and thank you. I'm glad to see I'm on the right track.

    In answer to your questions, I believe my friend's daughter has been to a few psychologists and finally referred to a large ADHD center where they specialize in such things. The doctor says the child is a classic case and one of the worst he's seen. The little girl was adopted by my friend after being removed from her original abusive/neglectful home as a toddler. The little girl is very troubled - angry outbursts, mean, lying etc with learning problems too. She has a lot of trouble in school, not just with testing, but socially not relating to other kids well, stealing or lashing out at other kids when she gets mad or frustrated (she's been suspended from school a number of times). She doesn't respond at all to reasoning and she just doesn't seem to care if she hurts someone.

    I'll grant you that over the years, i've done my fair share of "advising" but lately, I try to shut up and encourage her to seek out help from the pro's instead of giving my own 2 cents, which, right or wrong, probably doesn't apply anyway. I'm sure I'd be way in over my head with this little girl too. And, yes, I always remind her to take time out to care of herself too, but she won't do it. She claims she has no time to do any of this, which I understand, but that's why I'm worried. She needs to make time or she's gonna lose it. Anyway, I will definitely look into that book at the library and maybe recommend it to her to read.

    It's hard to know what to say. I don't want to be judgmental (nobody's a perfect Mom by any means), but it's so hard to stand by and not "help".

    Thanks guys!
  7. Thedafan,

    You've gotten some great advice here! All I can add is a "thank you" for being such a good friend. Believe it or not, I think that is the very best thing you can do right now. All of the parents of our difficult child's friends, without exception, abandoned us when his problem behaviors became more obvious. Just someone to have lunch and chat with would have helped me tremendously, but I think they stayed away because of fear. One parent actually said to me, "When ever I start feeling sorry for myself I remind myself of you and your situation , and I don't feel so bad". Wow, that was hard to take along with the abandonment.

    Fortunately, I have other good friends now. I'm there for them, and they are there for me. We don't solve any problems, but we listen to and care about one another. That's a beautiful gift in my book!

  8. thedafan

    thedafan New Member

    Thank you all for the advice! WOW! Much appreciated!

    Yes, if I recall, there is a history of drug/alcohol abuse on the genetic parents' side (one of many reasons the little girl was taken away from them). My friend is a kind, decent person in a bad situation. I'm really glad she's getting help even if it is late in the game. I think none of us want to admit that there's a problem like this on our plates, least of all in our families (guilt, shame, whatever). My friend has told me stories about family reunions she goes to where some helpful auntie or cousin has heard of her problem and offers endless judgemental advice - well intentioned, but definitely unwelcome - and how frustrating it is. I don't want to be that person.

    I love my friend which is why I want to do the right thing and support her - which is why I'm here. I admit, it's very, very hard on our friendship to watch her go through this. My kids, frankly, don't like being around her kids, and since my friend is from the non-confrontational school of parenting, when there's a problem I have to step in and say something (which, again, makes me the bad guy and makes things stressful). I'm doing my best, and I try to keep in mind, so is she. That's all any of us can do.

    For what it's worth, I have mentioned to her that she amazes me and I count my blessings every day because I'm not sure I could ever handle what she's going through - and it's never meant to be insulting. Really!

    Thank you all again! Please keep your insights coming - it helps a lot!!
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    You are a true friend. I can count on one hand the number of people who supported the things we did as parents to raise our difficult child (Gift from God aka the child that brought you here). I am blessed that my parents are among those people.

    The first thing you can do is to tell your friend about us, even send the board info to her in an email.

    Biting your tongue and letting her vent as needed to you is an amazing gift. So many people don't understand that the "normal" parenting just doesn't work. Our kids are motivated by different things than most. Many of our kids are just "wired" wrong. The normal messages don't get through.

    Encourage her to seek out a doctor who does not throw the Conduct Disorder label around. While it may have fit my child at age 8 -13, it no longer fits. If we had not fought to keep that out of his school files and current doctor's file then he might not ever have gotten the right help.

    By realizing that because of the drug/alcohol abuse while in utero the child may not be able to link cause and effect (if I do this, then that will happen kind of thinking). I know that a binge or 2 of drinking early in the pregnancy can cause this kind of thinking deficit.

    Is there a way you can watch the child for a bit now and then? or maybe spring for a sitter and take the mom to a movie, or let the mom go and get a pedicure or whatever?

    I think that reading "The Explosive Child" is an excellent place for you to start. Maybe get a copy for your friend and then discussing it with her might be helpful to you both.

    It sounds like the child does not have an IEP, or has one that is not providing the help the child needs. If the mom doesn't know about IEP's (individual education plan meant to mold the learning to fit the child's needs and to protect the child ) then encouraging her to look into that would maybe be helpful (if she is the kind of friend you can offer info about this to). You can contact the State Board of Education to ask about parent advocates. This is a FREE service that provides help in getting education that fits the child. MOST parents do not know about htis, or that it can be free through the state. MANY school officials do not know of this! This info might be heavensent.)

    Whatever you do , make sure that she knows you care about her. make the info and options available without shoving them down her throat. Even if all you can do is listen and try to understand with-o judging, that is HUGE for most of us.

    If you can provide a cooked dinner every week or three that is also helpful. Esp if the child has diet restriction or food allergies.

    It would be helpful to suggest having the child evaluated by an Occupational Therapist for Sensory Integration Disorder. It is what they call it when the brain doesn't handle input from the senses in the typical way. Therapy for this is fairly easy and often fun. The school can do this evaluation but it won't be as thorough as a privately done evaluation. Schools ONLY look at how it effects academics.

    Sending some hugs for you and friend. Maybe we will see "thedasfriend" here at some point.
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You are an angel.

    Please encourage her to consider seeking out a specialist who understands complicated children. It is most likely that this child has been neurologically damaged and has attachment issues since her early years were so filled with chaos. This can't be fixed by being a tougher or more consistent parent or by whopping the tar out of her (in fact she may just whop her back). These are physical as well as emotional reasons for the behaviors. This child may well have fetal alcohol problems as well as attachment issues and even a great parent like you could not turn his child around. It takes more than love, good parenting, and common sense to help a child who has been given such a horrible start in life. Most of us who adopt older kids don't realize that we can't love t he problem away. And most outsiders don't understand that the child isn't grateful or glad to be adopted (half the time he resents it and sometimes doesn't want any love). He often has brain damage from drugs and alcohol, which he can't help and good parenting can't fix. If the child is unable to make friends, the autism spectrum, high functioning, pops in my head, although it is unlikely there is one answer for this child. My son who was adopted at two from foster care had crack in his system when he was born and he is on the autism spectrum. He's lucky that it wasn't worse than that. High Functioning Autism requires a neuropsychologist to catch it. That could be partly what is going on here.
    Most of all, just listen without judgment. This child is nothing like yours. The child had a whole horrible, traumatic history even before she was born. Your friend needs to admit she needs even more evaluating and help. in my opinion an ADHD clinic was a bad choice. In places like that they see their specialty disorder in all kids--doubt they tested or checked for fetal alcohol problems, reactive attachment disorder, bipolar disorder, any sort of autistic spectrum problem, learning disabilities, etc. NeuroPsychs seem to nail things the best. They can be found at university and children's hospitals. I'd also try to find a doctor who understands drug affected children because not all do.
    Your friend has a lot on her plate and unless she gets very proactive, she won't even know what she's dealing with. It sounds like (as with most of us who adopted older kids from the system) your friend had no idea what she was getting into and that love would be the answer. I think all of her friends and family need to understand that this child is not like little Joey next door and that she isn't doing anything wrong, parent-wise. The child herself is wired differently. Best anyone can do is listen without judgment or "helpful" advice. What works for Little Joey will not work for her daughter, making her feel even more frustrated. What MAY help is a better evaluation. There are no guarantees with damaged children nor is there a roadmap to raising them. It all depends on the damage--it's sort of like buying a used car with a beautiful body. You don't know what the first owner did to it and if it's really in good shape. But a child is much harder to fix than a car :(.
    Good luck.
  11. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    Has she ever looked into Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) (Reactive Attachment Disorder)? Given the child's history, it would be worth looking into.

    FWIW, facilities that specialize in certain disorders diagnose a disproportionate amount of patients with said disorder. I would want further evaluation.
  12. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace New Member

    Hi, Thedafan.

    As others here have said, your friend is blessed to have someone who cares so much. Here are a few more ideas:

    Try to figure out what your friend needs. One day she may want to vent, and the next she may just want to put her struggles aside and talk to someone who can help her feel "normal," even if only for the length of a phone call.

    Resist the temptation to compare your parenting skills with hers. She is dealing with a completely different situation, and what you see reflects the way her child is wired, and not her parenting abilities. Here's an example: When you see her seeming to ignore certain behaviors, she may actually recognize that a strong response to those behaviors could trigger a meltdown, and she's choosing to handle it later, out of the moment, when her daughter is more receptive to learning.

    Give her some credit. There's a very good chance she already has tried it your way, and failed. People always suggest I try an incentive program with my difficult child. I first tried that approach about seven years ago, and subsequently tried several variations -- all of them unsuccessful. It didn't work because, unlike most people, he's not wired to respond to incentives.

    Keep biting your tongue. You could even say, "Let me know if you want some suggestions; otherwise, I'm just going to listen." And stick to it.

    Continue to let her know that you care about her. That goes a long way.

    Be aware that her situation is probably way worse than what you've seen or heard about, and it may even be worse than you could imagine. We're pretty open on this board because everyone here understands the difficulty of raising a difficult child. But I think it's safe to say that we're more guarded with others.

    Thanks for asking....
  13. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Hello and welcome. I agree with the others that the best advice is for friend to get professional input and for her to seek out support for herself. You may want to invite her to visit here so she can see that she isn't alone.

    If you were my friend I would want 1) no judgements 2) for a friend to ask questions like you really are interested and not just being polite 3) don't try to fix what you don't understand but help me to find the right supports 4) a break from the intensity. Invite me to lunch or to a movie. 5) try to be honest when you see your friend going over the top.

    This is a path that most of us have to travel alone or with a spouse. Every outside support and friend is appreciated if it is giving what the parent needs and not what the friend needs.
  14. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    I think one of the hardest things with a difficult child is that you can't get babysitters the way other parents do and thus never, ever have time for yourself. I know you said your kids don't like your friend's kid, but could you ever take your friend's daughter for a few hours while your own children are off at some activity or visiting other friends? Not only would this give your friend a probably much-needed break and time to strategize about how to handle what has become of her life, but it might give you more insight into the daily parenting challenges she faces. Also, I imagine it would be good for this troubled little girl herself to have an additional caring adult in her life. I'm sure she realizes at some level how alienated from her most people are. With best wishes, Ranny
  15. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Couldn't agree more with Fran.

    This sounds oh, so too familiar.

    I adopted my son. His first 5 yrs were lived in a very abusive environment resulting in psychological problems. He has ADHD. Lots of "conduct disorder" behaviors early on.

    There's difference in a conduct disorder diagnosis and conduct disorder behaviors. may help if I've completely confused you. lol

    I hope your friend doesn't accept the cd diagnosis. There's likely something else going on that needs appropriate treatment and that won't likely happen with-a cd diagnosis.

    Welcome. Hope your friend drops in.