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Old 05-27-2012, 09:34 PM   #42
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Omaha, NE
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Re: Looking 4 Advice on Raising Young Kids from Abusive & Severely Neglectful Backgro

Ok, here is just a little more from my own experience relating to one thing you are dealing with - eating struggles. My dd2 was meth exposed. She is 3 yrs old, going to be 4 in August. We got her from the hospital at 2 days old, so she has no abuse/neglect since birth. There are always going to be issues/areas where we wonder Is this from the drugs? Or would she have been like this anyway? We are never gonna know.

She is skinny like a stick although in the last year has moved up from 5% on the growth chart to 15% and may actually be nearing 25% now for weight. Sometimes I think she has got to have some deficiency that keeps her from absorbing nutrients properly or something. I think her arms and legs are the same size around as my 15 month olds'. Seriously. He is 95% for height and 75% for weight. He is 33" tall and 26.5 lbs. She is 38" tall and 29lbs (and she just added two inches in the last couple months - she was only 36" tall since before he was born until a few months ago). I don't even have to readjust the car seat straps when they switch. Now, also my dh is 6'4" so my kids I birthed have giant genes, and dd2's genes are hobbits. So maybe just genetic, maybe the meth.

She has always had issues around food. Now, the history is that she screamed inconsolably for more than six months after birth. Absolutely nothing helped - stroller, swing, carrying, rocking, driving. She hated them all. I think the meth made her born with her nervous system switched on and we didn't know how to help her. She was bottle fed on a standard formula schedule, and we cut her night feedings out pretty early as our dd1 started sleeping through the night at only a few months old so we didn't know any different. Plus we needed sleep to remain sane. So I am sure now that at least some of the time she was crying she was hungry and needed to eat. But, since she cried non-stop we just had no clue. So, perhaps that contributed to her later eating issues. Perhaps not. We do the best we can as parents and we don't always figure everything out right away.

Anyway, we have always struggled getting her to eat. For the last while I have been trying hard to observe and purposefully think about how/when/why so I can understand better and parent her better in dealing with these things. I have realized quite a bit that I didn't before which helps me be less frustrated and have better strategies.

When she was a toddler and we would go to a restaurant she would just sit and stare around. About the time everyone else was done eating she would be ready to start and sometimes we had to go by then. I think for her eating takes a lot of effort and energy while for the rest of us it's just a simple task we do without thinking. In a new environment with lots of stimuli to process she just wasn't truly capable of focusing on the task of eating.

Now, at 3 1/2 she takes forever to eat many times and when we have a time constraint I would resort to putting each bit on her utensil for her and sometimes even feeding them to her. It's the easy way out. But, at her age she needs to be doing that on her own. Since she eats it right up when I do the feeding, it's not the food she objects to. It's the process of getting it onto her spoon/fork and getting it to her mouth. She just struggles with that so we are working hard and specifically on teaching her those skills until she is comfortable doing it. I think part of it is she doesn't want to touch the food (like use one finger to help get the food onto the spoon). She is funny about messy and texture, etc. Sometimes the problem is that we have given her a fork and she needs a spoon to feel confident doing it herself. Once we realized that we are much more attuned to the type of food and try to remember to give her both a spoon and a fork so she can pick which would work best for her.

Our general eating rules for our house are that Mommy or Daddy serves the kids a very small portion of what we are eating. They have to eat that and then may have more of whatever they would like. This was never a problem for dd1. For dd2 this can be huge. So we do various things depending on the circumstances. If we have no time constraint she just has to stay at the table until she has finished her food. If we do then we put it in the fridge and at the next snack/meal or when she asks for food she gets the same plate back. Even if everyone else has moved onto eating something else for the next mealtime she has to finish that before she can have anything else. If it will be yucky when reserved or for whatever reason, I will instead when everyone else is done and has left the table set a timer for 5-10minutes depending on how much she has left to eat. If she has not finished it before the timer goes off than she loses out on something (i.e. if it's dinner than she might not get her book read to her at bedtime, if it's a different meal than she might lose out on a fun activity her siblings are doing.) You can't force a child to eat, but these things provide an extra motivation. So, if she really, truly just can not eat any more or finds the meal abhorent than she has an out. It's her choice whether she would rather not eat that food or miss out on something. It is very rare that she doesn't choose to just eat it after all. I also think that sometimes it just helps her to have everyone else gone from the table so she can focus on eating better. Now, your kids come from a much worse abusive situation and I don't know if our methods would be appropriate if food has been withheld, used as manipulation, etc.

As a note, we also tried the just leave it up to her; kids will eat when they are hungry strategy. We have heard that so often and are willing to try pretty much anything. So we let her eat what she wanted and she took a grand total of 2 bites in the entire day. She is already a stick; we don't want a ghost. Perhaps on kids without issues that might be true; I don't know. It was not going to work for her.

I have also been looking into sensory processing disorder. This is great:
http://www.sensory-processing-disord...checklist.html It has given me several insights about dd2. One of them is regarding hunger/full being sensory inputs that I really don't think she can process.

Also, as I mentioned before she is very verbal/language oriented. So we have spent a lot of time talking about how we need to eat at eating time. And why, so we won't be hungry as soon as we get out of the house. Pointing out when other family members are getting done with their food and eating time is going to be over. It might be obvious to most kids the how/why of eating at mealtimes, but this has helped her.

One last thing; I know this is like reading a book. For the last couple years we have noticed that she gets in either a positive or negative cycle sort of, but couldn't figure out how/why/how to help her into the positive cycle. She would have weeks/months where she was eating and sleeping and pooping, and behaving well, etc. and then it would just sort of implode and she wasn't doing any of those things (she has had BM issues since she was a baby.). So the first realization was that it was all connected. If we were frustrated with eating, we could help her by helping her get back to sleeping well and pooping well. At different times it is different areas that sort of get her jump started back into the positive cycle.

So, it has taken us over three years to come this far in understanding her and how she works! Hopefully somewhere in all that will be something that sheds even a tiny bit of light on something for you in Ashlyn.
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