Communication Games In Family Therapy

communication gamesThe second worker from the agency texted me yesterday and asked if I still wanted her to come since I had just met the day before with the post adoption worker from the state for 2 and a half hours. I wanted to say “No, don’t come! I’m tired of talking!” but instead I found myself doing the right thing. Next week seems a lifetime away…. much too long to wait to check in. Tink and I had been the only ones home to visit with the state worker on Wednesday, so I thought it best that maybe a few more of us get the chance to check in before the weekend.

It tuned out to be only Mickey, me, Daffy and the worker. Tink is exhausted at this late stage in her pregnancy and was napping, Goofy was at work and Pluto? Well, he avoids all of this at all costs, so he was off with his friends.

The worker started by asking what in the hell had happened Tuesday night (not in those words, of course, lol). Daffy tried to explain but was really emotional about it. (She had overheard some things I said to Mickey that were very hurtful about her birth family. It’s something that will have to be acknowledged and dealt with in time, but yesterday was not the day with all our emotions still running so high.) We then went on to discuss Daffy’s report card. I had to walk away at one point when the worker asked her about her homework and she said she had trouble getting it done at home because a girl at school likes to tell her stories. I was relieved that the worker could see through her excuses and admired the more gentle way she brought the conversation back around every time Daffy tried to get out of answering something.

The worker helped us to strategize some ways for Daffy to improve her ability to get her homework done. Daffy also learned that my disappointment from her report card was less about the actual grades and more about the fact she had been lying for weeks about doing her homework. In my opinion, lying is the ultimate disrespect of a relationship. Daffy seemed shocked to learn that is why I was so upset and not because of the grades themselves. Clearly, we lack communication.

At that point, the worker suggested that maybe we work on communication as the most important element in family therapy and asked if we agreed. I whole heartedly agreed because without it, we certainly can’t accomplish anything else, at least nothing that could be long lasting. One of the things she had us do was to pair up round robin style and sit back to back. She gave each of the same set of Mega Blocks. One person would build a stack and then have to describe to the other person how to build it themselves (without that person seeing the other person’s blocks). I don’t think Daffy & Mickey got nearly as much out of it as I did. There were soooo many times throughout the activity where I literally said “AHA!” as I could see how this applied to real life. For Daffy & I, it was a really nice ice breaker, though. We often go for days without speaking at all and then get stuck in knowing how to start communicating (or heck, even TALKING) again, so having this “forced” activity allowed us to break the ice. I was surprised at how well the rest of the night went once the worker left. It actually felt nice.

Of course, any “good day” is always ruined by SOMETHING. That’s par for the course in this post-adoption family. Daffy was getting ready to head to bed and I had just come upstairs to work. Suddenly I heard Tink SCREAMING. Apparently Daffy had picked up the cat. To most of you this probably seems like a harmless event, but given Daffy’s history of being abusive with animals she is allowed ZERO contact with the cat. She knows this. (In fact, Tink and I had been talking recently about how well Daffy had been doing with it. Sometimes Tink will watch Daffy when she is outside shooting hoops and even when the cat comes over to her, she had been simply walking away. Really impressive stuff, actually.) And then there was last night. Out of nowhere, she decides to pick up the cat. WHY? Why would she do this? My gut tells me that things were going too well. I think when Daffy feels happy here she feels disloyal to her birth mom. Maybe I’m way off, but I feel like that’s where her actions came from last night. Mickey was standing maybe 15 feet away during the whole thing and SAID NOTHING. I was FURIOUS! I think I was more mad at Mickey than Daffy at that point! Our family is already so divided because of Mickey’s lack of understanding of what really happens and to have him right there and then do and say nothing? I thought I would lose it. Mickey did begrudgingly give me some time to calm down and then we were able to talk about it later last night. He seems to KNOW he needs to address things as they happen and follow through with consequences, but just doesn’t know how to do it. It’s just not him. He hates anything that even LOOKS like confrontation. He doesn’t want the kids to be mad at him. This worked “ok” for our bio kids, but this does not work for the adopted one. We have heard a million times over how adopted kids NEED consistency. The worker will be back on Monday and we will be working on a concrete rule and consequences list. I’m hoping this will be beneficial to all of us. Mickey won’t have to try to figure out an appropriate consequence to any given infraction of the rules and the kids will know what to expect each and every time. I hope that this will also lessen Daffy’s hostility towards me in that I won’t always have to be the “bad guy.” The rules and consequences will be things we ALL agreed on, thus not just about me being the parent.

So, despite the bad ending to the night, I still feel more hopeful today than I did Tuesday. Several of my friends asked if I wanted them to take Daffy for the weekend and I declined. While I do need a break now and then, I want those breaks to be scheduled rather than used in crisis. (Daffy is going away next weekend because I will be traveling.) I worry that Daffy will feel punished and I don’t think that’s helpful. And yes, it startled me just as much as you that I was that concerned about Daffy’s feelings. I thought I had stopped caring at all when survival became the focus, but maybe there is still something there and, maybe with time, those feelings can grow again.

Incidentally, tomorrow marks TWO YEARS since the day we first met Daffy! I want that feeling back.

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1 Comment

  1. Kristi

     /  January 18, 2014

    Please don’t take my question defensively. I am just trying to understand but it seems to me if my child had as many issues with animals as she seems to have I could only imagine I would remove the animal from the home. Have you considered it?

    Reply

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