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All posts for the month October, 2014

When were you born?

Published October 25, 2014 by thefamilyof5

Middle girl had a little bit of a blip this week. Her class were working on charts and graphs and needed to establish the birthdays of the class members to complete their findings.

The teacher asked middle girl, ‘when were you born?’

Middle girl entered a state of panic. Her teacher immediately noticed her expression and fearful look and realised what she’d said and how that might have upset middle girl, and did her best to quickly move past the topic. (It was an easy mistake for her to make, I’ve made similar myself, but she felt really awful she later told me, being a teacher of an adopted child can be very stressful and worrisome).

 

 

It came out in our therapy session later that afternoon. Middle girl had told us that she’d been quite upset at school and explained why. She didn’t know about the day she was born and she didn’t know how to find out. Instead of it being a simple math activity, that innocent question had filled her head with thoughts of her past and birth family.

It struck me that middle girl didn’t know that her birthday was in fact the anniversary of day she was born.

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I asked her when her birthday was, she knew. I explained that the day she was born, was in fact the same date as her birthday.

I asked big girl and baby girl later that day if they knew the date they were born. Big girl knew that is was the date of her birthday, baby girl did not.

I wonder how many other children do not realise this correlation between their birth date and their birthday!

 

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Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control – My review

Published October 25, 2014 by thefamilyof5

Buy Herehttp://beyondconsequences.com/eproducts/

This book by Heather T Forbes claims to give you a new understanding of how to love and parent your children. The ideas within this book come not only from Heather’s own research as a professional or as an experienced family therapist, but also mainly from her direct experiences as an adoptive mother herself. I received a free copy of this book to review a while ago.

Its taken me some time to read, mostly due to the summer holidays being so busy and then the start of our new therapy not leaving me much brain space for reading!

I wont deny finding this book hard going at times, but I suspect that this is mostly due to the above rather than the book itself.

The book is broken down in to 3 parts.

Part One – The principles of a New Understanding

‘The greatest science in the world in heaven and on earth, is love’ – mother Teresa

Extracts: Unconditional love is love without requiring anything in return – Love no matter what. It is telling your child, ‘I love you’ without expecting him to say ‘I love you’ in return.

Love celebrates the moment of victory and lets go of the past. When your teenage daughter comes back after running away from home without telling you where she was, you say, ‘I’m so glad you’re home. I’ve really missed you. We need to celebrate your return.’

Love stays focused on the relationship and the experience, not the outcome, love trusts that is the experience is void of fear, the out come will take care of itself.

Part Two – Seven Behaviors Rooted in Fear

‘The body says what words cannot’ – Martha Graham

Extracts: When we stay focused on why our children are acting out and being demanding, it keeps us in a place of love and acceptance.

You have the ability to help your child simply by putting love in to action.

You have to shift to the mindset of understanding that you are not dealing with behaviors; you are dealing with an unexpressed emotional state of fear and overwhelm.

Part Three – Parenting Bonus Section

A collection of real life stories from parents that have followed this approach.

This book gives examples of real life scenarios and then offers the ‘Traditional approach’ to parenting, followed up with Heathers ‘New approach’. There are also a few places in this book that refer to things from Volume 1, I think I’d have liked to have read this one first. I like that it gives real life examples, things we as parents can relate to and have probably been faced with ourselves. I also like that it shows the differences between the traditional parenting approaches and her own new parenting approaches, this makes it so much easier to see how traditional approaches have a tendency to increase shame levels and intensify behaviors. I’m less fond of the implications that the traditional approach doesn’t involve ‘love’, but I do understand that, that isn’t what is meant here. I really like that the topic of self harming is covered, this is the first book I’ve read that has been brave enough to cover such a sensitive and controversial topic that is a problem for many of our children. I did sometimes feel however that some of the children’s reactions to the ‘New approach’ were somewhat unrealistic, I’m not sure my children would roll over and tell me the problem so easily as some of the children in this book did.

In general, I like this book, it talks about focusing on the relationship you have with your child over everything else. It talks about looking at the root fear behind the behaviors from a love based place rather than a fear based place. Our children act out in response to a fear, a deep overwhelming feeling that they’re unable to control, and generally (by generally I mean me) we respond to our children’s behavior’s with our own fear in the forefront of our minds. ‘why did they do that?’ ‘how will I get them to stop?’ ‘what sort of a future will they have if this is how they behave?’ etc etc  We all know you cant fight fire with fire, yet we try (again by we I mean me). The approach in this book suggests we put our own fears aside and focus on the fears of the child thus enabling us to calm their fear and in-turn reduce or eliminate the behaviors.

Whilst I like this book, and I often aspire to be the parent its teaching us to be, I think it takes a special kind of person. I know of the people it talks about in this book, I know some just like it, but me, well, I don’t think I’m cut out for it, not completely anyway.

In the heat of the moment my own fear takes over and I don’t always respond in the most appropriate of ways. One of the examples in the book is of a mum who discovers her daughter cutting/self harming. The suggested reaction is to sit with the daughter, empathise about how much pain she must be feeling inside and offer her your love and acceptance to sit with her whilst she cuts. Could I do this? no, I’d panic, Id completely freak out and scream and shout and probably make things a million times worse. I wouldn’t be able to find my inner calm in this situation. My own fear based reactions would take over.

Another scenario is that of a little boy, its his party and rather than playing with his friends he’s hanging around the adults and being demanding. General parenting techniques would be to tell him he needs to go play with his friends and stop being a nuisance. The approach the book suggests is to take the little boy aside, away from every one in to a calm and quiet environment, and ask gently what seems to be the matter. In the scenario the little boy doesn’t answer any of the questions but once he’s calmed down and is feeling regulated he blurts out the word ‘cupcake’. The parent then realises the little boy was worried there would be no cakes left for him and the parent reassures him that he will ensure he gets one. Can I do this? yes, I do, quite often. Do my children react in this way, no, never. I can take them aside and soothe them and calm them but they’re still unable to verbalise to me what the problem is/was. This tends to leave me frustrated meaning the next time it happens meaning I’m less therapeutic.

I really like the idea’s behind this book and its given me a better understanding of how my own reaction to the girls behaviors are driven by fear. I’m not going to turn in to a therapeutic wonder mom, and I doubt I’ll ever be as good as this books suggests we can be, but, I am already noticing that I am more aware of my own reactions to behaviors. It hasn’t stopped me responding in fear, in the moment, but I am finding myself reflecting more and have been better able to reconnect with the girls afterwards. Maybe its a work in progress! 

Remember you can buy this book and Heather’s other books here: http://beyondconsequences.com/eproducts/

‘Taking Care’ with Photo’s and the Internet

Published October 19, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I’ve linked this post up over at The Adoption Social for this weeks #WASO, the theme this week is ‘Taking Care’ in honor of the Taking Care conference held at The Open Nest  in York this weekend. This post is about how I try take care of my family on the internet.

One day in the summer holidays we were enjoying a walk in a local Gardens. There was a photographer, maybe from the press or the gardens own publicity department, either way, when he pointed his long zoom lens in our direction MrFO5 and I didn’t hesitate to ask him to delete the photo of us. Big girl gave me one of those  side ways glances that she often gives when she’s wondering ‘why’ about something but isn’t brave enough to ask. She’s given me those looks many times in the past about photo related incidents and generally I’ve just moved along and avoided her ‘look’. This time I felt she was ready for an explanation, she was now a little older and had been showing increasing interest in the ‘whys’ around her story before she came to us. So I explained. I only told her what she needed to know, for example I didn’t tell her about the birth family we’d discovered that lived less than 3 miles away, or the threats her violent birth father had made to snatch them, or that her traumatised older siblings were plotting to ‘find’ them. What I did tell her was that where we lived was a secret from her birth family because we needed to make sure they were safe, I explained that social workers knew where we lived, and where their birth family lived and they were able to share information and letters without sharing our addresses so that we were all safe. (I use the word SAFE a lot when I talk to the girls because their own safety is their main focus). I went on to explain that it was also the reason we didn’t allow their photo’s to be taken in school for newspaper articles or putting on the school website. I explained how these could be used to track down which school they attended and how we wouldn’t allow that as we will always keep them safe. I explained that school also knew this and would never allow their photo’s to be put on the internet which is why sometimes she’s been asked to do something else whilst a photo is being taken.

I thought she’s understood. I was wrong it seems. Last week a photographer came in to school to take photos for the school prospectus. Her teacher commented how she noticed the look of panic in Big Girls face the minute he entered their classroom. She attempted to reassure her that it was ok and she didn’t need to worry, but that glazed over, switched off look told her she wasn’t listening. And she was right. shortly after the photographer arrived it was morning break time. Big girl in a panicked state, it seems, proceeded to track down her sisters and inform them that they were not allowed to let the ‘man take their photo’s’. She even rushed to tell the head teacher that Baby Girl, who incidentally had been loving the attention of a stranger on the playground with a camera, had allowed him to take her photo, lots of times.

I collected 3 Rather stressed out children that day. Baby girl and Middle girl thought they’d be in trouble with me for having their photo’s taken like Big girl had told them, and Big girl was angry at me for not telling her there would a photographer in school. Of course I reassured Baby and Middle that they were not in trouble and it was absolutely fine for them to have their photo’s taken and they mustn’t worry. I also had a stern word with Big girl about interfering, whilst I understood why she behaved that way, she also knows that she isn’t allowed to ‘boss’ her sisters about in school, that’s the teachers jobs not hers, its been a big problem for a while. I also talked to her about why she felt the need to tell them off for having photo’s taken and reassured her that she didn’t need to and that the teachers and head teacher were all aware of the ‘rules’ we have for photo’s. I also told her that I hadn’t been aware a photographer would be in school and also that I didn’t need to know that either because I trust her teachers to keep them safe and not allow photo’s to go on the internet and that she should also. I think she understood, but I guess we’ll find out next time there is a photographer about!

Photos and the internet are a big worry for many adopters and its surprising how many non-adopters struggle to understand this. I’ve been sat in school assembly’s as the teacher has announced ‘no photography please’ followed by a long groan from the parents/family in the audience and quite often a parent has shared their thoughts with me about how ridiculous a rule it is and how unfair it is that they’re not allowed to take photo’s of their child. I sympathise, I really do. I also would love to be able to film or take photo’s of the girls in their school productions or sports days, but I cant.

It would just take one parent in school to upload to Facebook a photo with my girls in the background to bring our world crashing down around us. Without knowing every single parent in school and who they are friends with on facebook, and who their friends are friends with,  it would be impossible for me to know that there are no birth family lurking in those friend lists. Birth family in their friends lists is quite a possibility actually, remember, we recently discovered them (via facebook) living just 3 miles away. Its a real possibility that I stand on the play ground next to someone who lives in their street, or who’s child attends the same club as theirs or someone who drinks with them every Friday night in their local, its THAT possible.

I’m very careful with photo’s of the girls, I do upload photo’s on to Facebook, but they are stored in a very secure album that is only visible to certain people. There are lots of security settings on Facebook and knowing how to use them is vital. I’m not naive, I know that uploading photo’s to the internet is a risk even with the Facebook security, but I’m a mom and I want to share our family  photo’s with the people that we don’t always get to see that often, I want them to still be able to see the girls growing up. There have also been times that I’ve had to ask for a photo of the girls to be removed from a ‘friends’ page, and it isn’t that I don’t trust them with photo’s of the girls, its more that I don’t know who they’re friends with or even who they’re friends are friends with.

Facebook and the internet in general is such a worry for us adopters and we work really hard to keep our children, their identities and locations secure, but we also want to just be parents and do what other parents do, we want to be able to share and enjoy social networking like everyone else, we just have to be extra careful about it.

School Update

Published October 10, 2014 by thefamilyof5

There’s been a lot of changes since we started back at school in September, and most of those are positive changes and I’m pleased to say that it seems we finally have a head teacher that is supportive rather than dismissive and judgmental! hooray!

So, we had a meeting at school a few weeks ago and for the first time, I left feeling reassured and hopeful,so let me tell you about some of those changes!

Firstly, It was agreed that they would use a small portion of the girls Pupil Premium Plus money to undertake some whole school attachment training! I’m very happy with this!

Its also been agreed that the deputy head, who also happens to be big girls teacher will act as a ‘key person’ in school. This means they have someone to greet them at the beginning and end of their day, someone to check in with them through the day and make sure they’re ok, someone they can hopefully over time build up a level of trust, which means they’ll hopefully have a constant relationship/attachment figure, throughout their time at the school which should allow them to feel safer in school. Its also great news for me, It means I no longer have to be the mom that needs to see 3 different teachers most mornings, or  the mom that’s on the play ground each evening waiting to speak to 3 different teachers, and more importantly, I’m not going to be the mom that spends so much time trying to support individual teachers in trying to understanding the girls and their needs, only to have to start again each year with a new teacher. I’m really confident that the right member of staff was chosen (actually she volunteered, crazy lady doesn’t know what she’s let herself in for does she!!), she’s already shown so much interest and enthusiasm in supporting the girls, she says all the right things, she’s even asked me for information on attachment and how to support the girls in school, (I know, unheard of isn’t it!! Someone pinch me please!) she’s fed back to teachers information/concerns that I’ve raised with her and vise versa. She’s kept her eye on the curriculum for potential triggers. She’s someone in school that hopefully over time they will feel they can talk to when they have a problem. I’m super happy with this.

And finally, a lunch time group has been set up to support big girl and give her an alternative to the playground that she struggles so much with! She and I are very happy with this!

For the first time since moving to this school, I feel heard. For the first time since moving to this school, I feel there’s a chance that things will get easier for the girls in school!

Our holiday Must-Haves……………..

Published October 10, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I know the UK Holiday seasons over and most of you will have already been on your holidays this year, but, I’m going to tell you about the things that are important to us when thinking of holidays. This is my entry into the holidaycottages.co.uk must-haves competition.

We always take our holidays in the UK. In fact I’ve never holiday’d anywhere else. The UK has so much to offer and so much to explore, and I haven’t even seen half of it yet. Scotland is actually high up on my list of the places Id like to visit, I really do want to be that person that gets a good photo of Nessy!

Before we became a family MrFO5 and I used to take spontaneous trips to random places, we’d just get in the car, and drive and stop when we found some where that looked interesting. We love the countryside and its rolling green views and we equally love the seaside with its divine fish and chips and the relaxing sound of sea! We’ve seen some lovely things on our travels such as The Smallest House in Conwy, which Mr FO5 could barely get inside because he’s so tall,  Stonehenge, which actually I found a little disappointing if I’m to be brutally honest but MfFO5 found it fascinating, and the beautiful views from the top of Snowdon Mountain, actually they were rubbish views because it was so misty, but even still, just being up there felt magical, I guess being on our Honeymoon helped with that too 🙂 I really do love the UK, but I wont deny wishing the weather was a little kinder to us in the summer months!

Spontaneous trips are a thing of the past, these days our holidays and even outings take far more planning and preparation. The girls like routine and familiarity and that’s what we need to consider when booking a holiday. Those of you that are regular readers will also know how much of an issue sleep is, so finding accommodation with enough bedrooms is also vital. Camping is a no go here, not only because I’d rather saw my own head off than sleep in a tent, but because the girls wouldn’t be able to sleep in that sort of an environment. The closest we can get to a home from home is what we always look for.

We also like to make sure we have lots of familiar things with us to help the girls feel safe in their new temporary environment. Comfy Pyjamas for example, sounds silly but when you have children that are already anxious and unsure, having itchy, uncomfortable pyjamas isn’t going to help. Something to cuddle in bed is another one, none of my girls cuddle a teddy in bed generally, they don’t have any favorite teddies that bring them comfort and reassurance, but on holiday, having something familiar that smells of home, makes all the difference. Next on my list would be cutlery, the girls have their own child sized cutlery which they find easier to use than the full sized versions. Now at home, if we eat out they manage with the larger knives and forks and its not a massive problem just a bit messier, but on holidays, when they’re already out of their comfort zones, eating a cooked breakfasts (we always go self catering and start the day with a cooked breakfast) with a knife and fork that are too heavy and uncomfortable to hold doesn’t make for a great start to their day. Baby wipes is next, I’m never far from a pack of baby wipes, we use them for all sorts, snotty noses, dirty faces, sticky fingers, bumped knees, dinner in hair (yes you did read that right), sticky tables, spilled drinks, toothpaste on clothes, cleaning public toilet seats etc etc the list is vast, so I never ever ever leave home without a pack of babywipes,  I make sure I pack at least 3 packs for a weeks holiday! Next would be things for the journey. Holidaying in the UK generally means a nice long drive to get to our destination. The girls all travel well but like all kids, get bored. So we make sure they have stuff to do. Some paper, some pens a magazine with tacky toys stuck to the front, the odd small toy they can fiddle with, and of course their DSi’s and DVD players and the all important car chargers to go with them! Generally the DVD players and the DSi’s hold their interest the most, which is interesting because at home, they barely get touched. I also make sure to pack some snacks and more importantly to let them know that I have food with us, food can be a great source of worry if they’re unsure. So toys and snacks are a must!

Finally, and probably the most important thing to remember, is my camera. Our holidays are usually the only times the girls really allow themselves to be carefree (providing I’ve got all the other stuff mentioned above in place), its the only time they can really ‘forget’ about school and therapy and ‘real life’, so having my camera is so important. I want to make sure I capture all of those memories for them, all of those genuine smiles and loving moments that we share as a family. I want them to be able to look back when they’re finding things hard and struggling to remember the good times, I want them to be able to see and remember what their ‘happy’ looked like and in turn felt like.

All children benefit from holidays, but my children benefit perhaps a little more than most which is why I work so hard to ensure they get the best experience possible.

What are your families ‘must-haves’ when booking your holidays?

Stranger Danger

Published October 6, 2014 by thefamilyof5

Stranger Danger isn’t something any of the girls are very good with, baby girl in particular will talk to anyone and sit on the laps of random strangers if we don’t keep a close eye on her. They’ve had talks in school and we’ve done lots of work with them about ‘not talking to strangers’. Its a difficult topic for many adopted children to understand, they’ve usually been taken to contact visits with a social worker, sometimes a different one each week, had out- reach workers involved with them, sent to school in taxi’s, been encouraged to talk to family support workers and medical professionals and all other manner of ‘strangers’ that have been in and out of their lives before they were adopted. We had an interesting chat today, but before I tell you about that, let me tell you about this:

I didn’t write much about our holiday, the summer was exhausting to be honest and I just didn’t have the energy or head space to put my thoughts down on here. We had a lovely time at the Isle of Wight, it was our first time visiting the island so we were aware of the difficulties we could face with the girls and prepared well, there were still a few ‘interesting’ moments shall we say. One of those being the on the last day. We’d tried all holiday to encourage the girls to explore around the caravan rather than stick to us like glue, on the last day we kinda forced them too. We packed up their little rucksacks of books and toys and asked them to stay outside the caravan whilst we packed up. They stood on the decking looking through the windows watching us. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl so I suggested they stand and watch the horses in the field at the back of the caravan so off they went reluctantly. It wasn’t long before I checked on them, maybe 5 or so minutes, I could hear them chatting so decided to have a look out of the window and see what they were up to. I was very glad I did. They were stood chatting to a man besides a big blue van. I immediately called them back to the caravan and asked who they were talking too. ‘the man was telling us about the dog that was in his van mommy’, I’m sure you can imagine the thoughts that instantly filled my head and the conversation with them that followed.

So back to today. We were on the way to school and passed a teenage girl walking to high school. Baby girl commented saying she felt unsure if she should be walking by herself,  Big girl replied that it was ok for her to walk to school so long as she remembered her rain coat. I Instantly pounced on the opportunity for a ‘chat’ and said ‘Its ok for children to walk to school by themselves if they know how to keep themselves safe, how do we keep ourselves safe do you think?’.

Big girl: basically you don’t walk by the edge of the road

Middle girl: stuck her fingers in her ears saying she didn’t want to listen to us because the word ‘basically’ is annoying.

Babygirl: you need to make sure you stop look and listen

I then talked to them about strangers

Me: what if someone stops and offers you a lift to school?

They all replied that you should just say ‘no thank you’

Me: what If someone says ‘Your mom asked me to take you to school because its raining, hop in’

Baby girl: just say ‘no thank you’

Big girl: well if YOU told them to take us to school, hmmm………….

Middle girl: still had her fingers in her ears sulking.

Me: what if someone says ‘I’m a teacher, hop in I’ll give you a lift to school

Baby girl: hmmmm that’s a tricky one

Big girl: well if its a teacher then its ok

Me: what if its the headteacher from your school?

Big girl: well yes then you have to otherwise you will get in to trouble.

Me: what if someone says ‘I’m a police man, I’ll take you to school’

Baby girl: a police man!? why would they take us to school they might need to save someone

Big girl: well a policeman would be ok

Me: how can you tell if they’re a real police man?

Big girl: because they have a hat?

I asked a few more questions like this and their replies were equally as concerning.

Me: middle girl, take your fingers out of your ears you need to listen to this as well. You NEVER EVER get in to someones car unless its someone from our family. Mommy will never send someone to give you a lift, teachers and head teachers should never offer you a lift to school and if they do you say no thank you, a police man wouldn’t be stopping to offer you a lift to school, that’s not their job. If someone ever asks you to get in their car you say no thank you and you walk away quickly, I don’t care if its the queen, you never ever get in someones car.

Big girl: can the queen drive?

Baby girl: but what if they follow you?

Me: then you run to the nearest shop and tell someone who works there that someone is following you and your scared, or go in to a school or tell a bus driver or a lollypop man, or go to a place where there will be lots of people and tell someone you need help. You don’t hide, you don’t walk down gully’s and alleys or empty streets, you stay in a place where there are lots of people and where lots of people can see you, that is how you keep yourself safe.

I think we still have a lot of work to do on stranger danger, don’t you agree!

 

 

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