How can we support our children and their children?

Carol’s daughter and son in law decided to adopt, but Carol needs your advice…

I didn’t know how difficult things would be when my daughter told me she and her husband were going to adopt a child. It was about 5 years ago, that their now 6 year old son moved in. I don’t know all the details about why he was removed, but I know it wasn’t the best start for him, despite a great foster carer.

He obviously has some difficulties, and understandably so, but I thought that after so long he’d feel settled. My daughter recalls awful events to me – when her son is violent, having meltdowns, refusing to do things, generally being naughty…but I can’t reconcile this with the child I see.
I don’t see him that often because of the physical distance between us, but when I do see him he’s mostly polite, well behaved – a little contrary on occasions, but pretty much like a typical child of his age.
In fact, sometimes I feel they don’t give him enough freedom, and keep him too close, but she tells me it’s important to help make him feel secure, the boundaries are there for a reason.

grandmotherBut I know she’s telling me the truth – I’ve seen how depressed and down my daughter is, I’ve seen the bruises she bears, I’ve heard the weariness in her voice, and I’ve seen the damage in the house.

I really want to support them all, but how can I have empathy for my daughter when I don’t see the behaviour she tells me of? Can I support my grandson in anyway to help him with coping with the issues? Should I consider some training so I can better understand? Is there anything out there for adoptive grandparents?”

3 thoughts on “How can we support our children and their children?

  1. Lindsay

    The fact that you are asking those questions is so fantastic. Your interest and wanting to learn more of how to be supportive probably means more to your daughter and son in law than you’ll ever know. In your letter, you could have been talking about my son, who is around the same age and has similar behaviours. I think the best things you can do is read about attachment, read some adoption blogs but most of all ask your daugther what it is she needs. What can you do to help support her, support your grandson and just be there to listen when she needs you to. It may not seem like much but it will mean the world to your daughter.

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  2. Rachel

    Hi Carol,

    Its so good to read your post, and I agree with Lindsay that you’re support and willingness to learn means more to your daughter already than you could ever know.

    I don’t know of any specific resources for grandparents although I’m sure they exist, but there’s more material on attachment and early trauma emerging all the time, as the field becomes more widely understood. Perhaps your daughter could pass on some of the things she’s been reading?

    To echo what Lindsay said, just having someone to listen in a non-judgemental way is going to be a huge comfort to her. When we adopted our three children I really struggled. Everyone around us was warm and enthusiastic, but most seemed to think that all the children needed was love and a good feed and all would be well. After 6 months or so I was in a really dark place and felt I’d lost my own identity. Naturally, everyone’s focus was on the children and their needs, and I felt guilty and selfish asking for support for myself. My mum also lives a long way away, but having someone at the end of the phone who was interested in ME helped me to recharge my batteries so I could be a better mum.

    Last year I gave both mum and my mum in law a copy of Sally Donovan’s book “No Matter What”, which describes her adoption experience and its impact on her life, and that of her children. I explained that I’d been too stressed and knackered at the time to explain how I felt, but it was like this. Exactly like this. They both found it really useful, and ultimately uplifting, and I can’t recommend it enough.

    The children have now been with us three years and we’re getting there. I’ve noticed how they behave very differently at home (safe, secure, relaxed, able to be themselves) and in “public” (hyper-vigilant, very polite, restrained). In their early lives they became very used to putting on a show of being on their best behaviour for unfamiliar adults (social workers, doctors, nursery staff ) as a way of keeping themselves safe. Ironically its only because your grandson loves and trusts your daughter that he’s showing her his angry, scared self and hurting her. When he knows you well enough to let his guard down and lash out at you too, you’ll know you’ve arrived!

    I think we all find that adoption isn’t what we expected it to be at all. I wish we all went into it better prepared, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I said goodbye some time ago to the family I expected to have, and learned to love the rather wild, bonkers, unique family that I do.

    Carol, you’re doing great. And I know your daughter appreciates your support. Good luck, and lots of love.

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  3. Sezz

    Hurrah for a family member that’s interested and wants to help! 🙂

    Actually, my Mum could have posted this question. She sees a mostly contented happy and delightful Missy. In fact everyone does, as she is pretty much always good outside the house. I put it down to her being compliant, wanting to please people and also not feeling safe and relaxed enough to express herself when not at home. Once at home, she will express her feelings!

    My Mum and others don’t always understand but at the very least my Mum is always there just to, well, be there for me. She offers great support just by listening or doing other things like ironing or cooking. If you would like a greater understanding of an adopted child then I could suggest authors such as Bryan Post or Dan Huges are informative reads, or any of the blogs linked to on the Adoption Social.

    Hope this helps.

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