Tag Archives: parenting

A Supporting Hand or a Pointing Finger?

Here one adoptive mother tells us about her recent experiences of post adoption support……..

I was recently asked to “take adoption out of my parenting equation”. The person asking the question meant well, doing her job as a family support officer(not part of post adoption support but we were referred to them by our social worker), working with families in crisis, she really was there to help. It was during our second meeting she made the statement. During our first meeting I’d sat for a draining two hours and divulged the intricacies of our often dysfunctional family. I’d felt up beat when she left, ever hopeful that she would be able to provide the support I’d been brave enough to ask for.

coffee cupAnd then there she sat, my knight in shining armour, clutching the warm cup of coffee I’d kindly made for her, asking me to surmise what parenting my children would be like if they weren’t adopted. The words hung between us, heavy and hard, much too hard for me to swallow. My eyes prickled with tears; yet again, as I contemplated “did I hear her right?” I glanced side ways to read my husband’s face, hoping his expression may clarify.

The lady on the sofa opposite obviously wasn’t sure if we’d understood so shuffled her neat little bottom in my sofa and said,

“What I took away from our last meeting was, that you place too much emphasis on your children being adopted.” And then titling her head in my direction, “especially you”.

My stomach knotted a hundred times over, creating a burning sensation which flushed my cheeks, blotched my neck and no doubt more of my clothed skin below. I felt sickened by the intestinal contortions and gasped as I muttered my astonished reply  “I’m not sure I understand, I really don’t think we can do that, HOW can we forget our children are adopted?”

Unfortunately for her, and me, I was not in the most positive of places before the meeting, and now as her comments thumped me bang smack between the eyes, I had to remove myself and attempt to regain composure.

I paced the bathroom, gulping air, hoping it could be the miraculous cure for my disposition, and slowly my breathing regulated and I felt a faint level of self-control. Digging my fingers into the corners of my eyes and smoothing them along my closed lids, I cleared the remaining tears and returned to the lounge. I got through the remainder of the meeting without crying, for that I feel a sense of achievement.

Post this event I was initially very upset, but what I actually soon became was very angry, seething in fact.

How dare someone dismiss the last seven years of my life with such a flippant remark. For seven years I have read, researched, talked, listened and learnt something new every day. I have never returned to full time work, understanding that my children need consistent support, outside of school, to help them feel safe and ensure they have the greatest opportunity to grow and develop. My marriage has suffered, in some ways irreparable damage, yes we’ll get through but the scars will remain. Me, I’m a mother first and some days that’s it, no more. Yes, that has now got to a point where it’s often not enough for me and the sadness of that is blurring my vision. But damn, I am a good mother, a very good mother. Ok I’ve been a little off track recently but, that’s why I’d asked for help, I’m aware I’m not able to do my best at the moment.

And yet the help was standing there pointing the finger right back at me, us, and seemingly saying, your children don’t behave and that’s your faulty.

After this distressing meeting, we then endured a number of months where we allowed this support access to our lives, only to have the accusatory finger pointed continually in our direction. Why you may ask did we go along with this? Because having asked for help we felt we needed to at least seem grateful. We were on our knees and struggling we were afraid to say “this is not right”. However the final straw was still to come, an incident which snapped me into the realisation that the support we were being given was actually causing much more damage to our lives than help.

The support lady offered to take both our children on a Christmas outing. She collected them early one morning and with a couple of other children she worked with, whisked them off to a children’s centre for some fun activities, followed by a lunchtime trip to MacDonalds. They were delivered back some hours later with a cheery wave.

Following the festive season that same neat little bottom sat on my sofa and yet again pointed her damning finger our way.

My children had, in her opinion, behaved in an exceptionally terrible manner on the outing she had supervised. Her idea of terrible was fighting, answering back, repeatedly not listening to her and generally being very disruptive.

Inside my head I was screaming “hello, welcome to my world” but outwardly a jumble of worlds spilled from my mouth, “…control issues……feelings of insecurity….vying for attention….early life trauma” as I gasping for air, she came back with the line, the one that made it very obvious she had no understanding of what she was dealing with.

“I’m sorry but I work with children who come from far worse situations than yours and they don’t behave in that way”

My response was vehement “How can you say that, you don’t know that at all, you don’t know their full history”

It was decided at that meeting that we would no longer pursue the support of this person or her team. In fact we’ve not seen any one from Post Adoption Support since. They are waiting for some possible therapy to materialise from CAHMS. This therapy I’m again not sure is actually suitable, and we will consider at great length before we allow our child to participate.

We’ve been left feeling even more isolated than ever before, unable to even trust those that are supposed to be there to support us. Knowing that our own understanding and knowledge of the challenges we live with far out strips most of those we come into contact with in a professional role. The only good to come of this whole experiences is that we have regained confidence in our own ability to parent our children.

Working with The Emotions

Todays blog piece comes from Tweeter @ivavnuk who felt compelled to write something after reading our post by Colby Pearce last week.

I’ve just read the excellent Colby Pearce article (read here) where clearly the experience he has in writing is shining through with it being so well crafted, but it is an excellent insight too.

Its something I had wondered in reading adopters and prospective adopters accounts through Twitter. There are people who clearly meet that balance but there are people who seem wide of it.

My experience of childhood trauma is that the affects of abuse run deep and are very likely to be carried into adulthood, and being able to take a place in society isn’t helped by having your ‘failings’, ‘weaknesses’, and ‘abnormalities’ emphasised. For clarity ‘failings’, ‘weaknesses’, and ‘abnormalities’ were how I as a ‘worthless’ child viewed my issues – and not a view I am ascribing to anyone else.

Was it Jackson Brown who sang, ‘don’t point out my failings – I know them too well’ ? Certainly a child with critically low self esteem is ripe ground for taking support that they are worthless and full of problems.

Yet there seems a prevalent mindset, perhaps borne of trying so hard to understand a child’s issues’ ?, where those issues are taken to be that child’s defining feature. A new behaviour is noted and seems almost too readily ascribed to their trauma. Like Woody Allen mistaking a leak through his shirt pocket from his pen as being a malignant melanoma – it may just be an ink stain.

It may even be a melanoma – but not malignant. Some effects of trauma can be carried into adulthood and not be defining or over encumbering.

mahakala-6armedIn fact they can be empowering. Nietche said that we start life as a camel, and the role of a camel is to have burdens put upon it. The camel then goes into the desert where it is transformed into a lion – the bigger the burden, the more powerful the lion. The rest of his transformative analogy is beyond the scope of this waffle – but the point is that your wounds become the source of your wisdom. Accessing that starts with knowing that you are not solely defined by those wounds, or at least seeing value in them. Another of Nietche’s phrases was ‘Careful you cast out your devil – it may be your best part’.

I’ve read where people talk with frustration of the root of their child’s behaviour being mistaken by others for normal development rather than trauma. Normalising it is the phrase.

Yet there is a balance there in not making your child feel they are abnormal and there is merit in others seeing them as normal.

It reminds me of the story about a mental health institute patient who was convinced he was a spy and awaiting some important mission – a stream of doctors had tried to convince him he wasn’t and encountered deep conflict over it, the patient becoming more distressed and the doctors more certain he needed to be contained. Then one day a maverick therapist snuck into his room and said ‘Look, I’ve not long before they find me – I know who you are. Whats important is that you tell no one you’re a spy, just take your place in society, and if we need you – I will return, have you got that ?’ The chaps is said to have agreed, been validated, and took his place in society and lived happily ever after.

The goal is to have a happy life amongst other people.

Trauma I’m familiar with seems to have the greatest impact at an emotional level. Understanding and labelling that seems of secondary importance, perhaps even of only mild interest or even no importance. Great big emotions sweep you away regardless of what your conscious mind might understand. What does help is coming to understand that you are the space in which those emotions play out and not those emotions or thoughts they are manifesting through. ‘You are not angry – you feel angry’ is an empowering change of view – it creates space so that choices about what to do start to arise.

I’m new to parenting – but I”m not knew to being burdened in early years. When I read twitter I have no adoptive parenting expertise – but I can read it through the eyes of my childhood.

Some of it surprises me.

I had no idea parenting was a competitive sport to some until I entered the arena. I heard a comedienne on the radio say “before I had children I didn’t know what was important – now they are here I know that the only important thing is that they are better at everything they do than my brothers children”. This even seems to extend to trauma – I’ve read exchanges that seem to be competing with how hard it is to endure their adopted child’s behaviour.

That’s a similar worrying view to the prospective adopters you see, whose agenda or desperation for having a family seems so prevalent that it must outweigh their ability to put a child first. Surely the most basic component of being a good parent is being able to put someone else first and to not see a situation in terms of yourself ?

The Buddhists say: ‘We all drink from the same stream of consciousness – don’t piss in the stream’

If you have an opinion on something you’ve read here, or somewhere else, and feel you’d like to have your say please contact us theadoptionsocial@gmail.com or here

Photographic Memories

My husband and I are not yet adoptive parents, but we are parents and step-parents.

We are in the early stages of our journey to add to our family once again, this time through the slightly less conventional method which we know as adoption. We are doing this by choice, and we are excited.

Anyone who is familiar with my family life stories blog will know that I have two passions – photography and nostalgia. These two things are inextricably linked, for it is our photographic images which capture our memories, and thereby become sources of nostalgia in their own right. And there’s the rub.

swing-framed

 

We live in the age of social media. Our lives are shared online with friends and family, and the pride and love we feel for our birth children is displayed with regularity and gusto in the form of photographic images across our profile pages. The birthday parties, the sandcastles, the football matches and the first day of school. Brown eyes peeping through ruffled hair in the early morning, maternal kisses and the joy on their faces as they win the egg and spoon race.

And yet the parents of adopted children are unable to indulge in such liberal exhibitions of their joy. The need to protect the identities of their babies must trump the desire to show them off.

And so my instinctive yearning as a photographer and professional maker of life stories must be suppressed.

I wonder how it must feel for an adoptive parent to resist the temptation to share the faces which inspire them, when every other blogger on the web is brandishing their angelic offspring without a care? Will I simply learn to accept their faces must remain hidden, or will this separate them from the children whose faces are freely visible? I suspect I will struggle with this, but time will tell.

My family have many challenges ahead. We need to integrate a third incoming branch into the already-integrated family unit; we must learn to parent our adopted children in new ways, without creating inequality, and we must become accustomed to using caution in our photography and how it is shared. Let us hope that the pixelated faces will understand.

Helen Spencer is the 46 year old mother and step-mother to four children between the ages of 25 and 6 years old. She is also the Founder of family life stories website, www.SaveEveryStep.com, and blogs about her adoption journey at http://woebegonechild.wordpress.com

 

Tips for Dealing with Aggressive and Abusive Behaviour

Some Weeks back I (Sarah from @puffindiaries) asked for some help with aggressive and abusive behaviour from my youngest son. He was, and still is on occasions, hitting and lashing out, plus speaking in a very aggressive and rude tone to all members of the family.

 I want to thank everyone who gave such useful and understanding advice, so much so that I thought it would be a good idea to summarise it all here.

A No Fuss Consequence from @SuddenlyMummy

A consequence for certain behaviour is decided on and communicated to your child, for example removal of certain privileges or use of items, maybe the computer or a Playstation.computers

If the child reacts further or behaviour escalates then have a further consequence in place for this eventuality.

When the behaviour occurs the consequence is implemented immediately, with no discussion. If possible the item to be removed is moved away.For example placing the Playstation in a cupboard.

The consequence should be consistent and the same each time, so the message is clear.

This helps you stay in control and keep calm as you already know how you will react to the situation.

 

Positive Reinforcement from @LinsCummings.

Use a chart or reward system for when the child does not react with the negative behaviour.

Make the chart achievable, for example if the behaviour happens daily reward the child for reaching the end of the day without being aggressive and the gradually extend the length of time.

Use lots of positive comments alongside the chart, praising your child for unrelated positive behaviour as well. For example if they play well with another child or sit calmly for an activity.

Allow the child to select the reward, with your guidance to ensure it is something they wish to try hard to obtain. Sometimes it is best to start big with your rewards to ensure motivation but decrease in time as the child becomes more accustomed to the required behaviour.

Always ensure you and your child knows clearly how the reward system works, use visuals or a poster with rules on so the child understands. The child can be involved in designing or decorating the chart or making the poster to help them feel inclusive in the process.

Make sure you can put the time in and follow through with all rewards or consequences.

 

The Removal Technique from @Fran_Proctor

When you see behaviour you find unacceptable, remove the child from the room for a pre – agreed amount of time. This is about removing attention from the child.

Before the child is allowed to return to the room, explain to them why they were removed and ask them to apologise. If they do not apologise they do not get to return to the room.

Remember to be consistent, calm and to follow through and as @FranProctor says “Keep it simple, straight to the point and move on.”

 

Dealing with Abusive language from @3beesandahoney

Ignore as much as you can and respond to the child only when they speak to you in a polite manner.

If you do respond use calm and understanding voice and try to recognise your child’s emotions, these phrases from @3beesandahoney are perfect ‘thank you for letting me know that you are finding it hard to cope at the moment’ or ‘I am sorry you feel like that, just remember you may be feeling mad at us at the moment but that doesn’t stop us loving you’. DSC_0038

Help the child find silly acceptable words to replace the particularly abusive or sociably unacceptable words. This is particularly useful for the school environment or social situations. Again @3beesandhoney suggests the word “fudge cake” and we have certainly used the word “fudge”.

 

Final Thoughts from @newPyjammas

Some children find an instant consequence easier to understand than having to wait for the impact of their behaviour. This can help if a child has difficulty with the idea of cause and effect.

Allow family games where the children are allowed to be play rough and tumble with each other or being load. I love her idea of holding up sheets of newspaper so that children can smash through with their fists.

A great idea for colleting praise is to give out pasta for good behaviour that goes into a jar, when the jar is full you can cook something yummy with it.

 

So lots of great ideas for dealing with aggressive and abusive behaviour. I think it must be said that not all approaches suit all children, especially children that have lived with early life trauma and who struggle with attachment. However, lots of these methods rely on several of the same ingredients and these ingredients are imperative for successful parenting no matter what.

Stay calm,

Be consistent

Be clear and keep it simple,

Once it’s over move forward,

Don’t beat yourself up if doesn’t quite go as you would have hoped, this is a tough job and you’re doing your best.

 

 

Tips for Settling a New Placed Toddler into Family Life – Part 1

This post been written by @LauraLikes2Read  and she is also one of two mums at the blog Two Mums? Two Kids?

2mums I was recently talking to someone on twitter about tips for settling a child into your family. It has been 6 months since introductions ended, and my daughter moved in, so I wanted to reflect on what I felt had worked for us. I am writing from the perspective of a working parent, whose partner is the full-time carer. Our Daughter was roughly 20 months old when she moved in. I recognise that not all of these tips will work for everyone, especially where there are specific needs from particular abuse or neglect, but I hope that some of the advice might be useful.

Routine
We kept routines as strict as possible, taking a lead from her foster carers, but amending it slightly to suit our day. The main things we changed were adding a bath every night and adding an extra snack in the morning (she is more active with us than she was at the foster carers). We Kept mealtimes and snack times consistent, we kept the bedtime routine the same every night (bath, stories and milk, saying goodnight to her toys, musical wind-up bear).

At night we always say to her “Mummy and Mama love you very much, sleep tight and we’ll see you in the morning when you wake up”.

We would plan visits and activities to ensure that she would always be able to eat and sleep at the same times. As she has settled in we have been able to flex things a little around the edges.

routine

After the first two weeks, I had to return to work. I am lucky that my job enables me to be home every night to eat dinner at 5 (apart from the odd day where it hasn’t gone to plan). Mummy and Squiblet enrolled in a couple of classes and started regularly attending playgroups.

Squiblet likes the routine of specific activities on certain days of the week, and there are days free for other fun with friends or relaxing(?!) at home with Mummy!

 
Closeness and Separation

Initially, our daughter dealt with her recent separation by clinging on to her (new) Mummy for dear life. With the help of a hip seat  Mummy soldiered on with day-to-day life. It meant that Squiblet could be carried around, and a few chores could still be done. She became noticably calmer when on the hipseat. Cooking from scratch went out of the window – but we had a well-stocked freezer!

 We really made an effort to be with her as much as possible in the early days. If we left the room we would make sure that we always said “goodbye, I’m just going to the bathroom, be back soon” often we would need to actually count “I’ll be back in 10 seconds: 10…9…8…”bricks

If people visited we always made sure she said goodbye to them before they left – which meant on a few occasions holding people hostage until she had woken up from her nap! We would also ensure that when she said goodbye to people she was aware that she would be staying with us – and not leaving with them.

 She didn’t really play with any toys, she wanted to be carried, or walk with us holding her hands. We worried that she wasn’t “playing on her own enough”, I’ve heard other parents express similar worries with their newly placed children.

We consistently and repeatedly met her need for closeness, and after a few months (about 3) she started to engage in more self-directed play.

It makes sense that if her world had just been torn apart she would need to feel safe again before being relaxed enough to play.  It might feel tough to have to give that much of yourself in the early days, but we have found that it has paid off.

We coped by sharing duties and always ensuring that one of us could have a shower without being interrupted (difficult though, when she was shouting “LOOK MUMMYYYY!!!!” and knocking on the door). I think those small episodes of leaving and returning were necessary to reassure her that we would always come back.

Rejection
bedtimeWe felt it important that Squiblet could transfer her attachment to Mummy as a priority, as Mummy would be the primary carer. At first, Mummy did the majority of dressing, nappy changing and putting to bed. Squiblet would often push me away and didn’t want me to put her to bed, or be left with me to have a bath.

She was dealing with making her attachment to Mummy, so I patiently waited and didn’t take it personally. It wasn’t always easy, but I had faith that I would grow on her eventually!

After about 3 months I noticed that the cuddles she gave me were genuine affection, not the “clinging on for dear life” that had come before it. We ask her who she wants to put her in her cot at naptimes and bedtimes – it’s almost always me now! She reverts to Mummy when she’s poorly.

She also went through a stage of not wanting to say goodbye to me in the mornings and would pull away or hide her face.Again, I tried not to take it personally (in fact as a good sign, that she cared that I was going) I would kiss her and tell her I loved her and would see her again at dinner time. These days when I turn the key to come through the front door after work I am met with happy squeals of “It’s Mama!! It’s Mama!!”, so it was worth waiting for.

Part two of this post will be published next Monday 29th of July.

A Wife’s Frustrations

My husband and I chose to adopt together.

We were assessed together, approved together, celebrated together.

We’ve had ups and downs since our child was placed. All sorts of changes have happened in our lives, and our life together. All sorts happened before our child was placed, but we were stronger together than alone and we stood strong. Now I feel like we’re less together than we were. And I was so unprepared for these feelings of loneliness, more than that actually, because there’s also frustration and annoyance.

In the darkest times, I want to walk away, or for him to walk away. Sometimes it feels like life would be simpler without him around.

My husband is a good man. He loves me and I love him. He adores our children, but finds our young son hard to parent. He struggles with being therapeutic. He is not, and never has been an angry man. My husband was always laid back and it frustrated our assessing social worker at times. But son knows what buttons to press, and gradually over the years, husband has become older, more tired, less accepting and more easily frustrated.

We have learnt the hard way that our parenting needs to be different to that of our parents. (Click to tweet)

Trauma picks holes in traditional parenting. Discipline gets kicked to the wayside by trauma. Trauma takes over everything. It leaks out of the pores of our children, and like a silent mist, it hangs all around us, and settles on our skin, and seeps in, deep within.

It feeds on our own insecurities and anxieties, and sucks away our confidence not only as parents, but people.

Now we are trying to repair and heal. We cannot fix our son’s trauma, but we can learn how better to cope with it’s presence in our lives.Cropped candle smoking

I get easily frustrated with my husband’s difficulty in accepting this trauma. I find it hard to accept my husband’s inability to change his parenting style. He tries, I know he does. But he needs to try harder before our son is lost to a path too narrow for us to rescue him from together. I try to support him, but frustration takes over.

In those moments I want to blow out the candle that is our relationship and do it on my own.

We’ll get through this I know we will. But I wonder if there will be enough of us left at the end to keep us going together after our son has flown the nest…

Many thanks to our first anonymous contributor for this post.