First, Happy Adoption Month!

Secondly, though it may seem like we’re super serious a lot of the time, what with the calls to the local PD, psychiatric hospital stays, running away, my meltdowns, and other stuff, we actually do have a pretty fun time at our house. We camp, we take road trips, we had a great summer vacation to Chicago this year, we dance a LOT (I am the reigning Just Dance champion in our household, for the record), we listen to music, we cook together, we play board games, we swim, we play with our awesome dogs, and we have a fabulous dress up closet.

Some of this fun happens, because we’re just fun people, and some of this fun is very deliberate on my part, because it helps to build attachment with my kids without them really being conscious of it. If they’re having so much fun that they forget to be on guard against attachment, then it sneaks in and starts to build within them before they know it. What is my sturdiest weapon in the “sneaky fun” strategy – ticklefests. Not kidding. Ticklefests combined with dog piles are like a super secret weapon. Ticklefests, combined with dog piles, combined with pillow fights are like the Excalibur of the adoptive parent’s toolbox. I wish some wise person had told me this early on, which is why I’m telling you. I actually learned via Dr. Daniel Hughes’ PLACE model, which has been very good for our family. The “P” stands for “playfulness,” thus the ticklefests.

For example, at our most recent visit to the psychiatrist, my 12-year-old, who has been with me 5 1/2 years, explained that though intellectually she knows I love her, and that she’s safe and taken care of,  she doesn’t really trust any of that. She often doesn’t believe her life is real or that I’m real, which is extremely standard for kiddos like mine. It’s tough for them to trust that they can actually just relax, breathe, and be kids.  So, since that visit, at random times during the day (like when I’m cooking dinner) I’ll look at her very seriously and say, “Hey is this real?” and tickle the crap out of her until she falls on the ground in a giggling mess. I love the giggling mess part. I will also throw in some pokes to the tummy and pats on the head just to mix it up, all the while asking “What about this? Can you feel this? Does this appear real? I just want to make sure.” It is awesome.

Every once in a while, I can actually tickle her away from the tipping point of a violent fit. This is dicey, and sometimes tips her right over the edge, but I’m getting better at knowing when to use it.

If you have found wonderful ways to help your kiddos, whether they’re adopted or not, I’d love for you to share them here. No fair keeping them to yourselves! Check the resources section for the helpful things I’ve found along the way, and have a great, fun-filled day.




2 responses to “Excalibur”

  1. Shelley, I’m very glad this works for you. It wouldn’t work on me though. As a child I was tortured with tickling to the point where I literally shut down the ability to be tickled until, as an adult, I learned to trust someone enough that my tickle reflex came back. I’ve met many foster children who have the same problem. I’m very grateful that your children feel that tickling is a loving gesture.

    1. Dawn, yours is an excellent point. With all of my kids, I’ve had to test out various strategies just to ensure there are no triggers involved, and I should have explained that. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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