Tag Archives: learning

Course review – Caring for Others, Caring for Ourselves

Today’s review is of a bespoke course for a local authority, delivered by Kate Cairns – our very own Vicki, also of The Boy’s Behaviour attended and this is what she thought…

Since The Open Nest’s #Taking Care conference in October, there has been an emphasis on self care in many of the social media channels that I use as an adoptive mum. This is great and shows that we are beginning to believe that looking after ourselves is key to parenting our children as best we can. It’s wonderful and encouraging to see the photos, and hear the ways in which adoptive parents are taking time to care for themselves.

I was thrilled to be offered a free place on ‘Caring for Others, Caring for Ourselves’, a short course that aimed to provide an understanding of ‘Secondary Trauma’, and would be delivered by none other than Kate Cairns – formerly of BAAF, and well known author.

Surrounded by 6 other adoptive parents and 33 foster carers, I attended the course, led by Kate and her husband and immediately felt like this was someone who truly understood. Kate and Brian have parented a number of children and have experienced pretty much every behaviour and challenge that you would expect to have. And beyond that, Kate herself developed secondary trauma – although of course at the time, couldn’t see that.

The course whizzed by, but Kate gave enough information on each short section to ensure that an understanding was gained. There were plentiful opportunities throughout the day to ask questions and clarify any issues.

So we covered trauma, toxic stress and the nervous system.
We used our hands to see exactly what it looks like when the connections between our frontal cortex and the rest of our brain are broken – flipping one’s lid. (Based on a hand model by Dan Siegel).
We thought about survival versus safety, escalation and de-escalation, and something called Five to Thrive – respond, cuddle, relax, play and talk.
And then we looked at the impact of trauma, recovery and resilience and secondary trauma.

I found it interesting to thinking about secondary trauma in terms of my support network – it doesn’t just affect my husband and I, or ever our wider family network, but can also affect teachers, doctors, therapists and social workers, each of whom generally work in those fields because they have compassion and they care. When they seemingly don’t care and lose that compassion, it’s not necessarily because they’re working against you (although it often feels like that) but it could be because they are suffering from secondary trauma too, and they just can’t see it.

The day ended by talking about training, support, therapy and self-care, and confirmed everything I know about looking after myself. I found Kate’s term PIES a good way to think about self-care: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual factors all play a part in personal resilience.

I found this short course so useful and informative. I met other adoptive parents in my area, I chatted to foster carers about their expectations and experiences, I talked to Kate Cairns about The Adoption Social, and I know have access through Kate Cairns Associates to connected learning opportunities, including an online learning module on Secondary Trauma. If your local authority can commission a similar course then I’d highly recommend attending.

To my wife…

Today’s post is written by an adoptive father, who wishes to remain anonymous.

My wife does it all really.
I go to work each day. I come home, eat dinner, bath the kids and put them to bed, and carry on like this day after day. At weekends I get a glimpse of how my children interact with each other and their mother. I get to see some of the behaviour that wears my wife down each day, the booksstruggles that mean she’s asleep by 9 on the sofa, and the abuse that is hurled at her and makes her weep into her Chablis in the evenings.

My wife, she’s the one who reads the books, researches online, joins in message boards and forums, uses twitter for support, she’s also the one who goes on the courses run by our local authority. She knows, and she learns and she feeds back to me, and I struggle to comprehend it all, not because I don’t want to, but because it’s so bloody hard to accept that these little people have endured so much already in their short lives, and it’s doubly hard to accept that adults – people in charge – subjected MY children to such crap beginnings.

I have the utmost respect for single adoptive parents – doing it themselves, without someone to tag in the evenings when it’s been too much.
But mostly, I have respect for my wife. I have my own demons that I’ve had to overcome, but she, well, she had all those physical investigations during fertility treatment. She fought to get us into the adoption process – it wasn’t an easy ride. She put her all into learning, reflection and supporting me through the self-examination involved. And she parents our children to the best of her abilities.

She is my rock, and my love, and despite the hell our kids put her through, she is the best mother for those kids. She’ll be reading this, and I hope it helps her realise (and all the other parents out there) that although many days are shit, she is appreciated, loved and needed.