Tag Archives: attachment

The A word

Anna WritesI’ve been off the radar for a little bit, partly because life gets oh-so- hectic at this time of year but also, and I think I have alluded to this in a couple of posts, all is not great in the older generation of my family.

I’ve become quite concerned about my mum, I thought she would struggle after the death of her mother earlier in the year- and if you didn’t know her you would think she was fine, but her hoarding has increased drastically and the anxiety that goes hand in hand with this is really impacting on her and those around her.

The aspects of her life that she tries so hard to keep under wraps, seem perilously close to the surface and it’s frankly, really sad. I feel at a loss as to how to support her. Despite working in a relevant field and to an extent ‘understanding’ the origins of her distress, being connected to someone seems to make it that much harder to be objective.

I have always had a bit of an inverted relationship with my mum- she has lived her whole life with physical and psychological challenges (real and imagined) and I never felt that there was much room for my, or anyone else’s ‘stuff’- but that was ok, I had good friends, something she isolated herself from.

In more recent years I began to understand that I had felt responsible for her wellbeing, that she was the child and needed those around her to hold her in mind, to listen to and reflect her experiences, to show an interest in and care about her.

And then I got to thinking about attachment.

Attachment is the buzzword of this generation, it’s always topical (especially this week with the new NICE guidelines coming out…) and the theory can be a really useful shorthand to understanding some of the hows and whys we develop in the ways that we do. From babies to adults we can find attachment questionnaires and measures and can plot ourselves into an attachment style(s).

Attachment ‘difficulties’- it seems to me, are often considered as something that resides solely within our most vulnerable children- phrases and concepts such as ‘attachment resistance’ and ‘attachment disorder’ situates the problem very firmly with the child.

We are asking a lot of children to attach to people they don’t know.

We are asking a lot of children to communicate in a clear and sophisticated way about the things that the adult world has done to them.

A lot is asked of adoptive parents in terms of therapeutic parenting capacity and a willingness to educate themselves and engage with the dominant discourse of attachment.

I am very much of the belief that behaviours which may be associated with attachment difficulties, are a communication of distress, of confusion and of fear- they are survival strategies that children have developed and may take with them throughout their lives. And/or…they become part of a reparative process with people who can offer them something that their birth families couldn’t. Well, at least on paper..

I can see how my mum didn’t have her needs accurately met by her own parents and to an extent I can empathise, but sometimes it’s hard to know that the person who wanted children so badly was not accurately assessed as being capable- that her own attachment issues were never (and as far as I know) have never, even been documented.

I’m very much ambivalent, although I find that at different points in my life the way that I relate to others oscillates, so I’m probably a little bit avoidant too…and disorganised- heck, I think we are all on a continuum between the different axis of attachment.

But is my attachment style dictated by my adoption status? I’m sure being given away has impacted on my sense of trust in the world, I definitely don’t feel that I had a ‘secure base’ from which to explore life. From my perspective I experienced trauma before and after the adoption order was signed- the fact that I was placed with people who were unable to meet my emotional needs seems to me, more likely to be at the root of any ‘attachment difficulties’ I may have experienced.

And now I’m a parent too- so I think about my own ways of relating to and parenting my children- how will my experiences impact (or not) on them? I am far from perfect, but I do hope to continuously reflect on my own experiences of being parented and try and do it differently.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I think attachment isn’t really the child’s problem- it is the responsibility of adults to build up positive experiences and connections where there might not have been any. Our own attachment patterns and styles have a huge impact further down the line and these are equally important to consider.

Anna. W

 

Me and my Shadow

Today a mum describes her relationship with her son. 

Sometimes he just reaches out and strokes my arm, sometimes I turn to find him stood in my shadow.  He will follow me around the kitchen, a floor space of two metres square, I wonder from cooker to sink to chopping board and he follows.  Other times he will enter the room I occupy and just stand there or he’ll seek me out for a hug. When I’m gone he worries about what will happen to me. When I’m in his presence, but ask for some space, he worries about what will happen to him.

Recently he punched me very hard; it left the almightiest of bruises on my upper arm. A lot of anger and regret lay between us following the event, on both sides. Being in his presence, to begin with was hard, but the rebuilding of our relationship required I plaster on my smile and get on with it.

Every time he reached for my arm, to manoeuvre my hand into his, another stay close thing he likes, holding hands, I would recoil in pain as he grabbed the very spot his blow had landed.  Every time he laid his head against my body it was against the same spot, I smiled sweetly through.

If I’m really honest inside my head I often flinch when he reaches for me, I just don’t always show it on the surface. On good days my brain connects and reminds me that he must not feel rejected.

Some days however I am stifled by the constant need to be in my presence and my body jitters as he reaches out. Often he will have taken me by surprise so I pass it off as shock, a jump in my body at being unaware of his intentions. I’m sure he knows though, he’s sensitive to my every breath.

If I sigh, exhale air, he enquires about my well being “are you alright?” he anxiously asks.

If, I’m quiet, “are you alright?”

Often “are you cross with me?”

I love this boy with every fibre of my being; he is an incredible young man. The emotional journey he has travelled is huge and I know that he is very much attached to me; we have achieved the ultimate adoption trophy, attachment. However it still doesn’t solve all. In fact, what I once thought could  bring some sort of a full stop to our worries and troubles actually brings greater daily challenges.

This is not the attachment of a confident child with well balanced self esteem. No this one, hates himself and his life, regularly. So feeling attachment towards me brings him so many more worries and insecurities about himself and his relationship.

The best way he knows how to see if you really care is to test you. The best way he knows how to be in your life is to physically be in your life. He needs to remind me constantly of his existence, just in case I may forget him.

For me, there is no chance to forget, even when alone I’m often pondering what the next step in our lives will be.

“I wonder what I can do to help him with this?” or “maybe if I try this, it would help”.

It’s been a long summer, with little space for me, but whilst at times it’s been intense and occasionally disastrous, I’ve learnt a lot about my boy in that time. We will return to school with increased knowledge and understanding of his needs and hope that this will improve the support he receives. I hopefully will have a bit of time to myself, without my constant shadow.

The author of this piece has asked to remain anonymous. If you too would like the opportunity to write a piece anonymously, please email us theadoptionsocial@gmail

Autism or attachment?

My son is 3 and a half. He came here at a year old, and until now we’ve had a reasonably comfortable time. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all been easy, but the tough times were relatively expected given the moves that this child has had in his short life.

Now though…
He doesn’t want to play, he wants to help with the housework.
He likes to line up his cars and animals, rather than play with them, and gets really cross if they get knocked out of line.
He isn’t very affectionate.
He repeats noises over and over.
He won’t make eye contact with either me or my husband.
He gets really upset if we have even the slightest change in routine.
He hates us saying ‘No’. It’s not just a toddler tantrum that ensues, but instead a full blown meltdown.

Naturally, I started thinking about Autism. These all seem likes traits to me but my health visitor thinks I’m wrong. She’s observed him at his nursery and said he has great social skills with the other children so can’t possibly be autistic. But equally, she won’t say that these symptoms are ‘normal’ or could be of something else.

I started looking online, and now I see that some of these quirks can also be signs of an attachment difficulty. They’re very similar to autism and it’s hard to make the differentiation. So what now?
The health visitor doesn’t know much about attachment disorders, but is quick to rule out autism. My GP won’t do anything as she says the health visitor knows us best, and he’s so young to diagnose with anything.

Have you experienced similar? How did you get a diagnosis of autism or attachment? If you can suggest anything for this mum to try, please leave a comment below.

Thanks Dad

Early last year we met our second child for the first time. Just one week earlier my dad walked out on my mum after 33 years marriage for another person. I was totally unprepared for the impact this would have on me and my wider family and more importantly, my growing but delicate immediate family.

 

At the age of 4 I lost my best friend (6), my mums younger sister to leukaemia, her death was never explained to me. Relatives sobbed around me but no one told me why, unwittingly misguided in their attempts to protect me. Therefore I have a deep seated belief system that people leave, people leaving is very bad and no relationship is certain – except those I had with my parents and sisters. I have avoided loss at all costs ever since. It comes in many forms such as being unable to listen to radio competitions as I cannot bear to hear peoples pain when they lose, moving right through to the extreme of shutting down and resisting the urge of walking away when people are dying. I am not proud of this and I have only fully begun to understand the impact of my first and subsequent losses.

It took until the events of this year to understand why I am able to avoid loss in its many guises yet be able to safely hold my first sons ultimate, most painful loss with strength, gentleness and a lot of thought. My counsellor eloquently pointed out that ‘there’s no bloody way you’re going to let what happened to you, happen to your children’ (she’s great I love her!).

“Both my sons have been well and truly rejected by their birth parents and this last year has given me a rare and valuable insight into how traumatic and deep that wound really goes – and for the first time ever, I’m scared of it.”

As an adult brought up in a consistently loving, stable family, I have never felt such loss, such rejection and abandonment when my dad left. It has torn away all my carefully built up layers of protection that surrounded any feelings of loss and exposed it to cold harsh air. It is painful and I have swung from anger and depression through to manic laughter and back again. Its going to be a long journey back to see what my new wider family will look like and our subsequent relationships, but what my dads leaving has also done has highlighted to me my sons losses. Both my sons have been well and truly rejected by their birth parents and this last year has given me a rare and valuable insight into how traumatic and deep that wound really goes – and for the first time ever, I’m scared of it. I had the good fortune of getting 33 years of my parents together, wanting me, wanting their lives together before it all crashed around us taking down part of my identity, my belief system, my self esteem, my ability to stay present and even my support network in the process. On days when it overwhelms me, I wonder, how will I get my two beautiful boys through this pain especially on those days with my eldest when I can already see it.

Dads ill-timed leaving meant that my attachment to my second son is slow and sometimes painful, his loss is exposed right alongside mine and I have had to dig more deeply than I ever thought I could to survive the past 9 months. I’ve been trying to bond with my son and therapeutically parent my oldest, alongside dealing with a suicidal mother, shut down sisters and a newly absent father. It has shaken my belief in my ability to hold my children losses for them, which I’m sure others submerged in the adoption world will agree, is a vulnerable state to be in.

We are told adoption is all about loss but I’m not sure I fully  appreciated what that really meant until I was emotionally exposed and open to it.”

I have hope that it will inform me, make me a better parent, strengthen my resolve and keep me going when times are black however, I have a tiny insight into how they may feel and with that has brought a lot of fear. We are told adoption is all about loss but I’m not sure I fully  appreciated what that really meant until I was emotionally exposed and open to it. I do know, that like my children, I am a survivor and once some time has passed, I’ll be using this experience, this unwanted life lesson and I’ll be a better bloody parent because of it, so thanks Dad, my sons will benefit from your life altering decision and for that, I am grateful.

Very many thanks to our anonymous blogger this week for sharing her story. If you have a post that you would like us to publish, please do email us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

Managing Loss

Today one mum shares a story of loss…..

We adopted our son around a year ago, when he was 11 months old. During the introduction weeks he was the happy, smiley boy we had been promised, securely attached enough to his foster mum that he would happily leave her, knowing that he would be returned safely home to her and his foster brother.

It all changed when he started to realise that he was not going to return home.

Of course, because of his age, there was no way of explaining to him what was happening so we watched ‘our son’ suffer with chronic diarrhoea, become whingey and incredibly upset and it was, for us extraordinarily difficult that he did not want to be settled by us ‘his parents’, what he wanted was his mummy!

It was extremely hard because, we knew, logically, that what had happened to him, being adopted, was for the best, but as a mother I simply wanted to give him back to his foster mum because that was, at the time, what would stop him from being so sad. For a while, people kept telling us that he was so settled with us, because his smiles returned, but I still felt that inside he was suffering.

He became attached to me and would panic when I left him, which broke my heart; because he had been a little boy who was happy to share his time and laughter with others, but he didn’t trust that I would not do what his previous mum had done to him.

This is not, as it seems a sad story though, he settled happily with his new mum, dad, big sister and old dog and settled incredibly well into nursery, when I returned to work, part time. He is, in himself, a great advertisement for adoption as he is a funny, cheeky, almost 2 year old, who people instantly adore.

ManagingLossWe did recently, however, lose our beloved dog. She was aged 14 when we adopted our little boy, but he instantly loved the enormous bundle of fluff that she was. She was a little disturbed when we adopted him, as our 5 year old little girl was beyond crashing into her with her doll and pushchair by that time, but we taught him to treat her gently and with respect. We unfortunately had to have her put to sleep one night, and similarly as with the adoption, we could not explain to him, as we could our little girl.

At first he didn’t really notice, as she was often out for a walk or staying with grandparents. His behaviour then seemed to change. He became whiney and cross and his behaviour deteriorated. I was at the end of my tether, by the end of the week, as I am sure other people with toddlers can understand.

It was only then, however, that I sat back and realised that I had lived through this behaviour before. He was experiencing a painful loss and was again lashing out, through his inability to express and comprehend his grief.

I don’t really know whether he experiences loss in a more dramatic way, due to his memories of his first loss – the adoption (he was taken away from his birth parents immediately). I am hoping that he will not experience any more losses for a while now, although we are moving house this week, which I fear will unsettle him too. Hopefully as he gets older, he will be able to discuss and express his grief and we can support him more easily through any difficult situation. I wanted to share with others that, whilst I am incredibly glad I adopted my son, how difficult watching him suffer was. Other people felt that it would be easy adopting a baby as babies don’t understand what is going on around them, but it was for precisely that reason that it was hard.

Living but not engaging…

Meet Eddie.boys

Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Delightful smile. Loves nature.

He came to us aged 4, with his two brothers, one older and one younger, after a little over 2 years in foster care. Before that his life was full of trauma, fear and anxiety.

His foster carers treated him as the golden boy. Always delightful. Always getting his own way. A joy in the company of the string of social workers   and other adults that passed through his life. His foster carers doted on him. Meanwhile his elder brother was always getting blamed for things that went wrong.

So, fast forward nearly 6 years, and we’re struggling. We’ve had some support after we pleaded for help. A Safebase training course and a series of 8 Theraplay sessions with him. The conclusions from social workers were that he’s happy. Well adjusted. Attached. Feels like he belongs.

We don’t agree.

Here’s what we observe, day to day:

– He’s happy when in control and organising everyone else. But ask him to do something, anything, he doesn’t want, and there’s a stamp of his foot. His nose goes in the air. His head turns away. And he stomps out of the room.
– His relationships with us and others are really superficial. They have no depth. Cuddles are forced and unnatural. Emotion of any form is lacking.
– He struggles to say how he’s feeling.
– He makes a beeline for the new person in the class and becomes ‘best friends’. For a while.
– He is delightful in other adults’ company, as long as the relationship doesn’t need to be deep.
– He can’t name anyone he’d call a friend and struggles to know who to invite to a birthday party. His peers prefer others’ company over his.
– He finds it very difficult to retain instructions and carry them out.
– He finds it difficult to stay focused on work in school, preferring to organise his group or the teacher. He seems to feel it’s his responsibility to sort out everyone else’s problems.
– He can’t see the mess in his own room – but he can pick out a butterfly across the garden and is happy to point out where other people have fallen short.
– Nothing can ever be his fault. Ever. It’s always someone else.
– He does tasks in a half hearted way, doing the minimum to get things done. He’s not interested in doing the best he can at anything – homework, trumpet, cricket, cubs, packing the dishwasher,… mediocrity rules. But he’s very intelligent.
– He can’t tell the difference between reality and fiction – his recollection of the day’s events often bears no resemblance to what really happened. It almost seems as if he really believes his version and will argue to the death that something happened when clearly it didn’t. But he struggles to think creatively when it comes to writing a story.
– He can’t see the impact something he has done has had on someone else. He will say sorry, but this really seems to be because he thinks it’s what he should say, rather than a heartfelt apology.

It’s like Eddie is going through the motions of day to day living, but not really engaging with anyone or anything at a deep level.

So, what do you think?
Any ideas?
What should we do?

How can we persuade professionals that Eddie needs support?
What kind of thing might help?
Do you know a child like Eddie? I certainly do…
Have you any advice for this adoptive father?

Inspired Foundations – Attachment and Trauma Workshop

A course review by Sarah from The Puffin Diaries

I was recently invited to attend an Attachment and Trauma Workshop run by Inspired Foundations.  Based in the Midlands, Inspired Foundationswas established with the aim of providing services to parents and professionals who live or work with children who are looked-after or adopted, as well as those considered in-need or vulnerable.” 

Inspired Foundation

The course I attended was aimed at those working with children who struggle with attachment and early life trauma, and most of those in attendance, on this course, were teachers or staff working with schools. Jennifer Jones, the founder of Inspired foundations delivered the workshop which lasted for three hours, half a day.

The course started with an introduction to a child’s journey through care. At first my thoughts were that this seemed like something very obvious that others would know and understand. However, it dawned on me that I take for granted this knowledge and it actually made very good sense to explain this process. It introduced the attendees to the many different environments a child can be moved between, whilst in care and before adoption.

Jennifer then gave a clear and comprehensive description of the meaning of trauma and how this can affect a child.

I was impressed with the level of detail she delivered on the workings of the brain, enough for people to grasp a good understanding but not at a level that became complicated. I have read and heard this information a number of times and still found this explanation to be beneficial and useful. It’s always good to come away with new facts as well, and I did. I was unaware before that the frontal cortex of the brain cannot actual work at the same time as the reptilian part of the brain. Images of brain scans revealing the difference in growth and stimulation between a normal and neglected child, also created a notable impact.

Next we were then introduced to “What is Attachment?”  By using diagrams of a healthy attachment cycle and a disrupted attachment cycle, along with a clear description, Jenifer made this very easy to understand. This lead to a discussion on what a child requires for a healthy attachment, and the first of a couple of interactive group activities.

Three groups were asked to consider the needs of a child of a certain age, and write them down on cards. These cards were then used to demonstrate the building blocks of a child’s life with a healthy attachment , placed on a board, side by side, they represent a firm foundations. Jennifer then removed some of the words and the cracks and holes in a neglected child’s foundations were excellently demonstrated. I thought this visual aid was extremely effective.

This was the first of a couple of interactive activities we completed, all of which I felt were excellent aids to the points that Jennifer was trying to convey.

I also particularly like the example she used to help people understand how a child must feel about being removed from their birth family. She asked us all to imagine that we were offered a better life to the one we currently had, larger house, more money, compliant children and adoring partners. Then she said we could only take this better life if we accepted that we could never return to, or see people from, our existing life ever again. I thought this analogy was really powerful.

She then went on to discuss the types of behaviours that children may display in school, explaining the symptoms of insecure attachment. Again a lot of this information I already knew but it was very helpful to hear it again and also helped to understand how it might present in an educational environment. The final part of the course went on to propose strategies to support these children within school.

All the suggestions that Jennifer gave were simple and well considered. What I really liked, and I think was most appreciated by those in attendance, was that none of the ideas required a large amount of resources to be allocated to them.

Suggestions even on how to alter the language used when communicating with a child could make such a great difference to their schooling experience.

On the whole I found this course to be an excellent, comprehensive and authoritative introduction to working with child with developmental trauma and attachment issues. Jennifer delivered it with an obvious wealth of knowledge and understanding, but also a sensitivity which I feel is born from her own experiences as an adoptive parent. I spoke to a number of the attendees, all of whom had found the course very informative and helpful. My only regret is that more schools don’t see the value in allowing their staff to participate in such training.

Inspired Foundations also does workshops for parents and carers at very reasonable prices, find out more here. They also provide on site training and act as consultants to professional organisations. In conjunction with this article our readers have been offered a special discount when booking a course, see below.

Inspired Foundations are offering a 20% discount on their Attachment and Trauma workshops to parents, carers and professionals working with children. This offer can be used in conjunction with other offers or discounts. This discount does not apply to on-site/inset training bookings. Discount code is valid for workshops taking place before 31st December 2014. To gain this discount simply quote the code: ADOPTIONSOCIAL2014 when making your booking.

Disclaimer: Sarah attended this training course for free, however this review is honest and her own opinion.

 

Interfering in-laws

I never thought I would have the age old cliché of a horrendous mother in law as we have always got on well, but since our daughter arrived she has been like a different woman.

Grandma

She force feeds our child, both food and cuddles, she lies next to her when she has her nappy change, she has forcibly removed our daughter from my lap. 

When we confronted her she simply said “well my in laws were a nightmare too…get over it!”

This seems a strange response as it really means we just won’t see them much which all seems rather sad given that she is clearly besotted with our daughter (she used to email daily asking for her latest “fix” of videos and photos.

Maybe you think I’m being cruel? I wondered that too, but it’s the way she thinks she has a right to mine our daughter of love and attention which I can’t cope with. Our daughter is here in our lives for her benefit, for us to love and take care of her, *she* is the focus here, not her crazy grandmother.  And I get that she is excited, and she loves her etc. but messing with our developing attachment and altering the boundaries in our home just isn’t ok.

Eurgh. Rant over! Any thoughts?!

Have you encountered similar with your in-laws? Perhaps it’s your family that are interfering? How should this person handle the relationship with their mother in law? Add your comments and advice below.

The Family of Five – Me and my Blog

familyof5

 

MUM AND DAD PLUS THREE CHILDREN MAKES A FAMILY OF FIVE. HERE MUM TELLS HER STORY AND HOW SHE CAME TO BLOGGING….

I’ve been asked to write about Me and My Blog by The Adoption Social, I feel totally honoured because I’m not a writer, I’m not even particularly articulate or intellectual, I’m just normal, ordinary, I’m just me. I’ve been writing my blog for 2 years now. I’ve been an adoptive mum for 3 years. My husband and I adopted our 3 girls in the Summer of 2010.

Adoption is/was something I’d always wanted to do, I recall as a child telling my friends it was something I was going to do. It wasn’t necessarily the first choice for my husband, but once he’d learnt more about it he knew it was the right path for us.

We started our journey January 2009. We later spotted our girls in the children who wait magazine 4 months after we were approved to become adopters. 7 months later we bought them home. 19 months from filling in that first enquiry form with a voluntary agency to becoming a mum of 3.I knew quite early on that the girls were going to have some problems. I knew ‘something wasn’t quite right’ I just didn’t know what. In the Summer of 2011 our adoption order was granted. I hadn’t realised that this would also mean all of our social worker support would be withdrawn. The regular contact we’d had from social workers abruptly stopped. That’s when things started to get even tougher, only this time I had nowhere to turn for advice.

I found my self searching for advice online. It was this that prompted me to speak with our GP, school nurse, health visitor etc. By February 2012 all 3 girls had CAMHS referrals. I’ve blogged about CAMHS a lot, we do a lot of talking at our meetings with them, but I don’t feel we’ve actually done anything yet.

Getting support has been and still is the hardest fight I’ve ever fought in my life.

We also have the added complications of having adopted our girls from outside our local authority, in fact we adopted them from an authority over 200 miles away. If I’d known the difficulties and complexity’s this in its self would pose, would I still have done it? I honestly don’t know.

We don’t have the ‘regular’ issues that most adoptive parents I’ve met struggle with. We don’t have violence or aggression, we have compliance. Compliance is harder for some people to understand as you can’t ‘see’ it, they don’t want you to see the real them, they’re too scared. My children don’t scream ‘I hate you’, instead they smile, a lot, from ear to ear, and keep all of their real emotions locked away inside. We don’t know what’s going on inside, the worry’s fears and thoughts they’re having, which makes it so difficult to help them. We have very subtle levels of defiance, subtle enough to go unnoticed by the world but enough to control, manipulate and keep themselves safe.

They see everything, they hear everything, they give nothing.

We’re 2 years and 8 months in to our journey. It’s not what we expected, we’re not the family we thought we’d be, and we’re not the parents we’d planned to be. Its been a roller coaster journey with so many highs and happy times, but there has been more low’s than we could have ever imagined. Throughout our journey we’ve had ASD diagnosis, SALT diagnosis and attachment difficulties. At various stages throughout our journey we have been and are being seen by community paediatrician’s, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, ASD counsellors, GP’s, Mental Health counsellors, family therapist and psychotherapists, and yet we’re still working towards getting some real support for the girls and for us as a family.

We’ve lost many friends on our journey but we’ve made so many new ones, we’ve been welcomed with open arms by the world of adoptive parents who have been a great support to me this last year. Through all of this, we’ve still managed to ‘be a family’, we’ve shared happy times and made lasting happy memories, we’ve laughed and cried and grown, and as my baby girl would say ‘we love each other to Spain and back cause we a family aren’t we mommy and that’s what family’s do don’t they’.

Read more about The Family of Five on their blog  HERE
 Follow The Family of Five on Twitter @TheFamilyofFive