I’ve noticed all of my blog posts lately are about big girl, she’s really still finding life very tricky.
Since starting at the new special school January things have got progressively worse. Sadly because she masks all of her difficulties in school, the staff have found it very difficult to proactively support her. We have had a few meetings, but it’s hard for them to see the big girl I describe when she presents so differently. It’s been the same issue in every school she’s been too.
We’ve had numerous occasions whereby big girl has come home from school in what I can only describe as a manic state, it often quickly turns to anger, more often than not developing in to violent outbursts. Sometimes the police have to be called.
It’s got pretty bad. Not only is she prescribed anti anxiety medication by Camhs but they now prescribe anti psychotic medication for use when she is struggling, or we know there’s something coming up that she will struggle with. My heart aches 😦
This weekend was another of those manic episodes whereby she was talking gibberish and clearly in a state of complete overwhelm. It’s so sad to see her like that.
She is finding all aspects of her school day stressful, everything from traffic in the taxi, music in PE and loud dinner halls to boys behaving oddly (flirting is my guess) and girls putting all of their emotions and worries on her.
Big girl created a fake persona when she started at this school. She made herself out to be socially able, confident, fun, giggly and a capable. She’s none of those things, in fact I’d go as far as to say she is the opposite. She doesn’t even really like people all that much.
I know why she did it, she wanted to fit in, to be liked. And for a few weeks, maybe a month or so, it worked. She made friends, she felt liked and she enjoyed those positive feelings.
But over time, maintaining this fake personality has taken its toll. She’s become somewhat of an agony aunt to the younger girls it seems. This is a girl who doesn’t understand her own feelings, never mind know what to do about them. The girls in her own class are obviously looking up to her also because they’re getting her to help with their boyfriend issues, and asking her for advice on sex and boys and bullying. Big girl doesn’t even know what sex is, let alone have the slightest interest in boys. So many emotions are being offloaded on to her by peers and almost all of them make no sense to her.
She’d rather play Vets with her sisters.
The fake persona doesn’t end on the playground either. The staff have been seeing her as confident and capable, I imagine they’ve spent time wondering why she’s even in their school especially as she is academically pretty average. They’ve been choosing her to represent the school at events, be the nominated speaker when visitors are in school, be the lead role in a group, she even nominates herself sometimes! The list goes on. And of course she’s done all of the things they’ve asked/expected of her, with a fake smile on her face, she’s a people pleaser, it’s what she does to keep herself safe.
Big girl feels overwhelmed by everyone’s ‘feelings’, their ‘expectations’ of her and of course she also feels ashamed that she is unable to be herself in school. She tells me no one in school has ever seen the real her.
So MrFO5 and I made a difficult decision the weekend and decided to put big girl on a reduced timetable. We are awaiting a date for a meeting with various professionals and school. Big girls EHCP hasn’t been updated since she was home educated, despite a review taking place at my request in July, so at the moment, the plan doesn’t even detail the support she needs in a school environment never mind reflect her needs. We hope a meeting will be arranged before Christmas and we can get big girl the support, or alternative provision that she needs.
I’ve tirelessly tried to support school to see big girl for the emotionally and socially 6yr old that she is, but they just can’t see past the facade of the confident 14yr old she’s pretending to be. So for now, she will attend only 2.5 days a week with full support at lunch and break times. The new timetable we’ve devised gives big girl a break between each day, giving her time to calm down and hopefully to stop her anxiety building throughout the week. The support for break and lunch times will mean she isn’t on the playground and can’t get overwhelmed by the other children’s drama’s and expectations of her.
It’s not an ideal situation. Big girl is in school because her attachment difficulties made home education too intense for her to manage so this extra time at home is going to be difficult for all of us to manage.
Today though, my big girl has enjoyed her 1st half Monday and played with her babydoll. We will continue to plod along this path and support big girl as best as we’re able.
So, apparently it’s national adoption week, it’s pending arrival passed me by. I’ve been preoccupied talking with emergency social workers, police men, mental health professionals and tending to my bruised body, broken heart and traumatised children.
So here we are, it’s that special week every year that organisations and champions really push adoption in what’s basically a recruitment drive. The stories of the children who ‘only need a loving home’ to grow up in, or the siblings that ‘want a new mommy and daddy’, or the child that ‘just needs to be loved’, you know how it goes. Tag lines, catchy phrases, heart wrenching photos of sad looking children that just want to be loved.
We have a loving home, plenty of love to share. Our 3 easy to place (apparently) children got their new mummy and daddy. Doesn’t stop the trauma. Doesn’t stop the violence. Doesn’t stop the heartache.
Well, I’m done with #NAW, I’m done with organisations painting pretty fairy tale pictures and avoiding the truth of the matter. Adoption is NOT for the feint of heart! Its nothing like parenting a birth child! Its a relentless battle for help that no one’s prepared to pay for! Its being blamed, judged and shunned! Its emotionally and physically exhausting! (I’m not even sure exhausting is a strong enough word?!).
I’m tired of fighting for my children, for the support they need and deserve and being passed from pillar to post, blamed or ignored.
Would I recommend adoption? No, never. I love my children with all my heart and I will never give up on them, but would I recommend it? No. Uh Uh, no way!
If all those organisations that use money and power to push this drive every year for new recruits, instead used that power and money to push for better support and understanding, maybe less adopters would feel so let down and misled, maybe more children would get the support and understanding they need and more people would be making informed choices to adopt.
*Sorry if this isn’t the fairy tale post you hoped for, it’s been a really rough few weeks (more like 8years!!) and my positivity appears to have gone missing (died a slow painful death!).
Do you remember when you child was 5? Or 6? Or even 7?
Do you remember how hard parenting was (and how you thought that was the worst bit and then they became teens)?
Do you remember all the ‘why?’ questions? Supervising tooth brushing, making sure they’d washed their faces before bed and their hands after visiting the bathroom, picking up the dirty washing from their bedroom floors and tripping over the toys left strewn about. Opening the toy cupboard and everything falling out, the toys that got ‘accidently broken’ and the ones that mysteriously appeared after school, or a play date (or visit to the shop). The endless pile of mini figures and plastic animals.
The talks about how the story from that weeks children’s TV programme wasn’t real and pigs couldn’t really wear boots and jump in puddles. Or the times you listened to them telling you how their best friend was mean because they played with someone else that day. When their understanding of the world was so limited. When they didn’t have the ability to tell you how they felt so they just chucked some toys about instead. When you had to read between the lines to spot the bad behaviour was because they were feeling unwell. Reminding them not to talk with their mouths full and to blow their hot food. Using sports bottles because cups got knocked over so much. Reminding them to sit in car safely and watching as they wave to the police man as he passed on the other side of the road. Having to supervise them around the fire or the cooker so they didn’t get burnt, having to remind them to stop look and listen when crossing the road and to pause at commas and stop at full stops when they read their books.
And then they had a birthday and a new year of new challenges and milestones arrived, but you knew it was ok, because it wouldn’t be forever.
Well it seems these have been stuck for 8 years. I don’t have to tie piggy tales any more (they’re almost taller than me) but I still have to remind them to brush their hair, tie their shoe laces, wash their hands, not to touch the hot oven, look before crossing the road etc etc I still have very young children, but they’re now in teen size bodies with all the other complexities that come with hormones and adolescence. It’s been like ground hog day, every day, for years.
I’m really exhausted.
How does attachment ‘look’ in school.?
For big girl, it looks like she is very capable. She has a avoidant attachment style so will do everything she needs to do to avoid any kind of dependant relationship with a teacher/adult. She learnt in her past that adults can’t be trusted or relied upon, in fact sometimes, they can even be dangerous.
So in school she will appear capable and competent because any sign of weakness may cause her teacher to try and help her, and she can not possibly allow that to happen, ever. She will volunteer for things she feels the teacher might expect of her, she will choose to lead her group and even opt to be the spokes person for her team. All of these fill her with absolute fear and terror. None of that matters to her though, her only focus is to not need any kind of relationship with anyone if she is to survive.
She will do everything she can to hide any sign of weakness, she will mask her fears and anxieties and ‘cope’. It’s not a positive experience for her, she feels no sense of achievement and next time it happens it’s equally as terrifying. There are no benefits to her self esteem or mental health for her to be this way.
When she comes home, and she feels safe, she knows she’s understood and her fears and anxieties are finally allowed to be shown.
How does your child’s attachment ‘look’ in school?
Great article for teachers and school staff here, can you identify the students in your class here?
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.
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.