What’s plan B?

Published May 24, 2018 by thefamilyof5

I tweeted recently, wondering about how or where adopters can go for support if the relationship with their county’s post adoption department breaks down.

Peer support is great but realistically other than a listening ear from other mentally and physically exhausted parents experiencing the same difficulties, there isn’t much they can do to help.

Adoption UK is a great place for facts and sign posting, but they can’t help you access the adoption support fund or attend meetings or offer respite or therapy.

Someone suggested approaching a local voluntary agency, and whilst I’m confident they would like to help, realistically who would fund them to support an adoptive family that’s not on their books.

So where can we go, when the relationship breaks down with your local support service it seems there is no where else to go.

Our own county has 1 manager and 2-3 actual social workers who work alongside 2-3 family support workers. When the newly assigned social worker told us that child on parent violence was normal teen behaviour and we needed generic parenting training our confidence in her was lost. When their manager backed her up and agreed the issues we were experiencing didn’t fall with the post adoption remit, we lost all hope. When the generic local parenting support team that they referred us to said that the difficulties were experiencing were way beyond anything they could help with, we were left feeling abandoned by the very services that were meant to be supporting us.

So where do we go?! When we need someone to help school understand attachment and trauma (because we all know schools don’t listen to us measly parents), where do we go? When we need therapeutic advice or support services, where do we go? When you’re confident almost all members of your family are suffering some kind of ptsd, where do you go? When your children are experiencing difficulties managing their feelings, where do you go? When you need support for siblings, where do you go? There is no where.

The system designed to support us does so conditionally, there’s no plan B.

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Baby steps (part 2 if I’ve used this title before?!).

Published April 26, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Big girl comes home from school every day very ‘hyper’. This is an indication of anxiety. Every day I spend about 30-40mins talking to her as soon as she walks through the door, she tells me about her day, processes her thoughts and unloads everything on to me. She feels calmer afterwards and I can get on with making the dinner.

On quite a few occasions she’s come home more hyper than usual. For example, there was the day of her science fair, a Friday, she came home in such a state we almost called an ambulance or took her to A&E. It took 4hrs that evening to get her to a relative state of normal, but it took until the Sunday lunchtime for her to really be feeling ‘ok’.

Then there was yesterday, a change in timetable first thing in the morning and an extra long PE session with 2 potential new teachers was just too much. She came home very hyper/manic and again, it took me some time to calm her down and help to regulate her. This time, she was able to tell me why she was so hyper, usually she isn’t aware and we have to work it out together, she recognised that the PE lesson first thing in the morning had left her feeling anxious and overwhelmed all day. She recognised things that she had done throughout the day were because of her anxiety. She told me about jumping in class and generally being ‘silly’ all day. These are not behaviours that you would usually associate with big girl, unless she was anxious.

We talked about how hard it must be for her to feel this anxious all day and how it wasn’t healthy for her brain or her body to be feeling like this for long periods of time. We talked about what she thought she could do to help herself calm down once she’s recognised her anxiety levels. We came up with many ideas, such a leaving the classroom, talking to a teacher, going for a walk, using the sensory room, sitting and reading a book and a few others, none of these she felt would help her. The only thing she felt might help was being at home or with me. We talked about how maybe phoning home could be an option and she thought that was worth a try however, having the courage to ask a teacher to let her call home posed another issue.

It’s amazing that she has, for the first time to my knowledge, been aware, in the moment, of how she is feeling, it is also the first time she has been able to recognise that things she is doing ‘aren’t right’ and are because she is anxious. She said that when she was jumping around she was telling herself in her brain that she needed to stop and things weren’t ok. But she couldn’t.

What is exceptionally sad about all of this though, is that all of this information is in the Letter to Teacher that she gave to her teacher during her transition to school. It specifically mentions silly behaviour being a sign of anxiety, it talks about new faces and changes to routines being a trigger for anxiety AND it also suggests offering a phone call home as reassurance. Big girl is developing a new awareness about herself and how she feels, but she can’t do it all by herself. She needs help to regulate and feel safe.

We’re meeting with school tomorrow, I really hope that we’re able to help her teachers to really ‘know’ big girl and not just see the facade she allows them to see.

Big girls bag of worries.

Published April 11, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Big girls been struggling this half term, she’s very hyper, manic even, and not sleeping.

I managed to establish with her yesterday that she’s worrying about going back to school because she’s finding break times difficult. She often doesn’t have someone to talk to, or play with and finds being alone uncomfortable. She doesn’t want people to see her looking sad or alone so she finds herself running about, bouncing like a bunny (her words) and generally appearing busy. She tells me she doesn’t like acting like this (it is all very out of character behaviour for her, she’s not one for silliness really). She says it makes her even more anxious pretending to be enjoying herself and still worrying that people will be ‘looking at her’. We had a chat about it and I explained that I’ve been speaking to her teachers who will be trying to support her better at these times and also how she could go and stand by a teacher when she is feeling left out. We also talked about what she could do to feel less lonely and with nothing to do. She gathered a colouring book and some loom bands to put in her school bag and seemed happy with this idea. I thought, I hoped, that might be enough to reassure her.

After another sleepless night I suggested she spent some time really thinking about her worries. Breaking each part down and looking at what it really is about. I gave her some ideas on how to do this such a story, write a diary, design a poster etc. It really is something she needed to work through by herself. Big girl spends all day avoiding her thoughts by keeping busy and filling the quiet with noise. I suggested if she processed her thoughts and came up with some ideas and solutions that she felt might help, then she might do less ‘thinking’ when she’s in bed each night.

She disappeared, and reappeared about 20 minutes later looking pleased with herself.

Big girl: mom, I’ve just realised, if I can tell my teacher I have a pet hamster then I can tell her I have no one to talk too as well can’t I!

I really hope it’s as simple as that and she is able to remove her mask at school and let them see her struggles, or in the very least this simplified idea affords her some sleep tonight.

Brains, RAM and virus protection!

Published March 28, 2018 by thefamilyof5

I’m a pretty organised person, I’m one of ‘those people’ that starts Christmas shopping in January, has birthday gifts purchased weeks in advance and has a collection of varying sized and varying coloured envelopes for all eventualities. Yup, I’m one of those people.

Well, I used to be. Yesterday I suddenly realised it’s Easter Sunday THIS Sunday! I’ve no eggs for the Easter bunny to hide in the garden or gifts for the girls (because they’re lucky enough to get many many eggs from friends and family). I’m thankful for my Amazon Prime account right now.

So whats happening to me?! Have I broken?!

No, well, not yet. It’s a distinct possibility for the near future though if I don’t clear out my busy head. My head is so busy that when I try and think, some kind of whirling spinning motion begins in my head with thoughts flashing past so quickly that I can’t even see what they are.

I know I know, I’m a mom, I’m supposed to have a busy head, I’m supposed to be planning tea, mentally keeping an eye on the washing basket, remembering to load/unload the dishwasher, feed the cat (Oh and our newly arrived Hamster), water the plants, iron the shirts (that’s literally all I iron, life’s too short for ironing!!), do the shopping, pay the kids club fees, keep the kids (and husband) alive.

Simple eh!

No, not simple, my brain isn’t doing any of the above because it’s too busy doing all the other crazy shit that is my life.

Always having to stay one step ahead of three ‘not to small any more’ people, always having to pre-empt what their reactions to things will be, reminding them to wash their faces, ensuring they’re brushing their teeth, checking they are wearing appropriate clothing for the day, sniffing hair as they depart the shower to make sure it was actually washed, keeping an eye on footwear, does it still fit? They won’t tell me if it doesn’t, constantly having to keep plans in my head until the last minute so they don’t get anxious, listening to everything they say as well as everything they don’t say.

In my head right now I’m keeping a hair appointment for Friday a secret, a trip to Nanny and Grandads for Easter dinner Sunday a secret, an optician appointment for big girl next week a secret, a day trip with grandparents in the holidays, a visit to see cousins next week a secret, even plans to visit the farm for Easter dinner supplies and possibly lunch in the cafe tomorrow has to remain in my head until tomorrow. I can’t even reveal that we may go out for dinner bank holiday Monday whilst Daddy is off work, as much as they’ll enjoy it, they won’t manage knowing this stuff before it happens.

Then there’s the longer term stuff, holidays, meetings, birthday parties, weddings, which incidentally are a nightmare, imagine trying to keep an upcoming event a secret whilst simultaneously ensuring everyone has an outfit to wear, nightmare! Preparing for a meeting with all this stuff in my head is also a nightmare, I’ve been trying to refresh my brain on everything attachment lately for the meeting with big girls school (which was rearranged for the end of April) but as soon as I pick up one of the new shiny lovely smelling books that I bought, my brain starts thinking about something else ‘is our gas and electric on the right tariff?’ Or ‘have we got enough milk for tomorrow’s cereal’ or ‘why did big girl mention xyz eleventy billion times earlier, is it a problem?!’

Honestly, my brain has no filter, my filing cabinets are full and my virus protection is failing, the blue screen of death is fast approaching. And I still have no eggs for the Easter bunny to hide!

Consider the blog my ‘to do’ list, I’m hopeful I just freed up some disk space 😉

Big girls first lesson.

Published March 18, 2018 by thefamilyof5

It’s been a really tricky few days here with big girl, it’s been building up for several weeks. She’s been gradually distancing herself from anything and everything family related. No interest in her sisters, or speaking to any of us, no interest in making the intricate models she’s grown to love, nothing. Her only interest has been school, and school homework/practise. Unusually, I had absolutely no idea why all this was happening. Usually I can identify a specific trigger but as this was a gradual build up (again unusual) I really had no idea what was going on.

A brief chat about something Tuesday quickly escalated to violence and aggression. It became super apparent that we were all still traumatised from big girls violence from last summer/autumn. We all crumbled under the strain quickly.

On Friday big girl came home from school in a state I can only describe as ‘manic’. I’ve never seen her behave that way before, MrFo5 and I were ready to call an ambulance as we were convinced she was having some sort of mental health breakdown. She was laughing hysterically whilst shouting aggressively, demanding me to ring a social worker to take her away, not making sense, incoherent speech, it was scary to see.

4hours I talked with her, and after 4 hours she was a little more like herself again whilst I resembled goodness knows what. It was an exhausting 4hours.

I now know what Overwhelmed looks like. She was completely overwhelmed. There had been an event in school and she’s found it scary and overwhelming. She told me about various other things that she finds difficult in school, noisy dinner hall, relaxed boundaries, and feeling a bit lost at break and dinner times were the most notable. She didn’t tell us before because she doesn’t need us now she has friends (she said). Saturday she remained hostile but was markedly calmer.

Sunday, today, I shared with her a theory I’d had at 3am whilst my brain was frantically still trying to process the previous 48hrs and some of the garbled nonsense she’d blurted out on Friday, particularly about peers talking negatively about their parents.

My theory was that big girl is now actually making friends, she’s socialising with other children, having actual conversations and social interactions, something she’s never experienced before. The friends that she’s socialising with, even though it is a special school, are still way ahead of big girl emotionally and socially. She may be leaps ahead of her class academically, but that’s where it ends.

So in reality she’s learning what its like to be a friend as a 13yr old, without having learnt to be friends as a 6yr old, or a 10yr old so she isn’t familiar with the friendship/peers/being a kid rules. All kids bitch about their parents at school, all kids make out that they have the worst family ever, but most go home, snuggle on the sofa, watch TV, chat, share some Pizza and just generally do the family thing. The bitching stuff in school is just showing off, bravado, but of course, big girl doesn’t know this.

She seems to have a friend that is particularly vocal about her terrible family and how awfully they treat her. Big girl likes her, wants to be her friend so she copies. She doesn’t know the rules though. She doesn’t know it’s just showing off and she has been convinced that this friend really hates her family, really goes home each day and has an awful time. So big girl did the same she said. Only she doesn’t have an awful family that treat her badly, she generally quite likes her family, but to ensure she is just like her friend and can be liked even more by her new friends, she continues the showing off game at home.

I shared my theory with big girl and after a little bit of thinking she told me about some of the other things this friend has said, and photos she’s shown her, that actually show that she is very much loved by her family and very much happy to be with them. She began to see that what the girl was saying, wasn’t necessarily true, just a thing that kids do.

Today she has been lovely, she has played with her sisters, sat with her family, laughed and joked and listened to music with us. It’s been a good day, the best for months.

I’ve encouraged her to begin a new trend at school whereby it becomes cool to openly like your family, because she does, I’m hoping the teachers jump on the idea and use it to bring more positivity in to the classrooms and playgrounds.

Here ends this lesson on ‘showing off’ for big girl, until the next one, there will be many more lessons to come I’m sure.

Splitting / Triangulation

Published March 15, 2018 by thefamilyof5

The honeymoon period was never going to last forever, I knew that.

Over the last couple of months big girl has been gradually withdrawing more and more from family life with her main and only focus being on school.

48hrs ago a minor incident at school that required us to have a gentle chat, instantly blew up in to something major. The minor incident was pushed to the side in place of control, aggression and violence and ultimately the rejection of any parenting beyond basic needs.

If I hear ‘shut up idiot’ much more, I may actually scream. Loudly. It breaks my heart to see her destroy the things she holds dear, family photos that she will regret having ripped to smithereens.

Big girl has always been skilled at splitting relationships, pulling the wool over people’s eyes whilst demonising another. Usually me. Its happened within the family, within the support services we’ve accessed, even a newly appointed social worker and of course, its happened in school.

It seems like its happening in school again. It can’t happen though. This school placement is big girls last hope, this families last hope, I fought hard to get her there, but she needs to feel safe there because the alternatives aren’t ideal.

So whilst school inadvertently take on the role of ‘rescuer’ and bandage her imaginary PE injuries and empathise with her difficult family life, they’re allowing her to play the role of the victim, which is playing straight into her hands and making her family the perpetrators.

Until this stops she will remain hostile and violent at home. Being able to control your teachers, doesn’t tend to make you feel very safe.

I found this great piece on triangulation and wanted to share it with you, I’ll add a link to the source as well.

Triangulation: This is one of the more potentially damaging hazards that teachers encounter with AD students. AD students are reliably on the lookout for other adults to playoff against their parents so as to make their parents look deficient in some way. Teachers are a favorite choice. AD students often present their optimal side at school, a side the parents rarely see at home. On the other hand, when the parents describe home behavior that the teacher has likely never seen, teachers are often incredulous. It is tempting, on the surface, to ascribe the difference to faulty parenting. With AD students, that conclusion is most likely incorrect. By adopting the perspective of blaming the parents, teachers step onto the Rescue Triangle. This is a dynamic that commonly occurs in human relationships, and it is always destructive. The Rescue Triangle has three participants. One is in the role of Victim, one is in the role of Perpetrator, and the third person arrives as the Rescuer. AD students usually place themselves in the position of Victim and then invite teachers to play the role of Rescuer from the Perpetrator parents. In attempting to “rescue” the child, the teacher unwittingly joins with the child as a co-perpetrator to victimize the parents. Now the initial roles have shifted. This is the nature of a Rescue Triangle. The roles are always shifting over time but nothing else really changes. No healing happens. No one learns anything. This same dynamic can develop involving only school personnel wherein one teacher is devalued (Perpetrator) while another is idealized (Rescuer). AD students always place themselves in the Victim position. It is essential for teachers to learn to recognize the invitation to enter a Rescue Triangle and decline it. In denying the AD student the role of “Victim”, the teacher will likely instantaneously become a “Perpetrator” in the student’s eyes, and may start to see behavior more reminiscent of the student’s behavior at home. This is the nature of the game at hand: any adult who refuses to support the AD student in the Victim role becomes a Perpetrator by virtue of their refusal. Instead of accepting the Rescuer invitation, teachers should suggest that the parents, teacher, and student all sit down to discuss how it is that the child’s behavior is so different at home vs. school. This breaks the Rescue Triangle for it requires one of the three roles to be absent at all times. If triangulation is not blocked, the teacher will become an unsafe adult in the AD student’s eyes- it’s just a matter of when, since failing at Rescuer is inevitable.

So it looks like I’m going to need to meet with school, emails just aren’t cutting it. Big girl is going to have to be present for some of the meeting, she needs to see we’re all working together to support her. She needs to see we’re strong and consistent and school need to see that we are not the perpetrators and big girl is only a victim to her own attachment disordered world.

Here comes the sun…….

Published February 7, 2018 by thefamilyof5

It’s taken me a while to write this, I feel a huge amount of guilt over what I’m about to write, ashamed even, but I can’t deny it.

Since big girl went back to school, I’ve felt happier. So so much happier.

It’s not even that I’m feeling happier because I know she’s at a good school. I’m feeling happier because she isn’t chipping away at my smile from the second she wakes to the moment to goes to bed. It wasn’t until she wasn’t here with me 24/7 that I realised how much her negativity (aimed always at me), was effecting me. I know it isn’t her fault but the change I’ve felt in my own sense of worth and mental health has been huge. I know she’s just a child, a very anxious child at that, but her negativity is so draining. I feel awful. What kind of a mother feels happier away from their child.

“I can’t do that”

“That’s stupid”

“I’m not doing that”

“It’s stupid”

“It’s rubbish”

“I hate it”

“I won’t”

All worded in a way to imply that it was all my fault, that I was stupid, that it was my fault she couldn’t do it, that it was rubbish because of me, that she hated me.

Even when she was being remotely positive, it was still negative.

“It’s nice, but not as nice as the cake I had before”

“It was a funny film, but not as funny as….”

“It’s been a sunny day, but yesterday was sunnier”

“I had a great day, but my best day ever was….”

Can you see? It sounds so petty now I write it down, but the negativity was killing me. 24/7 sucking the life from me. Baby girl and Middle girl felt it too.

I would wake each day with a positive fresh outlook and every day she would gradually chip away at me until I ended my day full of gloom and despair. Big girl has always struggled with her relationship with me, needing me, but pushing me away, wanting to love me, but unable to allow herself. All of her anger and hurt has always been directed at me, her violence too.

My days still begin fresh and positive, and hers still negative. My days are now happier and filled with sunshine and laughter. Home educating baby girl and middle girl has become more fun and easy going. When big girl returns from school, seemingly after a good day, she still brings that bag of negativity with her, she throws it at me sometimes, but now I’m stronger, so I just pocket it and move on. I wonder what she does with the bag all day at school? She must pocket it too, saving it all for me when she gets home.

They say that children from trauma backgrounds often project the feelings they have about themselves, on to those around them, which is incredibly sad.

I’ve tried so hard to build up her confidence, fill her with positive experiences, happy memories and love. But always she’d focus on the negative. Big girl has never been able to talk about, manage, even face her feelings. She would rather die than even think about how she feels inside. Perhaps thats why she projects so much negativity, easier to throw it at someone else than it is to face it.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post, I don’t have a way of making everything OK for big girl. School, whilst she’s currently managing it, isn’t addressing her needs on a deeper emotional level, in fact, it’s probably just offering her a distraction from them. The medication she was prescribed last year, again just another way to avoid what’s real. The 4+ years of therapy she had was unsuccessful, she wasn’t able to engage. I’ve not been able to get through the wall, or even get her to acknowledge her own wall. She tells me nothing. Ironically, her teacher emailed me only last week and commented on what a lovely relationship big girl has with me and how lovely it is that she is able to talk to me. Goodness knows what she’s told them but realistically it’s just another way for her to avoid reality. Fake is safer. Fake is something she excels in.

For now, things are better. Baby girl and middle girl are enjoying their learning, I’m happier and mentally stronger, Mr FO5 is benefitting from all of the above and big girl is seemingly doing OK and enjoying aspects of school. So for now, I shall pocket my guilt along with big girls bags of negativity. The sunshine is here, and we shall bask in it for as long as we can.

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