adoption behaviour

Building Resilience

This weekend Girl went to her cousins for the weekend with her grandparents, I was a bit apprehensive about it, she hasn’t had a sleepover with her grandparents for ages because every time she had one she came home and bullied Boy so we put a stop to it.

Well, The Hubster’s mum and dad kept asking if they could take Girl with them to her cousin’s house for the weekend for a birthday celebration, it’s about 90 minutes drive away. Initially, after the other week’s behaviour I said she could only go if she was behaving herself in the run up. My thoughts were that it probably doesn’t pay to keep saying no to everything, she has to learn to cope with situations but it’s the not coping with it that made me apprehensive not whether she was behaving well enough,  Girl does need to be in the right head-space to cope, behaviour is an indication of where she is inside.

Now, I must add that before Christmas the cousins came this way and they all had a sleepover at Girl’s grandparents house. The next day Girl was inconsolable after they went and for a few days after she was snappy and irritable declaring it was because she was missing her cousins.

After much thought I decided to let her go this weekend because above everything else I thought it would be fun for her. Well it was fun by all accounts, they went to see The Lego Movie for her cousin’s Birthday but while they were on the way home the cousins mum commented on Facebook how quiet and well behaved she was and I just thought uh-oh. Quiet is a bad sign. I wasn’t at all surprised at well behaved, just like at school, Girl will behave perfectly appropriately where she is not feeling confident.

Well, they arrived home about 6pm last night, Girl was pale and also very tired from not sleeping well, after milk and toast we sent her to bed at her usual time of 7.15pm, I fought the urge to keep her up, school next day and she looked so tired. Suddenly she was inconsolable again, she said she was missing her cousin and I guess (though she would never say it) probably confused with missing us and the routine of home too.

More than anything I wish these things weren’t so difficult for her, as I guess as many adoptive parents do. It’s always a tough decision, I know she will enjoy herself to a certain extent but sending her somewhere she doesn’t feel confident, feels anxious, is it worth the heartache afterwards? Loss and separation is such a big part of our kid’s lives.  Also, I don’t want to be the mum who stopped her from doing and trying stuff, I think it’s a recipe for later resentment.

I think the key is that she might have been upset when she got home but it’s building resilience, she will feel more confident next time she goes and even more so the time after that. We straight away got back into normal routine, however hard that was for her to accept and we know the next few days she might feel a bit sad, fingers crossed that the sadness doesn’t escalate into bigger feelings that we know she feels.

The Post Holiday Post

Surfer Girl!I’m back and we survived! The holiday was in most ways a total success. The location was perfect…plenty to do for the kids. In fact enough that we could get a really good balance of spills and thrills combined with quieter activities such as the lovely beaches, rock pooling and local scenery. The weather was good which really helped. Everything was really in our favour.

Girl has loved every minute and only had a few moments of bad behaviour which was dealt with and forgotten.

And then there’s Boy. Where do I start? The boot full of favoured toys was inspired, Boy was able to just ‘be’ when he needed to just ‘be’ which helped a lot. If we were active such as playing on the beach or using the park’s swimming facilities (particularly the slides and flumes) or the soft play then Boy behaved pretty well. We managed to stay active most of the time but the moments when we weren’t active were fraught. If Boy could be left to play with his toys then that was mostly fine except for the inevitable bickering and spitefulness between both kids but routine stuff such as eating, getting dressed, visiting the toilet was difficult. By the last day Boy was in a really foul mood and getting quite difficult to manage.

paddling

As we had to check out quite early on the final day we decided to visit the Miniature Pony Centre on Dartmoor on the way home. What an awesome place that was, if you get chance to visit I would highly recommend it. Girl absolutely loved it and it was beautiful to watch her interacting with each and every one of the ponies. So entranced was she with the ponies that she wasn’t even bothered about the park or zip wires for quite some time.

Boy on the other hand professed to hating it, even the tractor driving. He was rude, obnoxious, mean, spiteful, controlling. His face stayed in a down-turned smile for most of the day. He did partake in all of the activities on offer, handling the pets, pony rides, tractor driving, trampolining, even Boy is not daft enough to sabotage it that much but he did every activity with a scowl on his face. It was both heartbreaking and frustrating to see him be so intent on hating it. He screamed at us that he was hungry so we decided to go and get something to eat, he then screamed at us that he didn’t want anything to eat, we were in a no-win situation because he didn’t want us to win, he wanted to make demands and for them not to be met to prove that mummy and daddy are utter beasts. It is the sort of day out that he would normally love but he hated us and he hated the world so nothing was going to be good enough. The Hubster and I spent most of the day exchanging despairing glances, shrugging our shoulders and shaking our heads when he wasn’t looking.

pony centre

As always the best thing we can do it just grin and bear it and enjoy the good moments as much as we can. I do know why Boy gets distressed but knowing doesn’t make it any easier to deal with when it gets to the point of being a no-win situation but the positive is… it took a whole week to get to this point so that makes the holiday a success in my book!

Sibling Rivalry and Adoption

siblingsBringing a second child into your family is tricky and if your family is made up by way of adoption, well, it just makes things that bit more complicated. I am not by any means saying that natural families don’t have issues with expanding the family but when your family is expanded by way of traumatic (yes, that word again) life changing events rather than (what I imagine to be) the joyful moment of childbirth it kind of sticks. These adopted children will always feel a sense of insecurity and I would go as far as to say that all of them will feel like this, it took me a long time to realise this but the truth is why wouldn’t they?

With one child it’s simpler to work on creating those secure attachments and life can be enjoyed, you can build the trust, you can concentrate your efforts solely and get through the tough times together with no added complications. Then comes along child number two. Suddenly life is as complicated and confusing as it’s going to get. You need to create a bond with your second child but yet maintain a good bond with your first child but then you have to consider that your first child still needs that concentrated effort of attention but your second child needs it just as much or actually more and the more one needs it the more the other needs it.  Even thinking about it sends my head into a spin.

I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the time one child is going to feel like their nose has been put out of joint. The squabbles and bids for my attention are never ending. I might sound bitter, I am not. What I am is stretched to my limits. Whatever my moves are with one child I have to make sure I have the other child in mind, ready to spring into quick-witted action, I have to be forward thinking. If anyone has ever met me, I think they would agree that quick-witted or forward thinking would not be the first words you would use to describe me. I am a thinker, I like to take my time to mull something over, I am not really very good at being one step ahead unless I have already learned previously from a similiar mistake and I guess that’s the important thing, learning from the mistakes.

Take for instance the other day. Girl came home from school and Boy laid into her as he does most days. Whatever she picks up he wants, ‘it’s mine (whether it is or isn’t), I want it’. If she sits down he shouts ‘my chair, me sit there’. Resigned, Girl slipped to her room quietly with the excuse she was going to the toilet. After twenty minutes I went to check on her and she was sitting playing snap with herself on the floor, looking utterly miserable. I tried to talk to her but she was stubborn that she was not going to say she was sad about Boy picking on her again so I suggested she find her Guess Who game and I would play that with her  (while I cooked the dinner I hasten to add). To cut a long story short (because it really is dull), Boy soon sniffed out that Girl was having ‘Fun with Mummy’ and he was not. Much squawking later Girl is happy but Boy is not and refuses to eat his dinner, he suddenly has tummy ache, leg ache and mouth ache (and Mummy has a headache Boy dearest). In hindsight I could have picked a game for us all to play but Girl looked so sad I thought she needed some special attention but by doing that I put Boy’s nose out of joint. What do I do? Is there ever a point of mummy coming out champion of everything?

It’s not just Boy being mean to Girl, we do get the opposite where Girl has tried to push herself into whatever activity Boy is doing. She calls it sharing but differently to boy it’s more sly. Boy will just shout his desires, ‘mine, I want it’  but Girl pushes herself into Boy’s space so eventually he is pushed out of the activity altogether, comic reading, brushing the dog, playing on the ride-on motorbike etc.

Our (new) family therapist told us to consider that in parenting terms having one adopted child is the equivalent of having two children, just in sheer input and extra measures we have to take. In my words I would say adopted children have extra needs, not necessarily special needs, just extra needs. They have been to the dark side, they need to know they won’t be there again and every move towards the sibling is a small rejection for them, I think that’s important to understand.

I hear so many adopters excited by the prospect of a second adoption, frustrated at having to wait the two years required by most adoption authorities and possibly more excited than when they adopted the first child. I have been there myself. The grim reality is, it’s bloody hard work parenting two very needy children and juggling all the different sized balls that come with adoption but by golly I must be a glutton for punishment because I actually love it. Honestly at times I have felt like I haven’t liked it very much, that the incessant demands for my attention have been overwhelming but I would not change a thing.  The moments when you get it right I am sure feel a million times better because those cuddles and smiles, moments of relaxation are fought so hard for.

Can I Read Too Much?

The Hubster was telling me about a chat he had with a mum at the school who’s daughter was displaying the same sort of behaviours as Girl, tantrums, arguing, hitting, biting and kicking. This is a little girl who has had no issues in her life, appears as my girl does most of the time as quite a pleasant, amenable child and hearing that just makes me question everything I have learned.

Following on from that, a mum of a friend was asking how things are at the moment, the last time I saw her we were in one of our turbulent times and I had a few tears. I was chatting about what was happening now, the books I had read and methods I was using but then she asked if I thought I read too much and followed on by trying to give me lots of advice about how to deal with kids. I had to sit patiently (gritted teeth) and let her lecture me on how to be a better mum and that I need to relax, all kids are gits (she actually used a much stronger word here) and that in her day things like Attachment Disorder or ADHD or Autism did not exist, you just had to get on with it, people didn’t read books about parenting. Maybe she did not mean it to be quite so patronising but I went home feeling pretty rubbish.

Honestly, I have asked myself the same thing about reading books. I would much rather be reading a light-hearted chick-lit than books about adoption trauma and attachment disorder but at the same time I have learned some really useful stuff from reading, some things have clicked into place and life generally is more peaceful because I am armed with knowledge. What I still have to learn to do is not read every little behaviour as a potential minefield because yes all kids can be little gits sometimes!

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Acronyms

LA Local Authority
SW Social Woker
PASW Post Adoption Social Worker
SALT Speech & Language Therapy
CP Community Paediatrician

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