Raising grandchildren can be challenging for many reasons. Often, the children have experienced complicated family dynamics, heartbreaking loss, abuse, and neglect – all of which may affect their emotions, behavior, and development.
In Courageous Love, author Laura Montané Bailey draws on both professional and personal experience to offer grandparents the hero status they deserve and the encouragement they need, to continue to fight for the lives of the grandchildren they love. This book explores the devastating impact of trauma to brain development and function, and provides instructions for helping grandchildren to experience Post Traumatic Growth rather than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Bailey presents the idea of the Healing Circles to provide what traumatized children need most:
• Safety, basic needs, and structure
• Family gatherings that create identity and foster a sense of belonging
• Clear rules, authority agreements and non-toxic relationships
These Healing Circles provide a protective structure that becomes the container for joy, empathy, and love, a powerful combination for delivering hope and healing to children of trauma.
Bailey discusses the three key responsibilities of raising grandchildren in a high tech, high stress, unpredictable world: take care of yourself, un-break the hearts of your grandchildren, and re-wire their brains for success. Presenting easy-to-understand solutions, Courageous Love gives grandparents the tools and confidence they need to run this parenting marathon.
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Read an Excerpt
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CREATING HEALING CIRCLES FOR CHILDREN OF TRAUMA
By Laura Montané Bailey
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Laura Montané Bailey
All rights reserved.
The Great Gift Exchange
As she held the sleeping child in her arms, she was at once overwhelmed by feelings of deep love and by a fear that spoke in a loud voice, "Love will never be enough to fix all that's gone wrong here." Even after three and a half months of devoted care, her grandchild's night-terrors were not subsiding. Angelina was exhausted and filled with the knowing sense that it was going to take more to raise Samantha than she had ever imagined.
She had been disappointed when her middle daughter married Steven. Something about him just didn't seem right. From three states away she had known there were problems, but she had no inkling how bad those problems were until the morning three and a half months ago when she got the call.
"Hello, is this Angelina Rivera?" a strong male voice questioned.
"This is Dan Redding, with the Sherriff's Department in Tampa, Florida. There was a criminal incident last night involving your daughter, Caroline and her husband. We have them in custody and we are looking for family who can take their daughter. Caroline asked us to call you." His voice trailed off as Angelina's world crashed around her.
Everything that had happened since then was too complicated and heartbreaking to think about and there was nothing she could do about it anyway. Her heart ached for her daughter, but with her arms wrapped around three-year-old Samantha she knew in her heart that she had to do something for her. The child continued to whimper a bit as slumber settled in, and Angelina committed herself to finding answers for all the problems she was dealing with now. Samantha's night-terrors were just part of it.
Samantha screamed when she left her at daycare and that tore at Angelina's heart every day. She had taken two weeks off when she first got her but could not quit her job. She needed the money now more than ever. She was tempted to take second shifts to cover the extra expenses, but turned them down because she knew she had to be with Samantha as much as possible. The child clung to her and followed her all over the house. She wouldn't stay in her bed at night and woke up with night-terrors regularly. She was pulling chunks of hair out of her head, and already had a large bald spot around the crown on the back of her head. She sucked her thumb and reverted back to wetting her pants. When disciplined she would refuse to comply and other times she would sob without any apparent reason.
Angelina was exhausted, but her love for this lost little child got her up every morning to start the next day with just as much energy as she had the day before. She had to save her granddaughter, if it was the last thing she did. Samantha might just be all that was left of Caroline, who was going to be tried as an accomplice to a murder, apparently drug related. It seems that Steven was a meth dealer and Caroline had taken up with him and all the chaos and destruction that lifestyle brought. Poor little Samantha had been subjected to a life not at all suited to growing up and developing properly.
Raising her own three kids had been instinctual, nothing more than the regular challenges of weaning, potty training, making sure homework was done, and curfew kept. Getting them all off to college had brought both a sense of accomplishment and a serious case of the empty nest syndrome. But Angelina had focused on her work and recovered sufficiently from an unexpected divorce to enjoy life again. Sitting in the same old rocker she used when her kids were little, she couldn't help looking back over the years for a bit. What went wrong? Everything seemed good enough. Why would Caroline, having come from a good family, get involved in such a lifestyle? How could she neglect and abuse her own child? Now Angelina began to doubt her own parenting skills. If she couldn't raise Caroline right, even in good circumstances, how in the world was she going to raise Samantha who had been through so much. Would she be able to make a difference or was it already too late?
Many grandparents who are raising their grandchildren begin to have doubts as they experience difficulties with their grandchildren that they never encountered when they raised their own children. How will this all turn out? Will I cut my own life short from the stress of it for nothing? Is there any hope for my troubled grandchild? These are good questions and thanks to scientists, researchers and other people who devote themselves to finding real solutions for what ails the human condition, we now have answers to many questions, questions people did not even know to ask fifty years ago. And we have the reassuring truth that although it "takes a village," if a child has even one person in their life who truly loves them, it can make all the difference in the world. They just need that one ray of hope and the picture imprinted in their minds of what being loved feels like.
"Now that I know about the trauma of being separated from my birth mother at 43 days old, the fights between my parents, abuse and abandonment from my dad, I realize that I would have had to be an incredibly distraught baby in the middle of a storm. I have always thought of my grandma as an angel that saved me from all that trauma and strengthened me, gave me resiliency to get through it all. I think that to a certain extent I was also what allowed her to finally be a mother—fully a mother, not just a mother that was DOING EVERYTHING, (widow with 9 children) but now being able to be the mother that was just nurturing for the first time—just being a mom. In some way I think it was healing to both of us." ~ A grandchild
Erik Erikson was the first child psychoanalyst in the city of Boston, where he fled from Germany during the Holocaust years. He taught for many years at the Harvard Medical School and for the Institute of Child Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley. He worked with and studied children and youth in many cultures and areas of the United States, and through his research established what is still recognized as the most complete theory of life stage development. In 1969 Erikson received the Pulitzer Prize for his book Ghandi's Truth. His last book, published in 1986 just eight years before his death at age 92, was Vital Involvement in Old Age. This book discusses the final stages of life beyond childhood and adolescence to help people discover how, in looking back, they can accomplish the stages that remain incomplete and end their lives with integrity rather than despair. As a grandparent raising grandchildren, you now have the opportunity to examine your own life as you consider how best to help these children in your care, pulling you both into a healthier, happier, more fulfilling future.
I fondly remember my own grandmother, the way she rocked me and sang off key when I was a little girl. Yes, she was old (when you are four years old, fifty-seven seems really old), heavy set and a little wrinkled. But I thought she was beautiful and I loved hearing her sing. I always begged for one more song, and one more story about when she was a little girl. Spending time with her remains one of my best memories more than 50 years later.
I remember going to the beach alone with her and sitting in the sand, dipping Fritos into pimento cream cheese, and dipping our toes in the water. Later we went to Universal Studios (before it became a theme park) to visit the studio where she worked for Lucille Ball and several other actors and actresses. I remember a myriad of craft projects, watching her sew, and eating hot tapioca pudding with strawberries from her garden. This is the magic of being a grandparent, there is nothing but love between you and this child for whom you are not responsible in an everyday sort of way. But all that changes when they come to live with you and you do have to tend to the daily stuff that real life is made of. Everything changes in that moment as both grandparent and grandchild experience the horror of a family tragedy such that parents are no longer able to be there for their kids.
My grandmother's husband abandoned her and then returned one day twelve years later with two sons she didn't know. She threw her door and her heart open and let them all in. She raised the boys as her own and through the years had a string of children both related and unrelated that stayed in touch with her until she died in her mid-70s. She also took in my troubled teen cousin whose parents were not able to care for her. Most of all, I remember that she loved me unconditionally. From start to finish, she loved every moment that she got to spend with me. She made me feel special and prized, and I have a feeling she did the same thing for each of the children whose lives she touched.
My own parents, now married for close to 60 years, were the best support system that I had after my divorce in 1984. My two very young children and I lived with them off and on for several years and my daughter, who was an infant at the time of the divorce bonded so closely with them that she spent most of her summers at their house through her mid-teens. I have no idea how we ever would have made it through those hard times without them. Without asking questions, they were just there for us. I won't sugar coat it, sometimes we were very angry with each other over different things. Sometimes we judged each other and sometimes we exchanged harsh words. But through all of it I knew they loved me and I knew they loved my kids. I couldn't have made it without them, and they wouldn't have wanted me to try to. In the end, our relationships with each other have matured and grown because of our extra time together.
Of her grandparents' involvement in her life, my daughter, now 30, says this:
"What was most important to me during those years was having something and someone to count on. Unlike my family, they always lived in the same place and my friends knew where I lived from summer to summer. I loved helping Grandpa at his lab, and feeling like I was really helping out. I remember when he would put lotion on his hands and come over and put the extra on mine. Usually he went to work early and came home late and it was fun to wait up for him.
I liked knowing what to expect. They had rules that never changed and that made me feel safe. And I loved running errands with Grandma. We would go to the bank and they always gave me a sucker. We went to the pond every week after church to feed the ducks and to the same park to hike. I liked knowing what to look forward to. Grandma and I had a special tradition. She would take me to eat at a nice restaurant and then to see a live theatre play every year. I loved it!
Every summer they bought me a new dress. That new dress made me feel REMEMBERED. It was a tradition that made me feel like they remembered something they did with me. It was not so much about the dress, really.
What was hardest was being homesick. I hated it.
That feeling at nighttime—of being really anxious. I would get a terrible stomach ache from the anxiety and Grandma would put me in her lap and rub my tummy in circles. It felt like she really cared and wanted to help me. It made me feel noticed, loved, cared about. When you feel anxious and scared, it doesn't feel good, so you feel sick PLUS worried. She helped with both, even though she didn't say anything. She just tended me." ~Larissa
In all of the small groups and parent training classes that I have run or attended, when people are asked the question, "Who was your biggest cheerleader, your greatest source of love and support as you were growing up?" By far the most common answers to that question are "My grandma" or "My grandpa." Grandparents are known by many titles, Mamo, Papo, MiMi, Granny, Grandmother, Grandfather, Pop Pop, Nonnie, or Poppy ... and I am sure there are hundreds more. I call mine "Gramma" and she was the only grandparent that I really grew up with. But whatever you call yours, chances are they were very important in your childhood and maybe even still today.
Although my grandmother has been dead for over thirty years, she is still a huge inspiration to me. In her 70s she went off to the local college to take classes in writing and politics and other topics that interested her. She had articles, stories, and even a song published. She had never written before that, so I have to say she is probably my biggest inspiration in writing my first book, which you are now reading. Somehow my grandmother knew that she could do anything she set her mind to and so she learned wig making, hat making, sewing, and pattern making. She became a costume designer in Hollywood back in the 40's. One time she needed some electrical work done on her house, during the years when she had no husband and couldn't afford to have it done. So she took an electrician course and wired it up herself. She was still doing electrical projects on her house when she died (not by electrocution). She moved doors and windows, and one time when I came to visit her she was up on the roof. "Gramma, what on earth are you doing up there?" I called out from below. "Oh, the house was too hot, so I am installing an attic fan." She announced it matter-of-factly as if she were baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies. She was like a pioneer of a new kind and even though she was gone by the time my first child was born, she was with me in spirit, showing me that I too could do whatever I needed to do, through my fourteen years of single parenting.
Here's some inspiration for you. Quite possibly the most difficult marathon on earth is the annual Leadville 100 held in Colorado. The course is one hundred miles of the most rugged, mountainous terrain. It begins at an elevation of 9,200 feet—one that would make most of us huff and puff just to get out of bed—then climbs to 12,600 feet. Half of the hundred miles is done at night and the athletes hope for a full moon. The participants have a motto, "You are tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can."
People who choose to pit themselves against the treacherous Leadville 100 course, and strive to finish it, are experienced super athletes. Grandparents raising grandchildren are experienced super parents. You are running a "marathon" of your own over challenging territory that is often in the dark, one you have run before. Unlike the athletes, you may feel that you did not have a choice, but when you love someone this much and they need you, you don't just walk away because it's hard or because it's inconvenient. It will take a lot of COURAGE and a lot of LOVE to get to the end of your trail and this book was written for those of you who intend not only to finish, but to finish well!
Jeanne, who's had two of her grandchildren since their mother was arrested for crimes related to her crack cocaine addiction said,
"I admit, I have some resentment toward my daughter for putting me in this situation that I had no choice about. Really, I had no choice, or at least I never saw it as such. If I wasn't able there might have been another choice. I don't know. It started out just for the weekend and four years later here I am. I don't remember making a choice."
Maybe she never felt she had a choice, but she did. Many people who could, do not choose to care for family members who need them. Although she feels she had no choice, this grandmother and many, many grandparents raising their grandchildren, have no regrets about taking them in. As hard as it might be at times, and some grandparents have been through some unbelievably horrible, nightmarish situations, nearly all grandparents that have raised or helped to raise their grandchildren share a similar sentiment:
"Yes, it was hard. There were periods of such stress and anxiety that I hardly slept for months. I have had my heart ripped out of my chest in more ways than one, and I have sacrificed many things. But this one thing I know, if I had it to do over again, I would definitely do it again. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life." ~A grandmother
A GIFT FOR YOU!
Why do grandparents feel this way in spite of all the challenges involved? Grandparents report many benefits to raising their grandchildren including:
A very special bond with their grandchildren because they see them every day
Gratitude for the extended years of parenting, getting a second chance to do it right
Knowing they are making a positive difference for someone they love
Enjoying the abandon that children and teens display knowing they are fully loved, noticed, and accepted, something grandparents may have been too busy to offer the first time around
The peace of mind they have knowing their grandchildren are safe and fed and loved
The kids bring youth and energy back into the home. They make you laugh 'til you cry and they keep life interesting
Grandchildren introduce you to things you would never consider doing otherwise. They look at life in fresh new ways and they love that you love them.
Excerpted from COURAGEOUS LOVE by Laura Montané Bailey. Copyright © 2013 Laura Montané Bailey. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Great Gift Exchange.................... 1
Chapter 2 Shattered Circles.................... 28
Chapter 3 CIRCLE ONE: Picking up the pieces.................... 69
Chapter 4 CIRCLE TWO: Family Gatherings.................... 97
Chapter 5 CIRCLE THREE: You Are Not the Boss of Me!.................... 130
Chapter 6 Do the Hokey Pokey.................... 170
Chapter 7 Unbreak My Heart.................... 207
Chapter 8 Is This Normal?.................... 237
Chapter 9 Plugged In.................... 277
Chapter 10 Wrapping it Up.................... 292
Recommended Reading.................... 309
Reference Sources.................... 317