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!
+
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

How to work with a Social Worker

Whether it’s fostering or adoption or special guardianship cases, we, ordinary people, have to deal with Social Workers for a shorter or longer period of time and so far I haven’t met anybody who described this time as overly positive.

During the assessment process when the SW is asking all those probing questions and I am honestly revealing my deepest, darkest past, if the SW is any good it’s easy to feel like I am talking to a close friend. This is mistake number 1! She* is NOT your friend, she might be able to sympathise with what you are saying, she might even reassure you that ‘we all make mistakes, but don’t worry it will not affect your chances of being approved’, but pay close attention: she is not revealing any personal information about herself! You become an open book to her and she will make sure she reads all the fine prints twice about your life, but she will not make herself vulnerable to you – which is usually the basis of mutual trust that can develop into a close friendship! It’s so easy to miss the point and look at her as a trusted friend, tell her things she might ‘hear’ differently as a close friend would and it’s quite easy to get into trouble because she often needs to act on things you ‘just casually mentioned to her‘ between dipping two biscuits into the tea in your living room.

Social Worker Enemy or Partner in Adoption by Feelingmumyet

Power dynamics

As soon as it becomes clear that your future family growth depends on how good she is at assessing you and writing up the report you become very aware of the power she has over you and you reconsider your next words very carefully. I am a fairly confident person, but I got quite uneasy several times when I answered a  question and she went ‘hmmm, ok? Tell me why?‘ or when she asked something, I started talking and she started writing. I politely stopped so she could catch up, but she just motioned with her hand for me to carry on without looking up. It filled me with confidence…not.

At the Panel she was our advocate. Her job was to convince the suspecting jury that we are nice people who know what they are signing up for. Once we got approved, we both looked at her as our champion who fought for us and won the battle for us! Then she disappeared…

Is the Social Worker the Enemy?

Following the fiasco with the Life Story Book and me going over the head of the SW to file a complaint with her supervisor obviously put us in the opposite corners. We argued if she had the common sense – since she clearly lacked the training to deliver such a sensitive work, and here lies the problem! For the SW it’s ‘only’ a piece of work they need to do before they can close the case once the adoption order is granted. For us, parents it’s another traumatic event that can (and did) poison our family dynamics and caused massive problems, while she was on holiday.

I spoke to the boys’ therapist who agreed that the children deserve an apology and explanation and most importantly reassurance so she decided to give a script to the SW. I suggested they make it into a letter that the SW can read and give to the boys to keep.

Is the Social Worker our partner?

By definition Social Workers are team players so why is it so hard to look at HER and ME instead of US. We are connected because we both have the same child/ren’s best interest in mind and at heart! When I wrote to her manager I underlined the fact that I do believe she cares for my children and that she didn’t deliberately wanted to hurt them. Lack of training, lack of resources, her managing far too many cases all at once… I do get it. Until very recently I was one of the few people who actually liked working with the Professionals (SW, therapist, School), because I love learning and I welcomed their informed inputs. I didn’t always agree with them of course, but I believe their is wisdom in council therefore I was always proactive in contacting them for advice or guidance.

The therapist gave her this letter to give it to the boys. She picked them up from school and I only saw them just before bedtime routines were to start. Both boys wanted to share the letter with me so they read it out loud. I was quite impressed that how it was worded. Children seemed to be happy with it and agreed with the content. I was thrilled to hear both boys thought it was a good idea to put the Life Story Books into the loft and never to look at it again!

The apology letter the SW was forced to make

Once the children were out of sight the SW was quick to clarify how unhappy she was about the content of the letter. She complained that she wasn’t part of the preparation, but for the sake of the children she didn’t say anything to them. She went on saying how unfair it was that the therapist wrote the letter and added the SW’s name to it without the SW having any input. I was about to respond with ‘well, you shouldn’t have gone on holiday’, but thank God my wise husband interrupted my less-than-helpful comment and said ‘we really appreciate you doing it despite your reservations, thank you’. Yes, I am glad he was so gracious!

It seems we still have our major differences and she still doesn’t appreciate the fact I tried (still do) to tell her how to do it differently in the future, but we can put those aside and work together as part of the team that has only one goal in mind: the happiness of our children!

That said I am very much looking forward to the day she no longer has to see us…!

PS: Both boys slept well tonight with no bed wetting or night terrors! BOOM! The apology and reassurance was very much needed!

Social Worker In Adoption Is Enemy Or Partner Feelingmumyet

*Both our and the children’s Social Worker are women so I will just use she instead of he/she

Update: This post was feautured on 21st July 2017! Thank you!
Lucy At Home

The weight of Adoption on children

2 weeks after the disastrous delivery of Life Story Work we are still suffering the aftermath in the most random ways from both boys. This past week especially has been very difficult for the boys and sadly the Social Worker is still working on her tan somewhere warm, the therapists are busy with other children and school is less than understanding. Sufficient to say, we are having an absolutely rubbish time.

Through little episodes from this last 2 weeks I try to show you some of the problems we had – and by this I don’t mean the actual manifestations, rather the underlying issues these 2 boys are still crippled by.

Weight Adoption Blogger Children Feelingmumyet Trauma Shame Anger Worry Sadness

Shame

There is no point beating around the bush so I will just say it. As silly as it sounds if you hear it for the first time, our traumatised children carry a huge sense of shame around their necks because of the way things happened TO THEM in the past! My 8 year old was often scapegoated for issues that dysfunctional family faced on a daily basis. He was told he is stupid, useless, waste of space, but it was his fault if BM didn’t have money to buy food because she had to spend it on nappies for him. These emotional and physical scars don’t just disappear, not  even with time and counselling; they fade a bit over time with the correct support and of course, with much much love. 8 knows that it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t live with his first (or second) family, he remembers much of the trauma and pain pretty well. But he doesn’t know or believe that we won’t blame him for ridiculous things. Last week he asked for a cup of milk, I went to the fridge and realised we have ran out of milk. I told him ‘sorry sweetheart, it looks like we need to buy some more tomorrow‘ and he started shaking and crying. He was sure he will get punished for it!

When you follow his logic it is easy to see why he is convinced that he doesn’t deserve to be happy! He doesn’t deserve a loving family and nice people around him who will support him. He can’t accept the fact that regardless of his ‘shameful’ past we still want him! It makes no sense in his head that we don’t react the same abusive way like his first (and second) family whenever he decided to push our buttons or test our patience!

7’s problem with shame is different. He didn’t think much about it before the Life Story Book. In his head his first family was dead and therefore he needed new mummy and daddy. But seeing current pictures of BM really shook his imaginary world into pieces. He believes that he must have been truly awful so BM didn’t make more of an effort to care for him. He is utterly ashamed by his past and carries it as a burden. This invisible burden then translates into more big feelings without labels and eventually he will need to find a valve.

He calls this valve ‘release of unbearable tension’. Society call it ‘naughtiness’.

Worries

7’s teacher called me in on Friday saying ‘we had a very difficult week, didn’t we?’ Now, if you put aside my first gut reaction of ‘why on Earth did you wait till Friday to say this when I ask you every bloody day if my son had a good day or not‘ we can move into the details. Apparently he has been lying, back chatting, disrespectful towards staff, as a consequence he has been banned from Breakfast Club for 3 days (again, why I am only informed about this now???), he was jumping on the top of desks, gave a racial insult to another child, constantly defied authority, was poking children with a pencil which is arguably quite dangerous and to top it off on Friday he said to his teacher in front of the whole class ‘I can see your big butt’. (to be honest it’s really hard not to see it and she isn’t helping by wearing leggings, but that’s besides the point, but clearly that was the tipping point for her).

As I was sitting on those tiny chairs my son wasn’t even looking at us, he was hiding his face, which the teacher found highly annoying. I explained that ‘the reason why he is doing it is because he knows he has done some silly things and in his head he deserves punishment and he worries about seeing rejection in your face which he couldn’t bear because he loves you very much so that’s why he is not looking at you.‘ Miss IAmTooInexperienced was just gaping at me with her mouth open. She was perplexed when my son turned around and actually nodded towards us. So I turned to him and asked ‘what is really bugging you?

‘I worry when the judge hears about how badly I behaved I was he will not let me stay with you and there will be no adoption!’

Now, try to digest this for a second. My son, being a true man, is not fond of talking about feelings. What’s worse is most of the time he doesn’t even know what he feels, because well, nobody really took the time to teach him which feeling is for what emotion or in which life situation is it normal, expected or acceptable to feel in a certain way. The only thing this poor little guy knew was that he loved his new family and didn’t want to start all over again in another family and this fear drove him mad and because he was having these big feelings in his tummy and he was nearing explosion he had to shout for help in the only way he knew: by misbehaving!

I was soo happy to hear him say that. Bless him, he has come so far from that angry young man who was attacking me and my husband very violently and fairly regularly in the past to this sweet little boy who (in his own way) said it that he loved his new life with us.

Clearly the teacher lost us a long time ago. I was cuddling my son and reassured him that the judge (‘what judge?‘ – oh, the teacher was catching up) ‘will not need to hear about this and besides, all the judge wants to know if you are loved, happy and safe here with us and we both know you are so he/she will be happy to approve the adoption.’ And then some huge invisible weights have dropped from his shoulders and from somewhere deep within massive tears started to erupt.

Anger

His poor behaviour continued over the weekend. We are quite used to him pushing our buttons and usually I can recognise there is an underlying issue and see HIM instead of his naughtiness; quite often I remember he is not doing this TO me to annoy me. But not always! Sunday morning all was well until out of the blue he started calling my husband stupid for seemingly no reason. Hubby reacted badly and by the time I came out of the loo all hell broke loose: doors were slamming, sanctions issued, toys banned. Naturally this was met by even more defiance from 7. ‘You think I care? I will do whatever I want. If I break my bed you have to buy me a new one!’

We were supposed to go rock pooling after church, but husband took 7’s net out of the car as a way of consequences. He couldn’t go to do some fun kids activity in church as husband was forcing him to sit in Time in. Clearly things were not progressing at all, if anything, things were getting worse. Husband went to children’s church with 8. 7 was fighting him off, dropping himself onto the floor, shouting at him – just the usual. I was supposed to enjoy the service, but clearly it wasn’t happening. I went after the guys; 7 was protesting on the stairs refusing to get up. I sat down next to him.

I went through the usual mantra. I got yelling back at my face ‘you are not my real mother!’
I remained very calm: ‘I know that. You want to talk about it?’
(shaking head)
‘I see you are upset, do you want a hug?’
‘No, stay away from me!’
‘Ok, I will just sit here with you then.’ (other parents passing by giving us looks)
‘I don’t want to talk to you. I hate you’
‘You don’t have to talk to me, we can just sit here quietly’
(he turned his back at me)
(I can’t keep quiet for long) ‘I can see on your face that you are very angry. I think I also know, why…’
(shaking head, but getting an inch closer to me)
‘I wonder if your big feelings have something to do with anger… (no reaction so I guess I am close). … I wonder if you are angry at the situation that you can’t live with your first mummy and daddy.
‘It’s so unfair!’
‘Yes, it is. Children should be able to stay with their mummy and daddy and parents should love their children and make sure they are safe and healthy. I am also very angry with you that BM and BF couldn’t do that for you.’
‘Are you angry, too?’
‘Yes, very! But I do not take out my anger on others. I understand if BM and BF were here you would want to hurt them… (here he went into details of how exactly he would make them pay for causing him this level of sadness, no need to repeat it, it was scary enough just to listen to him) … but remember what we have been saying? It’s not OK to hurt for real. I see that you are hurting the grownups around you like me or your teacher who love you, because it reminds you of the ones who should have loved you but couldn’t.
‘Can you please hug me? I really hate these stupid big feelings.’ (so we cuddle on the floor for a few minutes.
‘Now I am sure the judge will be very cross with me if he/she hears about this…’
‘No, like I said before, the judge will not hear about this, don’t worry about it. But for the future it would be really good if you…’
‘I know, I know, talk about my feelings before they explode in my tummy’

🙂 We are getting there… Slowly our message gets through to him!

Sadness

And I am not talking about the ‘I am sad that I can’t play another 5 minutes with my toy‘ type of thing, although sometimes 8 makes it look like it’s really the end of the world. I am talking about the deepest darkest sadness that there is; the one only those can experience who have lost a dear person or those going through the scariest depression ever. We all know it’s not fair, no person, let alone an innocent little child should experience that level of sadness!

It’s so hard on our adopted children. There is a natural inbuilt love and connection to their first family. Regardless of how horrible they were to the children, not being able to see them, hug them or punch them is a massive loss and this lack of closure creates a never ending sadness.

Then they move from Foster Care to and adoptive family. Again, another massive loss and the sadness deepens. No matter how happy they are or will ever be with their new mummy and daddy, that deep sadness will always be there!

Subconscious trauma

I could write books about this already and I am no expert by a long shot. Sufficient to say that many of their wobbliness comes from the subconscious mind and often they don’t even know what has triggered something. Sometimes it comes out during the day in various forms, sometimes it is carried over through the night. The older one is now 8 years old, but he still wets the bed every night, on particularly bad days he wets it twice in one night. The younger one was 5 when he came to us and he wet the bed every night. Slowly it got better and for the last couple of months he has been completely dry with no occasional accidents either! Even 8 managed some dry nights and we thought we turned the corner. But after this Life Story Disaster they are back to bed wetting. The younger one wet the bed twice last night and all before 11pm! After that he had 2 very vivid night terrors and 1 bad dream that he actually remembers.

These are just some of the ramification we have to deal with since the Life Story Work started. It is incredibly hard on all of us who are involved with these two boys, but it doesn’t even come close to how difficult it is for the boys! I know adults who couldn’t take half of this and ended up in mental institutions and society just expects these children to ‘stop lingering on the past, look ahead, enjoy the future and consider yourself lucky to have such amazing new parents who put up with your poor behaviour…’

Sure…

Update: This post became the featured post of the week on the 18th July at Mrs MummyHarris’s website. Thank you!

The hidden weight of adoption that affects adopted children forever. Feelingmumyet is a UK blogger showing through personal experiences the reality of adoption.

A Blog-o-Convo with another Adopter

Last week I wrote a long post about our first encounter with my boys’ Life Story Book and the less than positive aftertaste in my mouth. I was quite surprised about the number of waves it made in social media. I was quite sad to hear many people (and here I mean a really a huge number) contacted me on Twitter or Facebook openly or in private messages to share similar experiences. This is how I ended up in a conversation with Emma Sutton.

Soon 2 things became clear:

  • 140 characters were just NOT enough
  • She and I have so much in common about our adoption journeys

So we decided to expand our Twitter conversation (convo) into a blog post, thus Blog-o-Convo was born. It doesn’t follow the classic interview style as in I don’t pose a short question and she gives an extended answer and then we move on to the next topic, rather a classic style conversation 2 friends can have over a cup of tea coffee.

Stock photo from Kaboompics

The humble beginnings

FMY: I read lots of blogs and spoke to adopters to learn more about this world. I am not really the type who learns from reading suggested books from cover to cover while taking notes and imagining how certain scenarios would play out for us and how I would/should react. I didn’t look too hard, I need to admit, but I didn’t find any honest, first hand accounts that spoke to me or could have prepared me for what’s to come.

ES: I agree, I looked for honest, first-hand accounts that would tell me what to expect emotionally and how the experience might impact me personally and my relationship with my husband. I read the obligatory books to impress our social workers and quote stuff in the PAR, but never found something that felt true and resonated with what actually happened. I hope my book can bridge that gap, so that people feel less alone and that all this weird stuff is normal.

I wish I had known about all the adoption blogs when I was going through the process. It wasn’t until much later that I started engaging with other adopters, first on twitter, then reading their blogs. It definitely helped me feel less alone.

FMY: Very true. I said it often, the  adoption Twitter community is just fabulous and I couldn’t have done the last year without their support, may it be a ghost hug (aka virtual hug) or just saying ‘yes, we know, we have been there and it sucks for the time being‘ or even ‘I have no wisdom for you, but I am crossing my fingers for you‘.

For me blogging was originally a way of keeping in touch with my friends from all over the world to let them know how our new life is progressing. If I look back at earlier posts I see there wasn’t any structure or theme, just writing down things as they were or how I felt. A few months ago I noticed that lately more people are reading it and I received feedback from fellow adopters and questions from prospective adopters who were thinking about adoption, but wanted to know more before they fully commit.

ES: When I started writing my book, the experience was very like off-loading several years’ worth of blogs in a short period of time. Chapters were short and punchy, to make them easy to read and easy to write. And I only started blogging once the book was done, as I was afraid of diverting my attention away when it got to the tricky bits of finishing the book. The blog is more immediate than the book, I can have conversations with people who comment and I love that aspect of blogging.

Anonymity vs having your name there

FMY: Protecting our children was our main concern, but it was also easier for me to be more honest and open about the big issues like Problems with school or Adoption pushing me into depression knowing ‘the powers that be’ (Social Workers, school, therapist, Local Authorities) didn’t know who I was. This way I could voice my opinion, share my take on the happenings and not worry about any negative repercussions.

ES: Anonymity was something I took very seriously – I unfriended lots of people on Facebook and stopped tweeting and made sure all my posts were private. But there was something about writing a book that made me choose to put my real name on it (but not the childrens’). By that time, we had our Adoption Order, so I no longer had to be careful what we said about SW or FC or the system. And I guess I wanted people to see that there was a real face behind the story, not an avatar.

Social media

ES: For me, there is something refreshing and powerful about getting to know other adopters on social media. We had about seven couples on our intensive training and I imagined we would all keep in touch, whereas in reality I only still talk to one of the couples. So I love that there are communities of people that I can engage with and ask questions of on social media. One of the first questions I had on twitter was about keeping in touch with foster carers (because our SW was rather frowny and vague about it) and I was really heartened to see that many adopters kept in touch. It gave me faith that what I was doing was okay and normal. I feel that I belong, that I am normal and all this is just stuff. I can’t tell you how much that helps when things go a bit pear shaped.

FMY: Exactly! There is something wonderfully weird about  being able to share our deepest, darkest thoughts and moments with people I call close friends, while I don’t even know their real names and we have never met each other. The very fact that Emma and I are having this ‘conversation’ shows how invaluable this kind of support really is!

Disclaimer: I do not benefit from Emma’s new book in any monetary way, however reading her adoption story really brought back lots of sweet and painful memories about our own journey and I do hope it will have similar effect on many fellow current or future adopters.

Blog-o-convo Feelingmumyet Adoption Emma Sutton

How NOT to do Life Story Work in Adoption

After many months of asking on our side and promising on the Social Worker’s side the day finally came; she brought the complete Life Story Books with her for both boys. I knew about it of course, but the boys were unaware and were very secretive about it and didn’t want me to come into the room. So, I waited outside for the inevitable crying that was sure to follow…

For birth children parents can fill in the gaps, tell stories and show pictures to their children from the time they were babies and through pictures they can help the children create early childhood memories. I know they are not really memories as we wouldn’t remember things under 2 anyways, but with the help of pictures and anecdotes repeated enough times they become ‘real’ to the children. Except if you are adopted… Then you don’t have your birth parents around to help you build these memories. That’s when the Life Story Book becomes invaluable.

Feelingmumyet How not to do Life Story Work in Adoption two boys lying on the floor reading with Social Worker

My boys reading their Life Story Book for the first time…

Life Story Book

I think you can imagine what might be (should be) included in such a book. This article titled ‘Life story books giving adopted children memories of their past‘ describes some of the challenges adopters face when it comes to using these books. Normally it should have photos of their very first days (that is if the SW can convince Birth Mum to give some), pictures of where they lived, some people who were important to them. There should be a section about Birth Mum, Birth Dad, some nice things they said or did and the children’s favourite things, toys, food…etc. There should also be a section that describes why they could not take care of the children, how the SW was concerned and why they have asked a judge to let the SW find the children a new mummy and daddy. I would also put in a part that explains it is normal for some children not to live with their birth parents…

The second big section should include life with the Foster Carer(s). During this time many children continue to have some kind of Contact with their birth family and hopefully there are some pictures to document these supposedly happy moments. It is common to move to a different city so – especially if the children are older like ours – pictures of friends, school, class uniforms and class photos should be included, too. Then the section about a Family Finder looking for the new family… with the good news that the new family is found, then Introductions, first meetings and moving in. Perhaps some photos of the ‘Happy Ever After’ with new mummy and daddy and BOOM, it’s done.

How to start Life Story Work?

I have spoken to my SW friends and also sought wisdom on Twitter about what to expect. ‘Not much when it comes to quality‘ was one comment. Somebody else said ‘Done well, it should be a non traumatic process really. Good practices will go slow, let children lead and let them take the narrative. A good practitioner would also not be mentioning scary names in a first session and would have mummy in the session too!’ I suppose from this last comment you can deduct the fact that I wasn’t invited to attend the session! 😦 (PS I am still livid about this!)

It is also good practice to show the book first to the adopters…

SW practitioners also agree that depending on how much a child can manage in 1 session, it should be limited to a few pages (life stages) per session. Well, you guessed it! Our SW just rushed through the entire bloody book for both boys in 2 hours! (more on this later)

The whole point of this is to help them process all the bad things that happened to them! Sufficient time should be allocated to each life event so the children have time to take it all in; to cry and grieve about the terrible facts they hear, to understand the circumstances, to help them understand it was NOT their fault that their first family couldn’t look after them properly. It is expected that lots of memories will rush to the surface with each mention of an old house, an old name, and old picture… Trauma that is not dealt with can and will cause distress again and again. I am realistic in knowing it is a deeply distressing experience for any child and tears, sadness and some level of dysregulation is ‘normal’, but ultimately this shouldn’t be a traumatic event!

How did it go for my boys?

Well… in short: not well! On the surface they were happy to see some pictures and have an entire book just about them. But right under the surface their distress grew minute by minute. I wasn’t in the room when they started. I was sitting in the kitchen listening. Very early on I heard 8 crying. His younger brother was puzzled and asked SW why was he crying. Then I heard the SW say ‘he is  just upset… it’s ok… oh, look at this picture’. I was so upset that I couldn’t be there to comfort my son! Luckily he came out to show me a picture of him as a baby and invited me in.

That was the first time I saw the complete Life Story Book. On the outside it looked lovely! Lots of pictures, drawings, funny font, stickers, glitter…etc. But on closer inspection it was a different story! I had quite a few problems with it, it’s hard to know which one bothers me the most…

The entire album has 30 pages. 26 of them are filled by the Social Worker. What’s shocking is that out of the 26 pages, 10 pages are filled with things I HAVE SENT to her. Pictures I took, memories hubby and I created with the boys!!! The book should have had information up till the placement with plenty of room left for us to select pictures and memories together, as a family of four!

I have seen and read a few Life Story Books plus I know pretty much everything there is to know about the boys’ past so I had a general idea of what will be included. Since we do indirect contact (letters) with Birth Mum with photos, I am not phased anymore by seeing pictures of her. For the boys, however, it’s an entirely different question!

For 7 it was great to see pictures of her, but when he found out one of the pictures were taken VERY recently he was shocked. He thought his birth mum was dead! In a way I can understand; in his head that’s how he made sense of the fact that he was not living with her anymore. To him, she was dead! So naturally it was upsetting for him.

For 8 it was a different experience. While he loved seeing photos of himself as a baby, seeing his younger self with that woman brought back many traumatic memories. He was shaking, lips trembling and suddenly he was transported back to the time those pictures were taken. It was heartbreaking to see it! SW was just looking at him without a word! I enveloped him into the biggest hug I could muster and my usual mantra kicked in (‘you are safe, you are loved, mummy is here, everything is ok’) Eventually he settled so the SW said ‘so, about this next picture…’

There were some very specific issues that I don’t want to discuss here, sufficient to say I thought it was very poor judgement on SW’s side to include some stuff. When I raised it afterwards she told me off saying ‘I can’t just pick and choose what I put in, if it’s part of his story’. True, in principle I agree. However there are different ways of saying things and more information is not always better, just the opposite!

When we got to the part about their several Foster Carers 7 was conflicted. He wanted to say ‘oh, I love them‘ but he caught himself mid-sentence and looked at me with worry in his eyes! He didn’t feel comfortable saying in front of me how he felt! SW was again quiet. I had to reassure him that ‘it’s OK to love more than 1 adult at the same time, I am not upset, I know you have a big heart and there is room for more than just me and daddy in there’.

Then we got to this extra part that most adopters don’t have: discussing their first adoption that ended with a nasty adoption breakdown. Again, 8’s brain was flooded with terrible memories and another traumatic distressed period followed. By this time I thought we had waaaaay too much for one day, but SW kept on pressing ‘here comes the good part’.

The next page was about their last Foster Carer and it included the very first photo we took together in her home when we had the first day of Introductions. It was indeed, a happy memory for everybody. According to the SW the last 10 pages were there to show them ‘their sad start had a happy ending’ and ‘look how many happy memories you have already made with mummy and daddy’. Again, I do not disagree with this statement per se, but this should have been our job to do together!

During the 2 hours she spent in our house I had the nagging feeling that she just wanted to rush through the whole book and treated this as nothing but a tick-box exercise. On one hand I understand she didn’t want to ‘linger’on the horrible events of their early years, but that is supposed to be the whole point of the Life Story Work and in my humble opinion that should be the very reason why you can’t do this in one go!

By rushing through the book she minimised the impact of those traumatic memories and didn’t give sufficient time for my sons to grieve. I feel that my boys are now not healed, just the opposite! She left them re-traumatised and as usual, we, adoptive parents have to pick up the pieces and live with the ramifications!

And to top it off, she is now off for the next 2 weeks, which I frankly find totally unacceptable. Good practice says she should be available for the coming days to come back, spend more time with them and help them process it and taking it all in. I believe it was poor judgement on her side to do this piece of work right before her holiday! She delayed bringing the Books several times, surely it could have waited 2 more weeks in order to come back again very soon to continue with helping the children make sense of their past should they need it – and clearly they DO need it!

Today on the phone she kept on saying to me ‘you need to keep reassuring the boys‘ , but I can’t reassure them if they feel they can’t tell me every part of their past! I can’t continue looking at their Life Story Book with them if it causes them massive distress even just to hear certain names! Baaaah, I feel so helpless!

Needless to say, the boys had a difficult night last night with Night terrors (worse than usual) and presented with very challenging behaviours in school today…

I contacted SW’s manager, not to get her into trouble, but I recommended more training for her to avoid another family going through the same traumatic experience with disastrous outcome. I bet it won’t help our working relationships…

Feelingmumyet How not to do Life Story Work in Adoption

Night Terrors terrorise my family

Most expert say that Night Terrors isn’t something we, parents cause – in other words, we don’t do this to our children. It is often said that night terrors might run in the family. Perhaps. For us, adopters, this is something we can neither confirm nor deny. 😦

But I do wonder if my boys’ difficult past somehow plays a part…

My 6y old boy has night terrors almost every night.  Sometimes it’s ‘just‘ screaming, sometimes it’s screaming and sleep walking, sometimes it’s screaming and sleep walking with eyes wide open! I remember I freaked out so much the very first time it happened! I couldn’t believe he was not awake. I didn’t know why was he crying. I only saw that he  was trembling, his bed was soaked with sweat and his face was wet with fresh tears. These days we know what’s happening so we try to catch him before he comes down the stairs, we gently guide him back to his room, push his head back onto the pillow and he goes back to peaceful sleep in no time with no recollection of it the next day.

Night terror Feelingmumyet adoption

There are nights when we don’t catch him in time so he comes into the front room and starts talking to us. His eyes are open, he comes to the settee, sits down and says words or sentences that usually make no sense. Sometimes they do – once he and I had a proper conversation; I asked something, he responded, he asked back, I responded and he nodded. It was so odd! The only giveaway way the fact that his eyes weren’t focusing on anything. After a short chat I walked him back to bed. As expected, he had no memories of our conversation the next morning.

Night Terrors are scary!

Not for the child, for us, witnesses. I still struggle to accept that they are completely unaware of what’s happening to them. I looked around on the web to learn more about it, but it seems to be still an area that needs a LOT MORE research. I did find a website called the Night Terrors Resource Center that had some very useful information.

I have asked the children’s Social Worker several times about this, but her only response was ‘It’s no big deal, they don’t remember it anyways, besides, I used to have night terrors as a child and I grew out of it’. At this point I lost my cool and asked back ‘and how is that suppose to help me?’. Even the play therapist said that ‘since it’s not an experience the children remember it’s very hard to tackle it and help the children heal from it’.

Sometimes night terrors are scary even for the children!

A few nights ago 6 had an extremely violent night terror. He was screaming for over 30 minutes and there was nothing we could do about it! He was in his brother’s room – effectively waking and scaring him too – shaking and shouting ‘tell mummy I love her!‘ Both my husband and I ran upstairs and we took him to the bathroom. His whole body was shaking, his lips were trembling and he kept on saying the same thing to me ‘tell mummy I love her’. Now, this is the point where we, adopters get unsure: is he talking about me or about his first mum? There are good arguments for both…

Almost everybody agrees that waking a child in the middle of a night terror is not a good idea. Normally we don’t do it, but he was so distressed that I tried to wake him. I even put a cold and wet face cloth onto his face, but nothing worked. Husband was in the other room trying to calm down his brother. Once he came back he picked our little one up and carried him back to his bed. As soon as he put his head on the pillow he was back to peaceful sleep. The next morning he came to me and said he had a bad dream. He couldn’t recall any details, just a deep sense of worry and fear. My heart was breaking for him. We reassured him he is safe and well loved and said the lie parents often tell their children ‘it’s only a dream, don’t worry about it‘. And he didn’t waste any more thoughts on it. It was only my hubby and I who keep worrying that their past experiences somehow influence their dreams.

As I understand night terrors are not (bad) dreams per se and therefore are not connected to the subconscious mind processing the daily events. But then how do you explain the incident last night?

Night terror can be connected to daily events

Yesterday 6 had a small incident. We were in a park and he went from ‘I don’t need a toilet’ to ‘I am desperate‘ in 5 seconds (as most children would) so we started to walk home. Sadly he didn’t make it to the toilet and he wet himself in the porch. Needless to say he started crying. We kept our cool and told him ‘there is no reason to cry, go upstairs and mummy will shower you‘. He kept on crying. I thought it was because of the shame. It turns out I was wrong. He was crying mostly because he was afraid we will yell at him and be angry. (Birth father didn’t tolerate such ‘stupid behaviour’ and punished both boys severely every single time.) I reassured him we are not angry, but he kept on crying and asking ‘How can you not be angry?‘ We did the whole ‘look at my face, do you see anger’ routine while I try to give him my best smile, but he still wasn’t convinced.

Fast forward to bedtime, I put him to sleep without a problem. 30 minutes into  his sleep we heard a door open, elephant steps marching to the bathroom and then something falling onto the floor tiles. Hubby went up thinking the older one was messing about only to find 6 literally peeing into the washing basket!

He was so shocked for a second that he didn’t know what to do. Then he chose to talk to him. It became clear very fast that 6 was not awake even though he was acting so. Hubby was very cross because all our clothes were now smelling of his wee. I couldn’t stop laughing. Yes, it’s bad, sure, but if you take a step back and look at the big picture it’s pretty funny! It IS impressive for him to wee into the relatively tall washing basket, especially when you think he isn’t even consciously doing it! 🙂

While hubby took the basket down to do an emergency wash I walked my son back to bed. He kept on saying ‘I don’t want to race‘ which had clearly nothing to do with today’s events, but the fact that he took himself to the bathroom to relieve himself HAS TO BE connected to today’s events of him worrying about not getting to the toilet in time!

Do you guys think they are connected?

 

 

Night Terrors are common among children. Feelingmumyet is an adopter mum who writes about a potential link between terrible memories from the past and the intensity of the night terror.