“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!
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.
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…