How to build on missing foundations?

As National Adoption Week is coming up soon there is a lot more buzz about adoption (and fostering) in general, which is good, don’t get me wrong. Each year more and more children are taken into care so naturally more foster carers and adopters are needed, which isn’t that great, but here we are. What doesn’t get enough buzz is the crucial part of the whole process – training, preparation and managing expectations for prospective adopters.

We have long past the time when unwed young ladies gave up perfectly healthy babies to avoid shame. I can’t keep saying it loud and often enough: the vast majority of children up for adoption these days are ‘damaged’ in many ways! It sounds horrible, I know, but it’s time we speak clearly! During our preparation training Social Workers used a lot of technical terms like ‘ambivalent attachment disorder’, ‘global developmental delay’ or ‘child would benefit from DDP’ and I didn’t have a clue what these things meant. I didn’t want to look stupid so I was just nodding quietly and secretly hoping they will not only explain these things in plain and simple English, but also give practical examples of how these things will play out in real life and how these technical terms will challenge me on a daily basis.

 

Knowing about it vs living it daily

I am fortunate enough that I haven’t lost anybody yet in my close family, so I can’t possibly imagine the level of pain and grief it can cause. I have attended funerals of distant relatives and I saw their raw pain, but I didn’t feel it myself.

In a similar way, the Social Workers who were delivering the training discussed a lot of case studies with us. They shared some horror stories from their professional experience and they tried their best to prepare us for the upcoming challenges, but! And there is always a but! The fact is, the professionals have no idea how it is to live with these traumatised children 24/7! Our SW is a particularly great, open minded and well seasoned Social Worker who has ‘seen it all’, but still, she has seen it all only, but not lived it all! And that is a huge difference!

 Missing developmental steps

So potential adopters are past the invasive assessment process, survived the Adoption Panel’s intrusive questioning and got the all so precious letter ‘You are approved to adopt‘. Searching begins and after some time the SW brings the picture of your future child. Your heartbeat misses a beat or two, then you start reading about their history. The reasons why they ended up needing new parents, the damage that has been done to them and the potential problems they will continue to have regardless of how much you love them!

For me personally, one of the biggest challenge in parenting somebody else’s child is not knowing their past accurately! Not knowing which developmental steps he has taken or has been taught (well) is presenting with an incredibly difficult situation on a day to day basis!

Does he understand the concept of sharing a toy?
Why is it not OK to just snatch things out of other’s hands without asking first?
What is the connection between you hitting me and you not getting any sweets?
What is a consequence?
What is a good behaviour?
Why is it good?

These are a few examples that every child needs to learn at one point. Your child might be a quick study or it might take a while. Either way, you know where you are at when it comes to these life lessons and you don’t try to teach them the correct breathing technique for running a marathon when they haven’t even mastered walking yet!

We, adopters (and other carers) do not have this information so we can only guess. Very often it’s a hit and miss. We can either assume he has conquered a particular step (in my hand drawn picture below it would be any white brick) and hope for the best. If he ‘handles the situation well‘ we can relax. If not, the SW report would say something like ‘child is not performing at age appropriate levels’ and then it’s up to you to figure out the whys and the hows.

Missing building blocks vs incorrect building blocks

What traumatised / abused / neglected children do to survive is to create their own building blocks. If it’s only missing, sometimes it’s a bit easier to ‘just find the exact block and fill it in’. We have these sometimes – for example teaching him how to use a fork properly or to say ‘please and thank you’. 

But when survival means fitting a round block into a square whole, it’s not hard to see how that might be a problem later on. Even if the child is taken into care straight from the hospital, damage is often already done (while the mother was pregnant). That is what I tried to illustrate with the green shaky ground. The yellow brick might be a ‘good one’,  but it is being built on uneven grounds. It might not seem like a big problem at the time so professionals who do the assessment on the child’s needs might focus only on the obvious big red ball, but further down the line the yellow block will affect your or the child’s ability to fit in a window properly.

Just to give you one example: our 8 year old is still bed wetting every night. The brief history is that he had poor and inconsistent care as a baby, his nappy wasn’t changed, he had some traumatic experiences in the bathroom. As a result he has learnt not to drink. In his logic no drinking meas no need for the toilet so no toilet monsters. But that also means his bladder is still the size of a baby’s and even if we constantly remind him to drink, he would either lie that he drank or put up a fight first, then drink anyways because he doesn’t want to have negative consequences, but then he wets and then feels shame and feels stupid so he gets even more creative at avoiding drinking. He has learnt to disregard his body’s signals when it comes to go to the loo so occasionally he has an accident even during the day…

Over time and with consistent therapeutic parenting and often with the need for expert input from professionals (play therapist, SENCO, clinical psychologist…etc) it is possible to lessen the dent in the wall, but according to studies some things will never be fixed. Disorganisation, for example, will never go away and you will never know what tiny thing will trigger it! They will be able to learn to trust their new parents, learn to rely on their new parents to help them, love them, keep them safe; they will be able to be great friends, be wonderful spouses, be excellent parents, be valuable and well respected members of society, but…

How to build up a traumatised child when basic developmental steps are missing? Feelingmumyet is an adopter of 2 older boys.
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Divided and Conquered by Our Child

I first heard the term ‘divide et impera‘ in relation to my ancient Latin history studies at the uni and I remember thinking it’s a brilliant military tactic that could be implemented in any loosing situation to turn it around and achieve victory. It has been used widely in politics and also as part of the power play among employers vs employees, but never in my wildest dreams did I consider the fact that one day my young adopted son would use this tactic to break the bond within my own family…

During the Adoption Preparation Course we were told about the Triangulation tactic, that traumatised children often use to feel safe and to gain control over a situation, especially when they feel out of control – which is, let’s be honest, MOST OF THE TIME!

They didn’t ask to be born.
They didn’t ask to be born to a mother with substance abuse while pregnant.
They didn’t ask to be born to a dysfunctional family who is unable and/or unwilling to care for them properly.
They didn’t ask for the abuse and/or neglect they received.
Despite all these they still didn’t ask to be removed from their family.
They didn’t ask for everything and everyone to be taken away from them.
They weren’t asked about the new adults in their life whom they have to call Mum & Dad from now on…

All these things ‘just’ happened to them!

Divide and conquer tactic was used by a child on her adoptive parents and what therapeutic response works for that

Triangulation tactic at work

I must admit I didn’t believe I could be fooled. Definitely not by a small child! I also believed my bond with my husband was strong enough to withstand any potential cracking. I believed that I was clever enough to realise what is happening around me and get a clear read on potential disruptive tactics and I believed I was equipped to prevent them before a major disaster develops. Well… about that…

Last Sunday I had a Big Revelation, which was followed by a massive Paradigm Shift in my approach towards my children, especially towards our oldest boy.

It so happened that we were coming home from church and were laughing in the car, all four of us. I got out of the car to have a quick word with a neighbour and told hubby to ‘just drive home with the boys, I will be there in 5.’ Five minutes later I walked through the front door only to be greeted by 3 screaming men! Husband was irritated beyond measure in the kitchen, 8 was smashing things in the dining room and 7 was crying because he was scared (of the smashing noise I think). What the hell happened??? How could a situation turn 180 degrees so fast and escalate to this level in 5 minutes???

Clearly everybody was in an irritated stage so there was no point me loosing it as well or even to ask what has happened. Operation Damage Control kicked in and as a first step I separated the 3 men into 3 rooms. 7 stopped crying as soon as the noise level went back to normal and he was fine after a quick cuddle. 1 down, 2 to go. I went to hubby first for answers. He said as soon as I stepped out of the car 8 started to ‘act out’ and attacked his younger brother for seemingly no reason. He had to park the car first before he could intervene and by then the kids were in full on fighting mode. They got inside the house and 8 turned from his brother towards trashing the dining room.

I went to 8 to hear his side of the story – that’s only fair. Naturally his cortisol was over the roof (I wrote about this fear factor reaction and the background of it a few weeks ago) so it took some calming tactics before he was able to speak. According to him ‘I didn’t do anything, he attacked me first’, which is untrue of course, but not an unexpected answer to be honest. The truth is he has neither a conscious idea WHY he started to fight or damage the house, nor the wisdom to know WHAT big feelings he had at the time.

In retrospect I can put the pieces together and paint you a really sad picture. For a long time the children have been passed around between birth mum, birth father (BF), mum’s mum, dad’s mum, mum’s friend, dad’s dad randomly and repeatedly, which of course caused huge anxieties for the children every time and whenever 8 was left with BF he was treated extremely poorly. So when I got out of our car poor 8 got transported back in time, to another city, another car, another mother ‘rejecting him’ and leaving him in the care (or lack of) by another dad. No wonder he freaked out!

It’s not you, it’s him

That Sunday I realised a few things. 8 was not ‘nasty’ to my husband! He was ‘nasty’ to BF! He was terrified of BF! He hated BF! He didn’t want to be near BF! He didn’t trust BF therefore he never did what BF told him, which in return just got him into more trouble with BF so you can see how the cycle just got worse with each meeting…

I also realised that 8 and my husband didn’t really have enough opportunities to bond and connect! During our play therapy and filial therapy sessions I was always with 8, while hubby was with 7. At that time that was the correct action plan, everybody agreed. But because I am the Stay-At-Home-Mum I have spent significantly more time with the children than my husband who works full time. I had plenty of opportunities to develop a good relationship built on trust and love and respect with 7. So the boys are much more responsive whenever they are with me. We have less and less issues when we are together, all four of us – amazing, how far we have come since Introductions!

But 8 has never learnt to see and experience my husband for who HE IS; 8 only saw BF and therefore projected all his negative feelings onto his new daddy. (shameless plug, I wrote more about this in a guess article to the Dad website, click here if interested)

So during our Sunday dinner I explained my theory to 8. He didn’t disagree, I really think he understood it. But when I said ‘from now on you and daddy should spend more time together’ naturally he freaked out. I can understand that; he was afraid of the unknown and he wanted the comfort of his mummy (me) instead of anybody else. Again, it was not against my husband per se, but it’s VERY hard not to perceive it as such – and I can also understand why my husband feels rejected, too.

Poor husband has been on the receiving end of much abuse from 8 and no matter how much love and caring he poured into 8’s life he never received anything positive back! It really is a vicious circle! In simplistic terms: 8 hates BF + doesn’t ‘see’ my husband -> 8 acts out when husband is around -> 8’s challenging behaviour is testing hubby’s patience and systematically empties his love tank -> with each encounter hubby has less and less to give while he gets treated poorly => the situation gets a little worse each time.

Paradigm Shift that saved the day

On one hand I can see the situation from 8’s perspective and it really doesn’t look good. He is scared and worried and therefore uses every method he can to feel safe. One of them is to put a wedge between my husband and I. And sadly I must admit I didn’t see it at all until now! He never used direct words, for instance, ‘but mum, dad said the opposite’ or anything obvious. Whenever they were together he ended up crying and screaming and often times I blamed my husband for loosing it. That’s not to say I am blaming it all on the child and hubby is all innocent, but slowly and surely 8 was able to create situations when I was angry with my husband for not being therapeutic enough and I failed to see how the situation was not maliciously, but still, manipulated. Again, of course, it’s not the case all the time, but since I recognised that this ‘thing’ is a real ‘thing’ in our life I noticed 8 acting very differently when he thought he was alone with daddy (while I was observing them from afar without him knowing).

I had to be clear with 8. I told him I do not blame him for his behaviour and we both love him very much, but he needed to understand that I will take daddy’s side, always and forever. I know it sounds harsh, but we feel he needed to know that this tactic will not work any more! But we didn’t leave it at this. Hubby and I came up with a plan to create scenarios where 8 had to be alone with daddy so they can get to know each other in a safe and fun way – in short segments to minimise the potential of a clash and maximise the emotional energy hubby can invest at a time. As a first step I told 8 to sit in daddy’s lap and they were cuddling for a good 15 minutes. I think it was a bit uncomfortable for hubby, but he did it anyways. While he was stroking his son I was ‘hovering’ around them giving him the narrative I learnt from the therapist (‘how lovely this feels, cuddling with daddy, this daddy is safe, this daddy loves you, this daddy wants you…etc). Soon 8 relaxed and while he was hugging my hubby for dear life he said BF never hugged him and never let 8 climb onto his lap. How absolutely heart breaking and tragic!!!

We have been doing this for only a few days, but yesterday 8 drew a picture with him and daddy (well, a small stick figure and a larger one without a skirt) and wrote ‘I love daddy’ for the very first time…

Divided and conquered no more!

Feelingmumyet is an adopter who felt her child used divide and conquer to stay in control and what therapeutic response works

 

Parenting Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Adoption is not what it used to be 30 years ago. I was an innocent small child back then, but from what I hear people still think and believe about adoption today makes me think it was all rosy and peachy and hush-hush. My friend and fellow adopter wrote a very good post last week about the differences of then vs now, please read it: The Adoption Contract. It was so true and powerful that I needed time to think it through before I wrote something again (hence no post last week)

This week there was quite a buzz about this topic in the media again; one from the BBC with the title Over quarter of adoptive families in crisis. I watched it and frankly got a bit upset when the reporter asked something along those lines of ‘don’t you think that these bad stories will deter potential adopters to come forward?’ 

Parenting Jekyll and Hyde is how it feels sometimes for Feelingmumyet and her adopted boys.

Early childhood experiences

Let me start by saying my child doesn’t have a split personality in a way the poor doctor in the title had it, however, it often feels that way. Ever since I first started digging into the minefield that’s called ‘Adopting traumatised children’, I can’t stop thinking about not only this story, but any fictional or real character who ended up having a troubled life later and wonder how their early childhood experiences shaped them into a burglar / abuser / killer / psychopath / addict / sociopath / serial liar…etc.

A few moths ago I wrote about this issue already in My Child Might Look Normal, But… and since then I came to realise that for me this is the hardest part of adoption. 

15 months into this placement (I know, some adopters get touchy when their adoption or family is described as ‘just a placement’ , but since we are VERY far from having an adoption order and legally they are NOT my children and I have no parental rights whatsoever only responsibilities I will continue to call it as such.) I think my boys feel safe, secure and loved by living with us. If their feedback to their SW is anything to go by they also believe that this is indeed their Finally Forever Family!

When I look at some random, yet in our Adoption World extremely important factors I must agree with the SW’s assessment: the boys are happy here! Before coming to us 8 (then 6) wouldn’t do homework even if his life depended on it and got often red-carded  in school – now he is at the top of his class. We can now walk nicely on the streets and I don’t have to worry even if he runs ahead or stays behind with friends that he will not come back to me. We even managed a few dry nights with him, which is a massive step for him. He has managed to say sorry – something even his therapist said he will likely not be able to do for a long time! We are in the process of learning ‘it was my fault’ instead of anybody else’s – again, a huge step for a child who was blamed for everything so naturally he has learnt to deny every little thing he did. Every now and then he is even able to feel sorry for somebody else after I really really spell it out for him in great details why his words or actions were hurtful. I could give you examples all day, but it’s sufficient to say he has come a loooooong way and we are extremely proud of him!

His ‘doctor Jekyll’ side

Now, that he feels safe and well looked after, his real personality has started to come through. We found that he is extremely funny and creative. I guess most parents would say that about their pride and joy, but 8 really has a wonderful sense of humour. He quickly became a bookworm and lately he started to make up his own, intellectual jokes. I must say I was well impressed! Academically he has impressed his teachers (when the topic is of any interest to him I should add) and demonstrated that he can work out complex correlations just by observing. One day we were talking about triangles and he was bored because he found his homework too easy so I explained Pythagoras’ Theorem and he understood it and could use it well! He was 7!

He is not a boisterous boy, more like a little softy who thrives on cuddles and kisses and holding hands, which makes walking into shops a lot more easy these days. Today after waking up he came to me, gave me a big hug and said ‘I am so happy my SW has picked you and daddy to be my parents!’ (yes, I also went aaaaaaaw) In school he often draws a picture of a happy family of four and keeps telling everybody ‘my mummy is the cleverest and beautifullest (sic) in the whole Milky Way Galaxy’. Aaaaaaaaaaaw! Which mother would not melt and be just a little smug about how wonderful and lovely her child is… Yup, guilty as charged 🙂

He has learnt to be kind and polite and adults give compliments pretty much all the time wherever we are about how lovely and sweet my boy is. These are the moments where I struggle the most, because I know his other side, too!

Suddenly he becomes Mr Hyde

In the beginning when people made such comments I would snap and give them a sarcastic response like ‘you think? You should have seen him 2 minutes ago when…‘ or ‘just tell him no and watch his reaction’. Nowadays I learnt to just smile with my mouth only, offer a quick ‘thanks‘ and walk away before I start a rant. Why? Because it’s not worth it; it’s not their problem! If they want to see my boy as a sweet little bundle of joy with the brightest smile and loveliest laughter ever then I shouldn’t ruin it for them! They don’t need to know that most of it is still a facade only! They don’t need to know that he is only behaving so well because he is terrified and once we get home he will surely let me know in the most unlovable ways that he was feeling a lot of things but happy!

Simple things like ‘it’s time to brush your teeth’ can turn into a 3 hours screaming meltdown and please don’t even start with ‘all kids do that sometimes‘ because, frankly, I don’t care about other kids! I care about my boys and my family only. Just because all kids do that it still doesn’t make it right or any easier for me when I am in the bathroom holding him in a big bear hug to keep both of us safe!

Not giving him a treat due to his poor behaviour can trigger a nasty ‘I hate you, you stupid xxxx’ in no time and once he is there he usually doesn’t stop at the verbal abuse. I can’t count the time my orchids have been thrown to the floor as a way of showing me his feelings ‘you are hurting me so I destroy things you like’. Currently he is only 8 and quite clumsy so his punches are not very painful, but I am dreading the day he gets older and stronger.

Of course he always calms down… eventually. Of course he always returns to his sweet little angel attitude and comes to me with his arms open for a big cuddle. But I can’t just switch personalities like clothes. I can’t just forget the things he has done moments ago as fast as I should.

When I am calm I do know his Dr Jekyll side is his true identity. I know his poor and unfair circumstances developed his Mr Hyde side and I do know in time, together, we can kill Mr Hyde. But on worse days I feel unless I also develop a second personality (someone who just doesn’t care about anything) I won’t be able to cope with this emotional roller coaster much longer and one day I will undo the safety belt…

Parenting Jekyll and Hyde is how it feels sometimes for Feelingmumyet and her adopted boys.

 

How my fears make me a better adoptive mum

This blog is mainly about my two adopted boys who came to us at age 5 & 6 following a very horrific adoption breakdown and here I try to document our challenges as we navigate through our new reality together. Recently I wrote about the Weight of Adoption on my children. However, in this post I will write a bit about one of MY biggest fears because that has helped me better understand where my traumatised children are coming from and enabled me to be a more understanding parent towards their needs and their approach to life.

First I need to give you a quick scientific background information. I haven’t studied medicine and I did not know any of it before we went on a Full Circle training course designed specifically for adopters and foster carers who welcome traumatised children into their life. So, in short and in a very simplistic way (please feel free to correct me if I misunderstood something):

How the Limbic system controls fear?

The Limbic system (see picture*) in your brain supports a variety of functions like emotion, behaviour, motivation and long-term memory and it includes among others the hippocampus, hypothalamus and the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions and emotional processing. Because of their un-nurturing environment in early ages my boys didn’t receive enough cuddles, care, soothing and therefore didn’t /couldn’t learn to regulate their emotions themselves. They still don’t know! Cortisol is a stress hormone that fills their brain when they experience danger, which pushes them to flight-fight mode. The cortisol overload makes them hyper-vigilant and they perceive everything a threat and once they are there their ‘rational brain activity’ shuts down and they are in survival mode. Basically they get into panic mode in less than a second! They don’t hear what I say, they are not able to perceive the environment around them, they can’t recognise danger, they don’t remember routines or what is acceptable behaviour…etc.

These things happen inside their brain, but on the surface you might not see anything! Sometimes 8 keeps smiling and his usual nonsense chatter fills the air and it’s very hard to recognise that he entered PANIC MODE until something triggers a reaction. Then I realise what I should have recognised 30 sec ago and then we begin operation ‘minimalise damage‘ and we start some calming tactics. Sometimes it takes only a minute, sometimes it can drag out for hours.

My irrational fear makes me appreciate their rational fear

This all makes perfect sense when you read it in a book or hear a lecture about it. But to remember it when you have a kicking screaming child running towards danger instead of away from it for seemingly no reason is entirely different! Yes, it makes no sense! Yes, it often catches me off guard, because I couldn’t in my sane mind imagine that this scenario would ever take place. It’s completely irrational, it’s completely stupid! And yet, here we are more often than not.

And now let’s move onto my fear. I am in my late 30s and consider myself an accomplished and intelligent woman with a good understanding of who I am, what I am capable of, how much I did already achieve and generally I would say I am quite adventurous and brave. But none of that matters when it comes to driving! I have an irrational fear of driving. Recently I think I figured out the reason (without attending a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy session that I was advised to take), but that’s a different story. Sufficient to say I have been taking driving lessons on and off for the last 12 years without much success! Yes, it’s stupid, yes, it’s completely irrational.

My only goal is to be able to drive to the shop and back alone when there is not much traffic, therefore my driving instructor (bless him, very patient and very professional) keeps making me drive the same route every week. Still, at the beginning of each session he asks me if I can drive there without him giving me directions and the answer is still no! I genuinely can’t remember which turns and roads to take to get there. I, for the life of me, just can’t remember! It’s very sad indeed. He simply can’t understand how is that even possible. But I can!

Parent's fear makes her a better mother to her adopted children.

Concentration and memory vs. panic and fear

As soon as I have to sit behind the wheel my brain is overloaded with the very same cortisol that pushes my boys to be hyper-vigilant and to perceive everything as a threat. Before I can start the engine my brain is already in panic mode. It takes all my energy and concentration to remember how to do the usuals (clutch, mirror, indicating, gear, handbrakes off…did I leave out something?) I can’t even do them in the correct order, let alone remember how to assess my immediate environment or, heaven forbid, prepare for the first junction ahead of me or see the road signs further down the road.

This week apparently I did something textbook style and I can’t even remember doing it! According to my instructor I joined a big mad roundabout beautifully, but I have zero recollection of it. The only thing I remember is ‘I don’t want to die!’ and ‘I don’t want to cause an accident’ and ‘what do I have to do to get out this as soon as possible’. Instead of looking at the road I am concentrating on the clock in the car counting back the minutes till my torture is over. At the end of each session he asks me ‘how do you think today went?‘ and all I can think of is ‘thank God I am still alive‘ and I really need to sit in the car for a few minutes before I can get my body under control again. I don’t want him to see me shaking so I wait till he drives away and then I stumble to the house, sit down on a chair and it usually takes an hour or so before I can say I am OK.

So, if it takes me an hour to calm myself down and I did have a safe and secure early childhood, how much more difficult it is for my boys to ‘just calm down’? I am able to verbalise my feelings, I understand the biological and chemical processes that cause this madness in my brain and I am trained in how to reduce the tension / drama / panic levels in and around me. But my 7 & 8 year old boys don’t!

it’s really not fair!

Not fair on them, not fair on people around them, not fair on my husband, who tries his best to remember these when we are in the middle of a massive meltdown, not fair on the teachers who don’t grasp my boys’ internal processes and only see a ‘naughty boy misbehaving again’, not fair on me who needs to keep buying new… well, everything really as both boys keep loosing everything (PE kit, school jumper, book-bag, water bottle, shoes, backpack, toys, pencils, lunch boxes – just to mention the school aspect).

In a sense I experience similar situations as my boys do on a daily basis. Because I do, I remember it well and can relate much better to my boys’ needs. I don’t fully understand it, but we have found a common challenge and it helps me to be more patient, less judgemental and occasionally more therapeutic when it comes to dealing with a problem differently. I understand the vulnerable position they often find themselves in because I have been there. I know how it feels when you really want to remember and do the right thing, but you simply can’t recall the right actions. When you can’t rely on your own memory to make a judgement call or use your past experiences (especially the ones you learnt through punishment or negative consequences) to avoid making the same mistake again. When the causes and effects just don’t line up and actions and consequences are not connected so none of it makes any sense to you… It’s bloody scary! And then you just choose the path of least resistance, which often translates into ‘I am just too stupid’, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘why should I even try?’ and ‘I will never succeed’. I know because I feel all these every single time someone mentions the word ‘driving’. 😦

How a parent's fear makes her a better adoptive mother.

*picture source: Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013.

Our first family holiday

School is once again filling up most of our days and the much needed structure is back to help the boys navigate through the adoption world. I am also able to carve some much needed self care time out for myself to chill and to let you all know how our first ever family holiday went…

My parents live in a different country, which made it impossible for the children to meet their new grandparents until now. We were told from day one NOT to ask for passports for the boys before the Adoption Order is granted as it is highly unlikely we would get them (BM not cooperating and all). The boys came to us just weeks before the summer holidays last year and the council was kind enough to pay for 6 weeks of holiday club. We didn’t want to spend another six weeks being stuck here so we asked anyways and after much drama we finally got passports for the boys under their current names. That meant I bought flight tickets for 1 family with 4 different names. What could possibly go wrong???

feelingmumyet is an adoption blogger writing about their first family holiday together with children

Can’t travel without a Parental consent

This was the next hurdle we had to tackle. Legally we are still nobody to our children, so we needed a ton of paperwork from the LA from parental consent to leave the country to flight details, address and contact details in the visiting country. We were also given a copy of our Matching Panel report and permission from the Head of Services that we are indeed OK to take them out of the country. Since we had to change the already booked flights we had to go through this loop twice – we got the last documents a day before we flew.

We aimed to be at the airport way before the suggested 2h period in case we have problems with any of the paperwork. As it turns out, NOBODY asked for any of the paperwork! Not at check-in, not at the security gates, not at passport control, not at boarding. I thought it was odd, but surely they would ask for it upon arrival there. Well… again, nobody cared! I sent a message to the SW letting her know how easy it was to ‘take 2 random children out of the country’. I shared this with fellow adopters and was told probably they will give us a hard time when we come back to the UK. Again, to my utmost surprise, nobody asked for anything when we returned a few weeks later.

Meeting the grandparents for the first time

This one can be tricky for any adopters/foster carers as our parents and in-laws didn’t choose this path; we did. Naturally anticipation was high on every side! Kids were looking forward to it, I was nervous as I knew my parents and my parents were excited to finally have THEIR grand kids. I wrote like that as it was clear from early on that they don’t care much about the children’s past or how that shaped them, they were looking at it from their perspective only; finally my mum wasn’t just a mum among her grandma friends, but one of them! That put an interesting spin on things.

Luckily we needn’t have to worry! They have bonded in NO time! It was beautiful to see, even despite some language barriers it was apparent that love needs no words! My parents did what every grandparent is expected to do: spoil them rotten! Not just with sweets and toys, but also offering them 3-4 types of food for each meal ‘in case they didn’t feel like eating their favourites right now’, which has caused some challenges once we returned home as 8 in particular developed an even more picky attitude.

It was very interesting to see how the boys behaved with my parents. During the first week they were in the ‘Honeymoon stage’. Everything was wonderful, no issues, just cuddles and kisses and smiles. And obedience! By the second week the boys got over the initial excitement and they started testing the boundaries. To give me a break my dad took the boys to the hot spa pools and told them where to stay and which pools to avoid, since they don’t know how to swim. My dad only looked away for a second, 7 was already heading for the deep pool. My dad was very cross with him, but covered it up beautifully. When they returned he told me so 7 got a big telling off from me, because A) he needed one B) I knew he can take it from me, not from grandpa and C) this way grandpa is still ‘the best grandpa ever‘ 🙂

8 loved playing with grandpa in the sand, in the water, in the dirt, in the park, in the playground, in the house, in the pool, in the garden…etc. I know he was very fond of him, because he told me ‘Mum, I will leave my new digger here so grandpa can play with it while I am away!’ Aaaaaaaww

Meeting the extended family

My brother was there as well for a few days with us and the kids were over the Moon to have an uncle. Again, uncle P could do no wrong! He was totally out of his depths but to his credit he managed OK. We also had a day where my cousin and her family came for a visit so the boys suddenly gained some cousins, too. Both boys bonded well with their cousins; 7 especially! He kept on referring to the other children not by their first names, but as ‘MY cousin said this’, ‘MY cousin wants a…’ He was so thrilled to be part of a greater family!

Culture shock

Going to a new country has lots of perks, especially when you had no idea what to expect. The ‘mum, they still drive on the wrong side’ became somewhat boring after a few days, but since we returned the boys often played with their toys and I overheard 7 telling 8 to ‘let’s drive on the non UK way today’. I was glad to see both boys embraced their new ‘heritage’ amazingly  well and ate local food like the locals. They even enjoyed some weird meals that even my husband wouldn’t touch! 🙂

The boys had so many firsts! The most memorable was going to a beach of a LAKE! 7 was shocked that regardless of the time of the day the water levels were the same. He was really missing the tides! 🙂 I told them they can play further in as the lake was shallow enough even when they went waaaaaaay in. It was a fresh water lake and 8 really enjoyed drinking  from it. A lot! Then he asked me where to go when he needed the loo. I told him to just go to the lake. Bless him, he walked into the lake, the water was barely reaching his knees and he just relieved himself in front of lots of people. I was mortified! We managed to further deepen the bad reputation of British tourists abroad…. 😦

7 loved the lake so much! He kept on nagging me to go in to play with him and as the temperature was almost 40 C and no clouds I was more than happy to go in to cool down. One day we went deep in. Out of nowhere he said ‘Mummy, pretend I am a baby and I am drowning.’ Before I could blink he started to splash water desperately and shouted ‘Mummy, save me, save me!’ I quickly ‘rescued’him and we cuddled in the water. I told him ‘I want you to remember this special moment forever, you, me, cuddling in this lovely lake with the sunset behind us’. He smiled then jumped away from me saying ‘Poof, look mummy, it’s 7 years later now and I can swim now!’ (he still can’t but that’s besides the point). For once I was able to recognise that we were having A MOMENT where he is working hard to rewrite his sad past so I went along and told him ‘oh look, we are back in our special lake now where mummy rescued you when you were a baby’. I can’t describe the volume of his bright smile as he jumped back into my arms and said ‘Yessssssss!’ 🙂

A few tips to save you some headache:

  • If you can, send some things ahead. I have bought some second hand English books and toys that I knew the kids would love, but was unsure if we could get there. They worked like a charm. Grandma gave the boys something new each day thus quickly becoming the ‘best grandma ever’.
  • I bought the boys some cheap summer clothes; the goal was for them to survive a few weeks only. I had no intention of bringing them back as A) British summer – nuff said B) that way I wasn’t worried if they ruined it C) they would be too small by next summer anyways
  • I packed the boys’ favourite toys, teds and their pillow cases to have something familiar with them.
  • Before leaving the house we took pictures of the boys in each room in case they feel homesick while we are away. Luckily we didn’t have to use them, but just the fact we took the pictures put the boys’ mind at ease.
  • On the flight it’s better to sit in a block as opposed to in a row for 4 people. Since it was their first ever flight both kids were glued to the window and naturally they ended up fighting! On the way back hubby was sitting with 8 in front of me and 7 so we had the kids separated, they both had a window each and I could spend some quality one-on-one time  with my little one.
  • The best tenner ever spent was on 2 cheap no name MP3 players I bought for the boys on eBay before the trip. I uploaded about 2 h worth of their favourite music (the same list for both boys) and that kept them not only quiet, but happy too while we waited at the airport.
  • Another good trick we found was to have a meal at the airport while we wait to kill time!
  • But even if you had a lunch there, it’s good to have some snacks in your bag. On the way home we boarded the plane, but they found some problem with the AC system and we couldn’t leave till they fixed it. We were stuck on that plane in 38C with no AC for about an hour. Some snacks and tiny cheap toys saved our sanity!
  • You can always order a photo book or prints online afterwards. I am not promoting any sites, not getting any commission so I will not give you any affiliate links, but I found at the end of the summer most companies offer good deals. I just finished creating a Photo Book and it comes with 2 for 1 so I can send one to my parents to remember the fun times and keep one in the house so the boys can touch it and look at it whenever they want to.

In all honesty I have enjoyed our first family holiday together a lot more than I expected! We didn’t have any adoption-related meltdowns and the boys really behaved exceptionally well.

But I am also very glad school has started already… 🙂

feelingmumyet is an adoption blogger writing about their first family holiday together with children

Learning about learning

The boys came to us at age 5&6 with ‘instruction manuals’ and lots of (sometimes contradicting) info on them about their abilities, life skills and personalities. As we became parents overnight we had to learn that there is a natural time to learn certain skills ( and I am glad I didn’t have to do potty training, skipped teething, learning to walk or speak…etc).

We were constantly finding gaps in their ‘natural development’ and we found ourselves filling these gaps as and when we discovered them, not when they are expected to be learnt! We taught them how to shower themselves, how to change your bedding if you wet the bed at night and they learnt it’s no big deal if you wet, we are not going to get upset with you or hit you!

Learning about learning by Feelingmumyet is about separating the developmental delays, attachment disorder and life lessons we all need to learn.

One knew how to ride a bike and has good balancing skills, the other had a bike but had no balancing skills so once he fell off and now he hated bikes. Same with climbing up to trees or to a monkey bar; since with us he conquered his fear of hight – how glad I was I could witness his face beaming with joy when he climbed up the climbing wall the first time! How proud he was! 🙂

Due to their massive neglect and trauma and attachment disorder it was hard to know what life skills they have mastered already and what not. Lately 7 had all these meltdowns related to separation anxiety and his misplaced shame (thinking he is soo bad his mother didn’t want him). Lately we have a new issue, which is related to learning to listen to somebody who tells you something different than what you feel like doing. It took us a couple of weeks to figure it out that it is not the ‘same old same old defiance or lack of trust due to his attachment disorder’ we have seen before. It IS a new gap we have discovered in his socialisation skills!

I would imagine it is connected to learning to trust your parents or perhaps I should say for a child with healthy, safe and time appropriate development it is a given?  I don’t know, this is my first time being a mother to any child, biological or not. But looking at our friends with smaller children I noticed that some of them already mastered this skill, some were still learning it, but most of them had some understanding of the reasons behind mummy’s ‘don’t do it because it will hurt you’ warnings. They more or less got the idea that there is a GOOD reason why the warning has been given to them. Did they still continue? Sure, but that was due to their personalities, may it be adventurous, experimental or just willingly testing boundaries.

My 7 year old somehow navigated his short life without this particular life lesson until now. It is very possible due to his many other ‘issues’ this one got overlooked. Or maybe the professionals knew about this gap, but felt there were more pressing problems to tackle first. It’s also a possibility that until now he didn’t feel safe to ‘let it all out’. Either way, we finally recognised what it is so now we can teach him.

How do you learn to accept suggestions?

For me and my intellectual brain I need to know first who is the person giving me the advice. What are their ‘credentials’. Have they experienced it personally? Do they have a masters degree on the subject? Are they older and therefore wiser than me? (this is a cultural thing, if you don’t share it, never mind). Secondly I want to know why are they giving me this information. What do they know that I don’t? What would happen if I don’t follow it? Yes, I know my rebellious side coming up… 🙂

It so happened that we went out for a family breakfast. Daddy told them not to eat too many ‘freebies’ as the main food is about to come. Did they listen? 8 did, 7 was convinced he can eat a whole lot more so he disregarded daddy. Full English breakfast arrives, 7 ate a couple of bites and declared himself full. Daddy didn’t even have to say a word, 7 knew! He should have listened! He should have done the clever thing and follow the advice. He chose not to and now he finds himself in this odd predicament. We weren’t angry with him at all, but we knew he was very cross with himself. Of course he said nothing, but his faulty internal processes went into overdrive and he started throwing food, jumping up and down on his chair and doing all the ‘naughty’ things. Hubby grabbed him in a super tight bear hug and held him for quite a while.

An hour later we went to get him new shoes (his last pair of new trainers lasted a month and it wasn’t for the poor, cheap quality, but that’s a different story). He was bored so he started throwing shoes off the racks. I told him why it was a bad idea (‘you might hit somebody accidentally’) and what will happen if he continues. Naturally he didn’t listen and didn’t stop until he was told some of the consequences that might follow. He was about to stop, but before he did he accidentally bumped into another shopper and knocked down a display unit. Again, his faulty internal processes kicked in and he was extremely ashamed of his actions. Until recently we would just tell him off, grab him and keep him close until we leave the shop. His mind is already in overdrive he didn’t know how to break the cycle and how to get out of those big feelings so his behaviour got worse by the second.

We just about paid and got back to the car. 2 minutes into the car ride out of nowhere he said: ‘Mummy, daddy, I am sorry for my poor behaviour in the shop. I should have listened to you.’ And Bad Mother reacted without missing a beat: ‘Yes, you should have!’. Good Daddy jumped in with ‘Thank you for saying that. You are forgiven!’ And then the most amazing thing happened. 7 informed us with a wonderful and happy smile that ‘it wasn’t that hard at all!’

Suddenly we realised that he has learnt another lesson(s)!

  1. Saying sorry is an excellent way to kill those big feelings!
  2. Listening to your parents is (sometimes) a good idea!
  3. You don’t need to feel ashamed for not listening.
  4. You CAN break the cycle!

A successful day in Parentville.

Learning about learning by Feelingmumyet is about separating the developmental delays, attachment disorder and life lessons we all need to learn.

Summer homework?

Even if you have an emotionally and mentally healthy child who feels safe, secure and loved; a child who receives enough attention and support both at home and in school – even they struggle with doing homework at times. Let alone doing school work during the summer holidays! How unfair – they shout and refuse to do it… Now imagine a child, who doesn’t have these advantages, who feels ‘nothing is going for me’ and who doesn’t believe they will come back to the same school in September, why should they bother with homework during the summer?

Speaking to many adopters and being part of lots of Facebook groups, Twitter groups for adoptive, fostering and therapeutic parents, when it comes to homework, there seems to be a strong consensus: Looked After Children (LAC) don’t do homework! Many support groups even go further and say ‘looked after children should not have to worry about doing homework when they have so many gaps in their development that needs patching up first; doing homework isn’t a priority’ or ‘it’s not worth the fight, when you have already so many battles you need to fight each day, you pick the important ones’.

adopted children often struggle with homework, feelingmumyet is helping her adopted children enjoy it

Doing Homework – is it worth the fight?

For my husband and I homework happens to be one of the important battles that we feel it’s worth fighting for! We both come from different backgrounds; I loved learning and I genuinely enjoyed doing homework. Hubby hated it, but he had no choice because his parents thought it was a priority. So from day one we told the boys that doing homework is and always will be a priority that has to come before movie night, before play time, before any treats. I am not saying we didn’t have to battle with them from time to time. Occasionally I had to miss the movie as well, because I had to sit at the table with 8 who simply refused to do it and the poor lad navigated himself into meltdown mode. It would have been much easier for me to drop the homework issue and just focus on helping my son with his meltdown and to bring him back to ‘my calm mode’ (as he calls it). But I think the real issue here isn’t homework itself, rather the importance of consistency and clear boundaries, so I stuck to my guns. No homework still means lots of cuddles, but it also means no movie.

I have spoken to both teachers before school finished and we discussed the matter. Naturally the teachers were coming from the angle of ‘homework is necessary for their continuous development’, while I was coming from the angle of ‘my boys need as much structure as we can get for the next 6 weeks so any input is welcome’. We compromised on some targeted tasks for both boys. 7 got some fancy sheets to practice his handwriting from school and I created some extra sheets for him about his favourite things to practice his spelling. 8 got some complex science problems to solve, which keeps him busy occasionally for hours. We try to work together for a few days each week, mostly for the sake of consistency to kill time, but it also doubles as getting some improvements in their education and most importantly to spend special time together!

Summer reading challenge 2017

This is actually a brilliant idea, but I only found out about it by accident. If you want to read more, here is the link to Summer Reading Challenge page. Apparently 8 knew about it as he was supposed to sign up with his entire class, but he was ‘naughty’ so the teacher excluded him from the class’ last library trip. We went to the library last weekend, because 8 needed a toilet break from playing in the park. Once business done we walked over to the counter and the librarian asked if we were there for the challenge. She quickly explained the details and before I could blink my sweet little 8 year old picked up 6 books to sign out!

summer reading challenge 2017 targets primary school children like feelingmum's adopted boys to read 6 books in 6 weeks.

The 2017 Summer Reading Challenge’s theme is Animal Agents.

I thought we are sorted for the summer. Granted, the books weren’t too long, but 8 finished them in 3 days! After each book I asked him to tell me all about it so I could check if he really read it properly. This also gave us some special time together when I focused all my attention on him and he loved it so much that his story descriptions covered even the tiniest of details. 🙂 I think Quality time must be his Love Language (I wrote more about the 5 Love Languages here). We both discovered a new way to spend quality time together so when he finished his 6 books, we went back to get some more.

Last week he finished 5 Roald Dahl books!

He asked for Horrid Henry books but after having a quick survey among my ever helpful Twitter friends we agreed his emotional age is not ready yet to read those books without any negative repercussions. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid – series will also have to wait a few more years.

So, anybody has any reading challenges for my challenging son? His reading age is 10+, his biological age is 8, his emotional age is 5. Any book suggestions for the rest of the holidays?

adopted children often struggle with homework, feelingmumyet is helping her adopted children enjoy it

Disruption Meeting Miracles

If you follow our life drama you will know that at the end of the last post things were not going too well for us. Both husband and I got to the point where we realised unless something drastically changes, the placement will not survive our turmoils. Therefore Sunday night we wrote a very honest email to both Social Workers and requested a Disruption Meeting.

If you are unfamiliar with this term, from a council’s website: ‘The term disruption is used to describe an event otherwise referred to as a placement breakdown or a placement ending that was not part of the Child’s Care Plan.  Placements rarely disrupt as a result of the action of one individual but usually through a combination of several factors. Therefore, the objective of a disruption meeting is to take a hard look at everything and agree to a way forward. Participants need to know that the process is not an exercise to apportion blame… ‘

disruption meetings in adoption occur when the adoptive placement is about to break down. Feelingmumyet is an adopter who requested this meeting.

Meeting the Head of Services

Normally such meetings are chaired by at least a Senior Manager or higher; in our case it was the boss of the boss of the boss of our children’s Social Worker. Our SW, the boys’ SW and the two play therapists were there. When the meeting room table has sandwiches and plates set up already you know that it’s going to be a long and hard meeting. When I wrote on Twitter that we have requested this meeting several people commented on how brave we were. This got me thinking…

I have written already about the power dynamics between an Adopter and their Social Worker and from that post you might get the impression that it is ultimately a fight between THEM and US. I believe the system is set up correctly, but somehow along the way sooner or later the adoptive parents and council workers find themselves on the opposing sides. Perhaps it’s because the Child’s Social Worker Job Description and the Adoptive (therapeutic) Parent  to a Traumatised Child Job Description  are different. The SW’s biggest (I don’t want to say ‘only‘, but it often feels that way) concern is the Risk factor for the child, while the parents have to juggle a few other main concerns, too. I feel our boys’ SW isn’t particularly the top of her class and that might be only my subjective opinion (and it could be lots of different reasons, bureaucratic or others  why she can’t do certain things), nonetheless we needed to work together.

Getting ready for this meeting hubby and I realised something important. If we continue to look at them as THEM vs US we all going to fail. We had to work hard to find some common goals that could unite us otherwise we don’t have a chance and everybody will loose. This common thing that should unite us all was the welfare of our children. Putting our differences aside we had to agree to work towards this common goal and if possible, insert individual agendas where appropriate. I strongly believe the LA team also had similar thoughts (heaven forbid instructions from above), because the meeting took place in an open, friendly and professional atmosphere.

Not assigning blame

This is a hard one for me, as I think I can pinpoint some failings on the LA’s side that led us deep down the rabbit hole and consequently a very serious Disruption Meeting had to be called. But for the sake of getting results we didn’t voice them. From their side (see, I keep referring to them as ‘them‘, oh dear me) neither the Chair, nor any of the ladies around the table said anything negative about pretty much anything. I think they also realised that unless we look at each other as equal and fair partners instead of opponents we will all fail the children.

They thought our request for respite was absolutely fair and above debate. Apparently (as our SW said it after the meeting) money wasn’t even considered when they first discussed our request a day before – well, let’s wait and see). To my utmost surprise the Chair came up with a few options and variations of respite for the coming weeks and months. Option 1 was their preferred version of  how things should play out for the next chapter, while option 5 was our preferred version. They have been presented with a neutral tone and we did have the impression they were willing to go even to the extremes if we ask for it as long as it is reasonable and will benefit everybody’s goals (that is for the placement to continue and to be successful).

Honest talking can lead to a good action plan

We said to them honestly that unless they come up with reasonable offers and an immediate support package we have no options but to give notice on the placement. They knew we are not just giving empty threats, that we aren’t just milking them for more money and most importantly, that we are not doing it for our own benefits! Sure, a nice long holiday just for hubby and I would be lovely, but ultimately the goal is for us, parents to recharge our empty batteries, do a little self care and reset our emotional balances so that we would be in a good enough place mentally, emotionally, physically to provide the best care and support for our children.

In addition to regular respite we were given assurance that some targeted Play Therapy sessions will commence to help the children with their Life Story Work. This has been a particularly welcomed action point! They also offered some therapy for hubby and I by a third party who is not on their payroll. In September and Independent Assessment will commence to find out our needs so that a more tailored support package can be offered. And the best bit is that these things are already sent to me in writing! 🙂

The conclusion is a mixed bag, though. On one hand it is wonderful to see the council has a long term view and they treat us as reasonable partners. It IS great to know that respite is coming! It makes it a tiny bit easier to tolerate the punches if you know it’s coming. On the other hand, I still need to borrow energy from somebody so we all make it till the respite starts…

disruption meetings in adoption occur when the adoptive placement is about to break down. Feelingmumyet is an adopter who requested this meeting.

The Time We Said Enough

Disclaimer: This is not a happy post. This is an honest post because I wanted to show how the constant pushing, emotional and physical abuse from a CHILD directed at the adopter can really push you over. Before you jump to (false) conclusions let me tell you the SWs know about these from us so you don’t need to play Concerned Citizen…

We have the children now for  over a year and yes, it has been bloody hard work. About a month ago we thought we turned the corner, but then Life Story Book happened, we also got to the end of the school time so the familiar structure went out the window and these two together pushed all four of us into disaster mode.

My Twitter friends know we are having VERY rough time with the boys lately that involved running away, being abusive, defiant, aggressive, violent, destructive and probably I could come up with a few more negative  adjectives, but I realise unless you lived it through yourself, these words will not convey the true misery we find ourselves in. When you get to the point of not caring about it anymore… now THAT’S a scary place to find yourself in! I know myself and believe me when I say, over the last year I found out a lot more about myself (and my husband). We are genuinely kind and understanding people, we both worked as volunteers in Africa for years and we both saw enough horror in our lives to develop a good sense of compassion and the ability to look beyond the surface and focus on the real issues deep below. We are very familiar with the boys’ very difficult start in life and how that impacts their very being; their everyday thinking, their motivations, their self image, their preconceived expectations, their improperly wired brain…etc all of it. But as my grandma used to say (not in English) ‘Even slow rivers can erode the bank eventually’!

The time Feelingmumyet, an adopter of two older boys said enough is enough when her adopter children kept on pushing the boundaries.

The slow, but constant pushing and testing, name calling, back chatting and verbal abuse (‘shut up you stupid ****’) together with physical acts like purposefully breaking my flower pots or trashing the house, kicking the rubbish bin to tip over, breaking his bedroom door to prove a point (that 7 is not sleepy at 11 pm) and of course the CPV when all else fails. He is doing all these to gain attention; to release some tension in his body or just simply to let us know in the most unlovable way that he needs love.

Compassion fatigue is real!

We know they don’t do it TO us, they don’t consciously want to sabotage their own future happiness and generally they are not horrible little monsters by default. BUT! And here lies the key. Eventually everybody breaks! Some sooner, some later, but we all get to a point when you say: Enough is enough! The hardest thing I found in my life (and I have been through some pretty awful situations in several continents!) is not giving in! 7 and 8 are constantly testing our patience, our resilience, our willpower, our self control.

When he is attacking you it would be so easy to hit back.
When there is verbal abuse, it would be so easy to remind him of some nasty stuff to make him shut up.
When he shouts ‘he doesn’t love/want me’, it would be so easy to shout back ‘I don’t love/want you either’.

But instead you keep reassuring him you love him, he is safe, you don’t want him to go away, you will never send him away, you are not like Birth Mum. And out of nowhere the moment suddenly comes when you think ‘that’s it, I had enough! I can’t lie any more! I don’t have to be OK with being abused in my own house regardless of what’s causing it. It’s not OK to not feel safe in my own house!’

A few nights ago I was so broken by 8 pm that I got VERY close to do all the above. I was so livid I had to go to my bedroom or else the hurt animal attacks back! Hubby recognised my mood and the shift in my behaviour and that pushed him over the top, too. He was so cross for seeing his wife so torn and out of character that he picked 7 up, threw him in the car and took him straight to the police station. All the way 7 kept on screaming ‘I hate you, you are a f**** s**** b****, I hate this stupid house, I don’t want you to adopt me, call my SW right now to take me away’ and such. Hubby managed to keep his cool and told him ‘you can say all those to the nice police man inside and he will sort this out for you. Good bye.’

As you can imagine that got his attention. 7 immediately started crying saying ‘I want to go home now, I want mummy’ (a few minutes ago I wasn’t and would never be ‘mummy’, but would always remain a f**** s**** b***, but never mind) so hubby made one thing very clear:  Talk  is cheap! We are both fed up with them constantly changing their minds every five seconds (I hate you – I love you) so from now on they need to prove with actions if they want to stay with us. He said this to both boys the next morning.

I was still too angry and upset about the night before so I didn’t even want to see them in the morning. Before hubby took them to holiday club he told me to look in their bedrooms. Both tidied their respective bedrooms without a single word! I was so amazed! 8 especially, always puts up a big tantrum that usually lasts for hours and includes ‘too much, I will never finish, I don’t know where to start, not fair, I will not do it’. But not today. I even mentioned ‘now we have learnt one thing, you ARE able to decide what to do first and you DO have the will power to do the job properly, well done, son!’

Of course both boys apologise after each incident and of course they always promise it will never happen again. Last night 8 gave us both a gift. He hand painted some fridge magnets one for me, one for hubby (see picture above). When you see them you’d think ‘aaaaaaaaaw, how precious;  how lovely; focus on these not on the bad moments; see, they love you’. All I can think now is ‘I am so effin’ tired of this emotional roller-coaster they drag me through several times every day. I will keep them and maybe in the future I will treasure these gifts, but for now I am so emotionally drained that I can’t even acknowledge them’. And it’s not good…

The time Feelingmumyet, an adopter of two older boys said enough is enough when her adopter children kept on pushing the boundaries.

End of School Blues

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a looked after/adopted child in possession of a difficult start in life, must be in want of a structure-free holiday.” While I commemorate Jane Austen’s 200th death anniversary by adapting her famous opening line I also acknowledge the sad truth that in the last 10 school days I was early in school 7 times and most of those were not happy meetings. 7’s young and inexperienced (but well meaning) teacher said to me ‘we only have a few days left and I am sure he will love the holidays!’ Well… about that.

How to explain it to a person who grew up in a safe and secure environment, who was loved and supported all her life, who pursued a carrier in education and who is now responsible for 20+ children for 30+ hours every week that not every child feels the same?

Not every child is excited about the upcoming holidays!
Not every child is able to cope well with transition days!
Not every child is looking forward to saying goodbye!
Not every child is thriving without rigid structures!
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Not every child is able to verbalise their internal problems so they act out!

End School Blues by Feelingmumyet Adoption Summer Problem

Adopted children really struggle without structure

Both my boys are having very difficult days lately. I appreciate the fact that teachers often don’t know what to do each day – especially when it comes to  weather dependent activities, but the occasional spur-of-the-moment visit to the local library can (and did) send my 8 year old boy into panic mode – and it manifested in him refusing to find a partner to walk with, ignoring the teacher’s warnings and eventually shouting back at her. So, he was banned from going. Naturally, a brilliant solution… not!

7 had a really bad Tuesday, but oddly I only heard about it on Wednesday afternoon, because the teacher thought it would be ‘best if we don’t tell your mummy and hope that tomorrow you can make better choices’. How many times I told her I need to know otherwise things escalate further!!! So, after a couple of deep breaths to control my anger I explained the consequences of her poor choice.

On Tuesday 8 was banned from library plus he lost his water bottle and his attitude was ‘big deal, you will buy me another one’ and he was very difficult to manage so I told him it’s best of we go home (where I can contain him). He responded by kicking me hard all the way from school to home, shouting abusive language at me and eventually making a huge scene in front of our house with lots of people passing by. So, all my attention was on him and I was secretly glad that 7 seemed ok. By 6 pm 8 calmed down and even apologised so it looked like we can have an easy night.

Running away…

That’s when 7 decided that he can’t keep his big feelings in any longer (the issues from school that the teacher didn’t tell me about) and he exploded. It really came out of nowhere or it seemed to me at the time. Hurting me, physical and verbal abuse (CPV) for a while, then he went to his room, threw his favourite toys down the stairs and started jumping on the edge of his bed with the intention of breaking it. We tried all the different therapeutic techniques that we know, but nothing worked. He was in serious danger of hurting himself so we took him downstairs. That’s when he decided he had enough of this ‘stupid house from where I will be kicked out of anyways‘ and he unlocked the front door and took off into the sunset! Bare feet, wearing only his PJ bottom he started running…

I ran after him also bare feet, but he was really fast, literally running for his life. Thank God husband had his shoes on so he could run after him and eventually he caught him, picked him up and carried him back to the house. As you can imagine 7 was grabbing lots of attention as he was screaming ‘help, you are not my dad, I want to go, let me go, I don’t want to go back to that house’. (Next morning first thing I called both Social Workers to give them the heads up, ‘a concerned citizen might give you a call today…’)

When I explained all these to the Miss, she was speechless. You could see the shock on her face and then quickly the guilt when she understood she should have told me a day before. If she can’t manage my boys’ internal struggles at least tell me so I will be able to or things just going to get worse for everybody!

Transition is VERY hard on them

The last few weeks of school is a nightmare for many children. Saying good bye to their teacher, their beloved desk and classroom and usually some dear classmates too can be incredibly hard even for tiny, emotionally healthy people, let alone looked after and adopted children! When moving and saying goodbye is the only constant in your life it’s understandable that you are anxious about the future. There isn’t enough reassurance in the world that would alleviate the fear in their minds so they revert back to survival mode! The problem with that is it is very difficult to think clearly in survival mode and usually they end up making poor choices.

7 managed to insult staff and other children, he destroyed a school bathroom, he was banned from breakfast club again, he was extremely rude and violent towards his friends – all because he was sad and afraid of the changes.

Their vicious cycle goes like this:

Change -> Anxiety -> Panic mode -> Bad choices -> Punishment -> Anger -> More bad behaviour -> Explosion -> Forgiveness from an understanding parent -> Shame -> Self hatred -> Reverting back to younger self -> Hopelessness -> Bad behaviour… Reload!

Welcome to the Summer Holidays! 😦

What strategies you employ to ease the pressure on your children? I am open to any suggestions…

End School Blues in Adoption by Feelingmumyet Boy sitting on Ball at the Beach