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Chapter 14 – Are You Being Realistic? – Parent Discussion

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“I’ve decided to call him Norbert,” said Hagrid, looking at the dragon with misty eyes. “He really knows me now, watch. Norbert! Norbert! Where’s Mummy?”

“He’s lost his marbles,” Ron muttered in Harry’s ear.


At the beginning of Chapter 14, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover that Hagrid has gotten himself a dragon egg. After it hatches, Hagrid names the baby dragon “Norbert,” and chaos ensues as the dragon keeps growing and biting and coughing smoke.

It gets downright dangerous in Hagrid’s hut! The trio of students discovers the bites seem poisonous after Ron gets a bite. Ron describes Norbert as the most horrible animal he’s ever met. However, Hagrid in his longing to have a dragon, still seems to view Norbert as “a fluffy little bunny rabbit” and sings to him and chides Ron for scaring him.

“Sometimes we realize we may have been unrealistic about what we could handle, and our homes become as dangerous and poisonous as Hagrid’s hut.”

So eager to get children, we as foster and adoptive parents often dive headfirst into placements, and often chaos ensues. There’s bound to be chaos because of the trauma and newness everyone is experiencing. Sometimes there’s a honeymoon followed by chaos. Sometimes we realize we may have been unrealistic about what we could handle, and our homes become as dangerous and poisonous as Hagrid’s hut.

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There are many other areas in which we may be unrealistic in our expectations:

  • what our home lives should be like,
  • how our children should behave,
  • how our home should look for caseworkers,
  • what should happen on big days, holidays, vacations, etc.,
  • how others should understand our kiddos,
  • and the list goes on!

Your Turn:

  1. Have you ever taken on a placement and later realized you may have bitten off more than you could chew? What did you do?
  2. In what areas do you find yourself being disappointed by unmet expectations?
  3. How can you better prepare yourself for the future and start setting realistic expectations?
  4. In what ways do you see your children being unrealistic? How do you help them see reality in a healthy way?

Transfiguring-adoption-chapter14-parent-foster-care-harry-potter

 

Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

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Chapter 13 – Nightmares, Bullying and Encouragement – Parent Discussion

chapter13-parent-discussion-nightmares-fear

I have two major themes I want to discuss about this chapter: 
1) nightmares, night terrors and fear and 
2) the effects of encouragement when it comes to being bullied.

Part I: Nightmares

The visions Harry saw of his parents in Chapter 12 in the Mirror of Erised have brought up feelings of *fear and memories from the trauma he experienced when his parents were murdered, and now at the beginning of Chapter 13, he’s having nightmares. Ron comments about how Dumbledore was right about the Mirror of Erised being capable of driving a person insane. However, most people would go insane over the longing of what they wanted to see in the future, but Harry is being terrorized now by his past. For years, his subconscious had no reason or ability to really recall what happened to him before he ended up at Privet Drive because he never knew what happened. Now, armed with the knowledge of his history and seeing his parents in the Mirror, their murder and the cackling of their murderer are haunting his sleep.

Night Terrors and Bad Dreams

We have certainly had our share of haunted sleep in our house. Our youngest, who had no language at the time, had horrible night terrors, and his sister had and still has awful nightmares. We always had to be very careful what we watched or listened to throughout the day, because anything was fair game for inducing bad dreams all night long followed by dark eyes and bad moods for everyone in the house! BUT…nightmares could be talked about. One therapist even had our child draw pictures of nightmares and then turn them into something silly.

“A child can be heard screaming in the middle of the night but cannot be comforted.”

Night terrors, on the other hand, just terrorize everyone. A child can be heard screaming in the middle of the night but cannot be comforted. The terrified child thrashes, emits blood-curdling screams, sweats, pants for breath, and has a pounding heart. While his eyes were open, he didn’t really see us. We were helpless.

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Fear, Hypervigilance and Sleep

Our kids talked about things happening to them at night in the past. They were obviously afraid at bed time, not just of the nightmares or terrors that may come, but of who might come in while they were in bed. The fear was intense and led to hypervigilance (which can be a sign of PTSD–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a state of being aroused and constantly ‘on guard’ looking out for one’s own safety. This hypervigilance even led to kids doing whatever they could to stay awake.

“The fear was intense and led to hypervigilance…”

Early on in our adventures, when we had the younger two living with us and the older two doing visits in preparation to move in, we decided to go on a family vacation with all the kids and drive during the night while everyone slept. Oh, buddy, was that a mistake!! The two kiddos with hypervigilance did what they could (one slapping their face and the other screaming) to stimulate themselves to stay awake. We were pretty much going into convulsions by the time we got to our destination 6 hours away. We swore we were never going on a family vacation again (looking at our blog you’ll know things changed). It was not a good beginning to the trip!

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If a child in your house has difficulty sleeping, remember not only does it affect them and their moods and you and your moods, but sleep deprivation causes many other difficulties, with memory problems being one of the worst. This of course affects learning. You would do well to speak with your pediatrician about children who are hypervigilant and have trouble going to sleep. Many children find success by taking melatonin, an over-the-counter natural sleep aid. It brought on huge improvements in our household for everyone.

“Even though we know that kids are safe, they don’t.”

Time, trust, and the children learning they are safe will ultimately result in much healthier sleep for everyone. Even though we know that kids are safe, they don’t. While the youngest is on a prescription to help him go to sleep (more because of ADHD than fear), I’m happy to report all the older children now take melatonin only occasionally, and they usually alert us to their need for it, meaning they have developed a self-awareness of the fact that they are for some reason going to have difficulty sleeping.

What have your experiences been?

  1. Has a child in your house ever experienced excessive night terrors or nightmares?
  2. What have you found helpful in getting children to sleep and in dealing with nightmares or night terrors?
  3. Click hear to read Chapter 4: Disarming the Fear Response with Felt Safety from The Connected Child by Drs Purvis and Cross to get ideas and insight into helping a child feel safe.
  4. Share with folks here in the comments!

*For more about fear and memories of trauma, see my Chapter 11 Parent’s blog.

Part II: Bullying and Encouragement

“You’re worth twelve of Malfoy.” This sentence, in two slightly varied forms, appears twice in Chapter 13. Harry uses it first when he’s speaking to Neville after he has been bullied by Draco Malfoy. This piece of encouragement evidently makes its mark on Neville because he repeats it as “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,” the next time Draco teases him.

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Neville we know was being raised by his grandmother. He seems clumsy and forgetful and struggles with his studies, and has become an easy target for Malfoy, who tells him he’s not brave enough to be in Gryffindor. He’s on the verge of crumbling emotionally, but Harry gives him chocolate (which incidentally is good for kids with emotional difficulties in small quantities) and encourages him by reminding him that the Sorting Hat chose him to be in Gryffindor. He also reminds Neville of what house Malfoy was sorted into: Slytherin. Neville walks a little taller after that and turns that phrase back on Draco the next time he becomes the target of Draco’s bullying.

“We all face people who don’t like us or aren’t nice to us throughout our lives, and as parents, we need to give our kids the skills to deal with it.”

Foster and adopted kids can at times find themselves the target of bullies or just plain old teasing. I often find myself doing whatever I can to help them not get picked on by making sure they look well cared for and coaching them on social skills, but what really arms them is us consistently reminding them that it doesn’t matter what others think because we love them and are proud of them no matter what…that at the end of the day they are special, talented, and loved. We all face people who don’t like us or aren’t nice to us throughout our lives, and as parents, we need to give our kids the skills to deal with it.

Now It’s Your Turn…

  1. Do the kids in your care ever become the target of a bully?
  2. What do you do to prepare your kids emotionally for people who may not be so nice to them?

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Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

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Chapter 11 – Fear – Parent Discussion

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Fear

Chapter 11 starts with Harry quite nervous as his first Quidditch match is approaching. He has trouble studying, concentrating, and on the morning of the match, eating breakfast. Fear is powerful. It plays some important parts throughout the Harry Potter series and is something we will most definitely discuss many times because of its prevalence in the lives of kids who have been adopted or are in foster care.

“Fear is powerful. It plays some important parts throughout the Harry Potter series and is something we will most definitely discuss many times because of its prevalence in the lives of kids who have been adopted or are in foster care.”

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Researchers in the trauma field say that even children who were too young to remember being hungry, beaten, abandoned, neglected, and so on have feelings of fear, of danger, of hunger, of loneliness, etc. Only, unlike children who experienced these events at older ages before adoption or foster care, these infants and toddlers do not have specific memories they can address in therapy or with trusted adults as they get older and develop language. They do not understand why they have these fears; they are just there.

No matter the age of the child when they experienced trauma, fear will inevitably affect them greatly and interfere with adults meeting their needs and with education as well. Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child and one of my favorite experts in helping kids from hard places find healing, states that there are six major risk factors to developing what she calls “The Neurochemistry of Fear.”

Of the six risk factors, four can occur in loving, biological households: difficult pregnancy, difficult birth, early hospitalization, and trauma (medical, accidental, etc.). Kids in orphanages, foster care, and who are adopted often have had some or all of these in addition to one or two of the remaining two risk factors: abuse and neglect.

The Neurochemistry of Fear

The Neurochemistry of Fear–a reorganization of the brain and how it works due to harm–changes the way kids think, trust, feel senses, react to stress, and learn and how their brain develops. Years after they are in a safe, loving environment, a measure of their neurotransmitters will often show levels that are far from baseline levels, resulting in what Dr. Purvis describes as a beautiful child who looks perfect sitting in a classroom being told to read while their body is basically acting as if they have their finger in a light socket! This results in teachers thinking the child is being willful and defiant or lazy.

The results of the “neurochemistry of fear” are extremely far reaching and way beyond what can be tackled in this blog. I was once in a trauma training that rocked my world and sent me home looking at my children differently. If you were around a TV in 1987, you likely remember seeing the “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” commercials.

The trauma training I went to reminded me of those commercials. I believe the pictures I saw were from research that compared pictures of a 3 year old brain to the brain of a 3 year old who had experienced trauma. Wow! I went straight back to one of our children’s teacher the next school day and showed her. She borrowed the packet I’d received, and she, my husband, and I quickly began looking at the child in a whole new way and seeking out new ways to help.

The Good News…

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The good news is that the brain can be rewired. The hard part is it takes a long time and many different types of interventions, and these children will always be at risk and need help throughout their lives when new situations present themselves. As I said before, this is a topic we will likely revisit. Just remember, that beautiful child who appears to have no limitations likely has a whole host of undiagnosed, chemical and physical differences that can result in confusing behavior and reactions. Become an expert. Learn as much as you can. Be willing to experiment. This will give you and your child(ren) the greatest chance at success.

Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17