change

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Change

Published June 19, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I doubt there are many adopters that can read the title of this blog without a shudder of sheer horror running down their spine.

‘Change’ is difficult for most adopted children. In the same way that the Autistic child thrives on routine, structure and familiarity, the Adopted child feels safe when there is routine, structure and familiarity.
For the adopted child, this stems from their past traumas. At times of change in their past, bad things happened.
A new violent boyfriend moved in,
A change in mood was the difference between being safe or not,
Social workers changed everything when they removed them,
A change in foster carer turned their world upside down again,
A new family took them away from everything they knew, more change.

Change was always very scary, so why should they believe that change can ever be anything other than scary. Its not just a memory, a fear or a feeling, scientific evidence shows the traumatized brain of an infant develops and reacts differently to stress, than that of healthy typical infant brain.

Quick Science Lesson

Green: Neocortex - Thought (including planning, language, logic & will, awareness) Yellow: Limbic System - Emotion (feelings, relationship/nurturing, images and dreams, play) Red: Reptilian Brain - Instinct (survival, breathing/swallowing/heartbeat, startle response)

Green: Neocortex – Thought (including planning, language, logic & will, awareness)
Yellow: Limbic System – Emotion (feelings, relationship/nurturing, images and dreams, play)
Red: Reptilian Brain – Instinct (survival, breathing/swallowing/heartbeat, startle response)

The typical healthy child feels secure in their environment and operates from the Intellectual part of the brain called the Neocortex. This is the newest part of the brain. So during times of stress the neurons are ignited in the prefrontal Cortex part of the brain, this is the thinking part. This enables rational thinking and in-turn rational responses. Meaning the stress is managed.

However, the traumatized child is in a constant state of survival meaning they function from the Primitive parts of the brain. These are the parts of the brain that developed first, they kept us alive when we lived in caves and life was all about survival, they are the Limbic System and the Reptilian Brain. The Limbic System is the part of the brain which handles things like emotions, memories and mood control. The reptilian brain is the part that controls instinctive reactions such as freeze/flight/fight responses. So during times of stress neurons are activated in the Limbic system and Reptilian Brain, in particular the Amygdala with is buried deep inside the middle of the Reptilian brain. These primitive parts of the brain manage stress with emotional survival based responses without the benefits of rational thinking from the Neocortex. Meaning the stress is not managed.

See how the healthy brain on the left is functioning mostly from the Intellectual part of the brain at the front, and the abused brain on the right is functioning from the more primitive parts of the brain at the rear with next to no Intellectual brain function.

See how the healthy brain on the left is functioning mostly from the Intellectual part of the brain at the front, and the abused brain on the right is functioning from the more primitive parts of the brain at the rear with next to no Intellectual brain function.

Ok science lesson over, basically, change is hard for adopted kids and its not something they can learn to control overnight. In fact lots and lots of trust, love, consistency, predictability and stability is what is needed to help the primitive brain chill out, step aside and allow the intellectual brain to thrive.

We’re having a tricky time here at the moment, Change is attacking us from all angles. There was sports day, Mr FO5’s birthday, Fathers Day last week. This week is/was Health & Hygiene talks, school trips, visitors in school playing noisy oil drums and taking up space in the hall meaning schedules need to be changed, there are sporting activities taking place for tournaments meaning more changes to schedules and then there is the build up to class assemblies. Next week there are class assemblies, more sporting activities, and the build up to the end of the year. It continues like this for several weeks.

Is it any wonder my girls are fretting each morning about whether they need to remove their earrings for PE or not. Whether they’ll be doing phonics today or not. Whether they’ll have assembly today or not. Whether their teacher will be busy with a sporting activity leaving only the TA in class or not. It sounds so unimportant doesn’t it but in reality the primitive parts of their brains are in override, they’re in a state of panic because they don’t know what is going to happen next. They cant cope with the unpredictability of change. They contain this panic and fear all day, they hide behind their smiles and pretend everything is ok, because they reason that ‘if I’m ok, then your ok’ and that’s the best way they can keep themselves safe. Then they come home, emotionally drained and exhausted, they feel safer, and it all comes out. Its not much fun. There are lots of tears, sometimes mine too.

Their smile keep them safe.

Their smile keep them safe.

I put so much effort in to making my girls feel safe, we have the most predictable, consistent mundane lives you could imagine, I teach and pre-teach everything, I prepare and protect, I listen to them and meet their needs and slowly I’m seeing the benefits of this. Slowly, very slowly, they’re starting to feel more secure, they’re comfortable within their boundaries which is why they bring their stress home, they know they can safely let off stream at home without the fear of being taken away.

I also put a lot of effort in to helping others to understand the importance of helping the girls to feel safe outside of our home so that they don’t have to let it build up all day and bring it home. In particular school, after all the girls spend more of their waking days there and school is the primary source of all of their stress and anxiety. Change happens, I understand that, but these frightened children need to be prepared for change in much better ways. I cant be sure that all of their anxiety is driven from their past trauma’s, they all also have Autistic Spectrum Condition diagnosis’s so some could also be attributed to that, but either way the rules for ‘Change’ are the same, Prepare Prepare Prepare.

Managing the girls stress levels is draining and exhausting. There isn’t much energy left for fighting the same fight over and over, and I shouldn’t have to, It shouldn’t be this hard, I’m not making it all up, Its Brain Science!

brain-basic_and_limbic

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National Adoption Week

Published November 6, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Yes its official, this week is National Adoption Week. All of the agencies and professionals and adopters and bloggers are putting efforts in to tell you how great adoption is and how you definitely should do it!

Im struggling with this. I’d love to tell you that adoption is wonderful, a bed of roses and that everyone should do it, but I just can’t. Its hard, its still very hard, and it really Isn’t for everyone, in fact some days I wonder if it was really for me.

Our adoption journey has been, and is still, a very rocky journey indeed.

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I love my girls, and I’d do anything for them, but I just can’t put my hand on my heart and say ‘there’s nothing I would change’ which is what I’m reading and hearing from so many other adopters this week.

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There are many things I’d change. If I were to go back in time and do this again, would I adopt 3, and at the same time? would I accept assurances that ‘they’ll just need a few weeks to settle and you’ll be fine’? would I ask camhs for help? would I trust the social workers so willingly? would I believe the things the foster carer told me so easily? would I enroll them in school so early in to placement? would I have allowed us to be hurried through introductions? would I have adopted from outside our home county? would I have applied for the Adoption order so soon? would I presume that Post Adoption support would be available? Quite honestly, no, I’d never do any of those things again.

I wouldn’t change the family I have now, we are what we are and as hard as that is some days, and as much as we’re not the family I’d hoped for, we are a family.

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But If I’d known then, what I know now…………….well, things would be very different for us right now.

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Schools Out for the Summer………

Published July 20, 2013 by thefamilyof5

We booked the last week of school off as holiday like always. The final week of school is just too much for the girls, too  unstructured and too much change for them to be able to cope with. So we’ve been on school holidays for just over a week now, and doesn’t it show.

Even though we’ve been making the most of Daddy being off work and have  crammed in lots of activities, and even though we’ve had the heat wave to contend with and to try and sleep through, I’m pleased to say that the  bickering has pretty much stopped, middle girl hasn’t been refusing to sleep for hours on end every night,  even baby girls need for control has eased, she’s even eaten vegetables without fuss!!  All is calm in  the Family of 5 household.

During our first year as a family I remember commenting about how much easier things were in the holidays, but then things started to change and the girls behaviour in the school holidays was not so easy, in fact I stopped looking forward to them and instead began bracing myself for them.

So I’m really happy as you can imagine, about the calm that has descended upon us, and I can’t help but wonder if the news of a new school for September has also helped things too.image

The winds of change……

Published February 23, 2013 by thefamilyof5

In a few months it will be 3 years since our girls came home.
How things have changed.

I thought we were prepared, I’d read lots of books, met other adopters, spent time researching attachment, adoption and general parenting topics.

We’d surrounded our selves with friends and family we thought would see us through the rough times, and we had even taken the time to help prepare them and give them information about the journey we were beginning.

We thought lots of cuddles, reassurance, skin to skin contact, plenty of ‘life story’ work and of course the all important eye contact would be enough. We thought, because we were told, a few months of intense bonding and you’ll feel like you’ve been a family forever.

We were so wrong.

Looking back, that first year, the year we thought was tough, was actually the easiest.

Now we have 3 children who are understandably still struggling with trauma. They’ll very likely continue to receive therapeutic support from CAMHS for many years to come.

We may always have attachment difficulties, they may always struggle with trust, compliance and fear.

This is not where we thought we’d be 3 years in to our journey.

We submitted a list of names to the agency during the approval process of people who we considered to be in our support network, people we thought would be there for us when things got tough. Well things are pretty tough now and most of those people have already disappeared from our lives. Some of those that we thought would be there for us, jumped at the first hurdle. Some are still clinging on and holding back the urge to tell us ‘your doing it all wrong’. And a select few special people have remained loyal and supportive throughout.

There are new names now that we could add to our support network, many of whom were sat in the background in the beginning but have now come forward to offer us support and understanding, and many of whom are adopters that we’ve been lucky enough to meet along the way most of whom we now call our friends.

We’re not the family we thought we’d be, we don’t do the things we thought we would, some of our friends and family weren’t the people we thought they were and we’re not the parents we thought we’d be.

Nothing is as it was, and nothing is as we thought it would be.

There really is nothing that can fully prepare you for life as an adoptive parent.

Things need to change…….

Published November 10, 2011 by thefamilyof5

There is a huge amount of support available to new parents if they want it, its predominately for mums but its support non the less.
There are support groups for parents with children who have special needs such as dyspraxia, autism, aspergers etc. There are groups that address the needs of parents with children who have physical disabilities, or even mental disabilities. Groups exist for parents of children suffering serious illness, financial hardship. There’s groups for teen parents, parents of multiple births, single parents etc the list goes on. Even without support groups new mums are surrounded by support and advice from every angle, there’s health visitors, whilst not always popular, they give new mums a regular opportunity to access help without having to seek it out themselves. New mums get opportunity to meet other new mums at baby and toddler groups, aqua baby classes, and other types of groups where they can chat, rant, moan and get advice from other mums experiencing the same struggles as they do. There’s even those short exchanges in the park or Mothercare or even the baby food isle where they can coo over one another’s new baby and compare prams and car seats and discuss the best teething gel. Complete strangers approach them in public with empathy and compliment their new baby and sympathise about sleepless nights and crying. Family and friends visit more often than usual to see the new baby and new parent/s, offer advice, maybe offer some domestic help, cook a meal for them or even just share some adult conversation. New mums arnt expected to get dressed in the beginning let alone keep a tidy house and no one judges them for finding it harder than they expected.

Its a very different story for someone who adopts older children, there are no support groups, no health visitor, no toddler groups or baby food isle and strangers don’t coo over your tiny child and boost your confidence with their praise. Instead they see what looks like an experienced parent of multiple children not coping and they judge.

I’m still a new mum and I effectively have 16 month old triplets all with special needs.

I have family and friends that offer support and advice, but they can’t understand some of the struggles I face they can only sympathise and try to reassure me on doing a good job.

Days out with other mums or chats on the playground always end up at the same place, pregnancy, potty training, feeling broody, or about how proud they are of their child’s achievements this week. Conversations rarely cover bonding, attachment, trauma or how your school age child’s greatest achievement this week was not wetting or pooing themselves for attention. Sometimes adoptive parents need to talk to someone who talks the same language.

Once again I realise how isolated and lonely it can feel to be an adoptive parent, the saddest thing is, I’m not the only one.

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