Reframing Christmas

As the feelings ramp up once again with the dreaded “C” word making a big feature in our house, I once again reflect and implement the things we do in our house at this time of year to try to reframe this seasonal time and so am re-blogging my post from last year.

Quite honestly, I’d like to be a complete baa humbug and avoid completely, yet school, society and tv won’t allow me to do that! So tonight when they are in bed I’ll be getting the advent calendars and other paraphernalia out of storage ready for another year, another reframe, another ‘opportunity’ to change their understanding and expectation.

I’m also linking this to #WASO on the wonderful The Adoption Social as the theme there is “at this time of year”.

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Adopting Safe Mummy Ways

Over the years we have done a lot to set up new traditions for our girls and our family and also to reframe their early experiences and expectations.  Seven years on, we are still carrying out some of these whilst changing some and adding new ones too.   Here are some that I am doing:

Picture advent calendar
Take pictures of lots of simple regular things that are included in christmas in your family.  I actually think the pictures I use are a bit naff however from a child perspective they serve as useful reminders!   The pictures we have include: making cards, sausages wrapped in bacon, a pile of xmas tree chocolates, christmas crackers, the christmas tree, some wrapped pressies, cards hanging on the wall and an advent calendar.

The first year I just wrote numbers on the back then stuck them picture side down on the wall with blutack…

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Seasonal Secretive Struggles

It’s a difficult time of year in the Safe Family and not one I relish at all.

There are many issues which arise for us at home and within this half term at school. Even the October half term holiday tends to be (and has proven again to be) difficult and stressful because the girls are still incredibly scared.

Halloween and bonfire night and huge worry for both girls. That’s before we even get Christmas!

Halloween
We don’t do anything for Halloween. Apparently when children have been hurt and abused by their parents (the people who are supposed to protect and care) in order to make sense of it, they begin to believe that parents must be monsters. So, halloween brings forth the monsters again! Not a good plan. In addition people dress up and dressed up people are scary whatever time of year. Even a dressed up Paddington Bear was scary!

I don’t like the mixed messages associated with Halloween events and I believe it confuses children – particularly mine. The trick or treat encourages children to knock on doors of strangers – I mean!!! Really? All year we are teaching them don’t go to strangers, don’t accept sweets, blah blah oh but it’s ok now …..

I know there were many mean tricks done to them. So if we do trick or treat now, is the trick going to be giving them some food and taking it off them again? Because that’s what used to happen in birth family. It’s so confusing for them, it was then, it is now. It’s such a I go area. People give out sweets – people gave her sweets then abused her, people gave them sweets so they kept things secret, people gave them sweets when they were hurt and hungry and crying and sweets was not what they wanted or needed. Then all the kids at school talk about it so there’s really no getting away from it.

Firework Night.
The sound of Fireworks going off every night cause a huge issues for Littley. She will scream and cry so loudly the whole house is affected. She is absolutely terrified and at best I have to sit with her as she goes to sleep, or more often she has to sleep with one of us or will not sleep at all. Biggey is triggered by this because it reminds her of when she had to look after Littley!

Children who have been left alone, scared with strange noises, bangs, shouting will be frightened by this. In addition, they are unable to regulate feelings and emotions so even attempts to watch or join in still trigger early feelings which they do not have labels and names for.

We have tried having fireworks at home, little ones, quiet ones and changing the experience of them, yet this year we are giving up and not doing any! Additionally even if children talking about what they are doing will upset or trigger her – either because of memories or because of her inability “to be normal” or do what others do. Obviously her lack of sleep can affect her ability to cope in school and with everyday life.

Christmas.
Someone dressed up as Father Christmas and abused them. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were told they were being given away as presents. They didn’t get presents. They didn’t get fed. Have they been good? Of course not! As we know, many Looked After, Adopted, hurt, abused, traumatised children they inherently believe they are bad, no good, rubbish and don’t deserve…

In addition, as adoptive parents we spend hours and hours telling these children they are safe; no-one (birth parents) know a where you are; strangers do not come in our house. Then we go and let “that bloke” (as he is referred to) into our house and he just happens to know where you are! It’s bonkers. He never did come into our house and we spoiled the story early on which reduced the effects a bit. It didn’t eradicate it completely though. Christmas and the extended run up to Christmas is still generally awful in our house – and we’re heading for our 8th one!

Then there’s letterbox to consider and missing siblings and more.

All this is going on and my girls hold it all in. Keep it secret. Too frightened to say. Too ashamed to admit. Still holding in mind those early threats to ensure they keep things secret and don’t tell.

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Then I effectively keep it secret too, I don’t have the energy to explain to wider family or to friends or school. When you look at my girls they “seem fine”. They hold their secrets well. It’s their survival strategy.

I give school headlines and ask them to please bear all this in mind when they are in school and share the information in case of lessons planned to incorporate these events at this time of year as they will have an impact. I advised that they often becomes physically ill from worry and anxiety at this time of year too.

School’s response is that Littley has English lessons on the topics of Vampires so if they send me the book can I read it and share and prepare her?! Speechless.

They say we must not exclude her from lessons just because she’s scared. If she stays in lessons she will learn resilience! I couldn’t do the difficult conversations at that point. What about their duty of care to keep her safe – for to feel safe?

Also Biggey has 6 weeks of drama lessons on a theme of Dracula so they’ve send me the script so I can explain who Dracula is?!? No words left. She has a statement of support so who is supporting her?? Me! Of course I’ve got nothing better to do!

So I’m preserve my energy. I do lots of self care (as well as lots of swearing and sarcasm). I’ve stopped answering the phone to school even though I want to work with them, they need to want to listen! I am planning my next move – with both children and school and family. It’s all very strategic – like a game of chess – and I don’t bloody like chess!

A Plan to Care for Adopted Children in Schools

Now this is a brilliant way forward and one I hope it rolled out across the country. Well done Gareth!

Gareth Marr

What’s the problem? 

There can be no doubt that education issues dominate the lives of many adopters once their children start school. This can be a real shock as many are unprepared for the battles that can ensue with the education establishment. All the pre adoption training on attachment and trauma does not build the resilience needed to enter into endless engagements with teachers who either don’t understand or don’t care. Hugh Thornbery, CEO of Adoption UK,  told me that by far the majority of calls they receive on their helpline are on school issues. Every edition of ‘Adoption Today’ this year has a detailed article on handling problems at school.

So what can be done? Well many brave parents are fighting their individual battles and sharing frustrations and successes on social media. But this is not a problem with an individual teacher or school. It is endemic and nationwide…

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Sibling Adoption

My Littley is scared of fireworks. So I didn’t bother to attempt to do bedtime tonight and let her sit with me. That way I had less stress for us both. Biggey went to bed, she sleeps through everything. So whilst there was some particularly loud bangs Littley told me she was fed up with having problems. After chatting (she’s really good at chatting) about fears and feelings I explained that this week was National Adoption Week #NAW2014 and that the focus was on sibling adoption and the reason for that. Then I simply said

What do you think about being adopted with your sibling?

This is all her own words….

When she (Biggey) explodes I get scared and want to hide away. I don’t like it and I’m too scared to do anything and even too scared to tell you.

It’s better to have someone who knows my experience and understands so I can talk to them about kids stuff. I’m not lonely.

Better to be with someone I was born with than be on my own.

I know she’s bigger than me. But she talks big and clever and tries to tell me what to do all the time but I don’t like her telling me I’m wrong all the time.

When she does stuff (outbursts) in the street and in the supermarket then I’m really embarrassed. Why does she have to do these things it’s so embarrassing?

When I have to walk with her to school and stuff it’s like on outside she’s bigger but inside she’s a little girl. She only does stuff, like get a glass milk, or go out to play, when I do. Why can’t she do it for herself or just learn like I did? I try to understand but sometimes the things she does makes me feel like she relies on me all the time and this is a lot of pressure on me to do things and do things for her. I try to encourage her but she gets stroppy and upsets me and I don’t like it. It feels like too much pressure which makes me upset. When I get upset I get tummy ache.

I do want more people to adopt children because it stops us having horrible lives and it tells us that there are people out there who can care for us and not people who hurt us all the time.

Before you adopted me I had a horrible feeling in my tummy all the time. I used to eat to try and get rid of it. I used to eat crisps every day and even that didn’t help. I used to try and play and do things but it didn’t work cos I was so upset. Since I came to you I know that you love me and care for me and I feel much better, even though my behaviour is sometimes very bad, I know you will keep safe me forever.

My advice is : adopt a baby cos it must be much easier. Then you won’t have to catch up with learning by doing peek a boo and things like that when they are big.

Be patient because we have to adapt to you but you have to adapt to us as well. Do be calm and kind because it is hard if we had a horrible past and been hurt or not looked after enough.

Please do get us new toys and warm comforting things as well as toys to fiddle with. It helps us to feel safe and happy because it makes us feel safe and loved and comfortable.

It may take a while for us to settle in but no matter what we will begin to feel safe and be able to tell you we love you.

By Littley Safegirl age 11.

Helped by Safemum (age 21 again). Immensely proud, quite sad, totally blown away.

Dear Edward Timpson

This week all adopters received a “letter” from Children’s Minister Edward Timpson.  Well, I say letter, (for those who were not in receipt) it was a link to an website where I could download the letter!  So already, we had just another little thing to do …..

Read it here, if you didn’t get yours! Edward_Timpson_Letter_to_adopters

I read his letter with an open mind, yet my ‘coping mechanism’ of sarcasm soon made an appearance.  I was disappointed to be reading a curriculum vitae of what he has done, it was all me, me me.  So, here’s what I would have liked to be reading..

Dear Adopter

I wanted to say huge thank you for:

  • Saving the government millions of pounds by adopting these children and doing it for free!  (You’ve no idea how much they would have costs us, the government, the country, if these children had stayed in care).
  • Increasing the taxable income by consuming copious amounts of alcohol in order to sooth the day in the life of adoption.
  • Educating our educators in nurseries, schools and colleges all around the country by teaching them about attachment, trauma and loss, how it affects and how to deal and help heal.  This is saving us millions in training and development costs.
  • By holding our schools to account by personally asking them and checking on their spending of the pupil premium (because we know how much you like to have more challenging conversations!).
  • Doing it alone, mostly quietly, yet very tenaciously and saving us more money in SW support.  By adopting we don’t have to assign and pay for Social Workers so we can continue to reduce funding and reduce numbers of Social Workers needed across the country.
  • Putting your heart and soul into these kids and keeping them off the streets and so saving yet more money from police, criminal and justice systems.
  • Making your home like a prison just to keep these kids safe, helps them learn, encourage reform as it keeps our prison numbers and costs down.

In recognition of all the above that you, our wonderful adopters do, here is what we are doing:

  • Making it mandatory that all school staff, teachers, assistants, support staff are fully trained in attachment, trauma and loss within the next year.
  • Have mandatory training too for all Education Psychologists, Social Workers, Welfare Workers.
  • The Camhs task force will in place in the next 6 months and will be fully funded, trained and educated to provide the very best care, understanding and regular appointments.
  • Make it a criminal offence for anyone to be judgemental, derogatory and generally unkind to adoptive parents whenever they try to engage in any of the above services.

In addition, we are setting up FREE regular monthly deliveries of chocolate and wine or beer to every adoptive household, for the rest of your lives.

Finally, every summer holiday there will be fully funded holiday camps / cruise ships for you to engage in your regular summer holiday.  At these places all staff will be trained in dealing with behaviour and trauma so that you can relax and enjoy your holiday.  We know that providing this will still be much cheaper than paying for these children to remain in care, so

thank you, thank you, thank you!

Your Government Loves You!

Yours,

Teddy Timmo

choc and wine

I’ve linked this with The Adoption Social Weekly shout out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out