My experience of CPV

Continuing with our Sore Point week on Child to Parent Violence, today we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from Single Adoptive Mum @fishercoaching on her experiences of CPV and how she dealt with it….

shutterstock_178086416As a single adoptive mum I knew it would be tough, but I hadn’t realised just how tough.  No one can explain to you how it feels the first time you meet your child or the fear that first night they stay over.  I hardly slept as I kept worrying about whether or not he was OK.  I’m sure that all adoptive parents feel like this but as a single adopter you have no one to talk to in the middle of the night when you’ve checked on your son for the 4th time, and yes he is still breathing!

The first few weeks were hard, there was no honeymoon period really, other than a few days, and then things became really difficult.  Over the first few months things got harder and harder.  Yes, there were amazing moments when I remembered why I’d adopted but the tough times got tougher.

My little boy was 7 when he moved in and had spent a long time in care.  In his owns words ‘I wondered if anyone would ever take me in’, hearing those words broke my heart.  He was with one foster carer whilst in care and had built strong attachments to them.  The transition to living with me was very hard for him, part of him was so pleased to have a family (even if it’s only me and I don’t have a red front door or dog) yet part of him was terrified.  What he had yearned for, for so long was finally a reality and that scared him.

His grief and fear started to come out as tantrums.  Full blown tantrums that lasted anything up to 3 hours.  He would shout, scream, kick and punch.  He slammed doors, locked me out of the house and told me to take him back to his foster family.  It was so hard to stay calm, not to take it personally or react.  I was often left covered in bruises.  But underneath the fear I knew I had a lovely, kind, caring little boy with a beautiful smile and a lovely laugh.  When he wasn’t lashing out we got on well and were building a bond.  We spent hours playing outside and going to the park.  Outside he could usually control his anger and fear.  It was when we were alone that it all come out.

We were having theraplay which seemed to be working but I wasn’t convinced that the therapist really understood my little boy.  Following her advice helped sometimes but not at others.  She told me not to call anyone for help when he was kicking off and that I had to deal with it myself.  As a single adopter it was hard not having someone to hand over to, but I followed her advice despite my gut telling me it made things worse.

After about 4 months of being covered in bruises he completely lost it one Saturday morning.  As usual his outburst came from nowhere and after 3 hours I decided to go outside to calm down and protect myself.  Shutting myself in a room hadn’t helped, he just kicked and kicked at the door and I was worried he would hurt himself.  I’d already tried everything else I could think of.  In tears I rang his sw and she arranged for someone to come round and give me a break.

That day was a turning point.  The following morning I sat down with my son and we talked.  That was 9 months ago and the violence did lessen as he became less scared, but it didn’t stop completely.

In January of this year I went to a course on NVR and that changed our lives completely.  I understood more about where the fear and violence was coming from and have been able to work with my son to help him.  He doesn’t like being that upset and angry and wants to stop feeling like that.  Slowly I’ve been able to help him understand his feelings and be able to express them.  The outbursts still happen but they are usually very short lived and further apart now.  Very rarely does he kick or punch anymore, just the shouting which is much easier to deal with.  I try to just stay silent and not to react at all until he calms down and then we talk about it.  It’s hard but it is working.

CPV is so much more common than we think and it has been brushed under the carpet for too long.  His sw didn’t believe me until I showed her the bruises.  I really believe that the violence was my child’s way of expressing his distress and the grief he was going through after leaving his foster carers.  He needed to know that I really was going to be there for him, no matter what.

Living with CPV is hard and it can feel like your fault, but you can get through it.  You’re not alone.


4 thoughts on “My experience of CPV

  1. Ingrid

    It’s so very frightening for children and young people to feel angry and upset ,thank you for sharing your story it’s important the reality is spoken of and pleased things are better for you and your little one

  2. Sarah

    Thank you Ingrid. It is frightening when it happens, as much for the child as the adult in my experience.

    Talking about it is important so that people don’t feel alone MummyDibling, I completely agree and hopefully the focus this week will really help families.

  3. Adoptive mum

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing. I feel that the therapist really gave you dodgy advice – I have a son with similar issues and there is no way I could have coped with his tantrums by myself. I know others who use neighbours and trusted friends to help out. It is so exhausting, scary, and dangerous that I cannot believe that dealing with it alone is feasible or healthy. I am glad things are better now.

    We got our son a medication that is a mood stabiliser, risperidone, that has changed things completely for us. We were headed to an adoption breakdown, and outbursts became really scary and dangerous. Some days we were just hurtling from one tantrum to another, leaving us hurt, exhausted and traumatised. The therapy we did didn’t seem to make things better and none of the school interventions seemed to work either. My son was miserable, isolated, angry and upset ALL THE TIME. It was heartbreak for everyone. The medication took the tantrums away and have made him able to deal with disappointments (which was his biggest problem – anything not going how he wanted it to caused an explosion) and much, much happier.

    I will look into NVR, thanks to your description of it. I hope things continue to go well for you and your son.


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