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‘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.

She’s always on my radar……

Published October 5, 2014 by thefamilyof5

So today baby girl is in a grump, we bumped in to some adopter friends whilst we were out for dinner and I pointed out how all their children were adopted just like they were, she wasn’t too happy about this and I’d imagine there are various reasons behind this, so when we got home from lunch she was even more grumpy, we put a film on but because she didn’t get to choose the film (being controlling because she was feeling anxious) she sulked and informed us in a very dramatic and verbal way that she didn’t like the film we had chosen and didn’t want to watch it, poor daddy took the brunt of it.

‘Ok’ I said ‘come in here with me instead and you can play on your DSi’, so she did, and she huffed and puffed and sulked and mumbled and I ignored it. Eventually after calming down she said she wanted to say sorry to daddy and go and watch the film after all, I explained that I was worried she might mess about and spoil it for her sisters because she was in such a grump, and that I needed to know I could trust her to watch it nicely. Our conversation went like this:

Me: how do I know your not going to spoil it for them?

Baby girl: because you will hear me if I shout and spoil the film

Me: what if I’m not listening though?

Babygirl: but you would NEVER take your ears off us and you will NEVER take your sight off us

Me: is that a good thing or a bad thing? (I was curious about how she felt about this)

Babygirl: it’s a good thing of course, you keep us safe and check on us because your a good mummy if you didn’t we might get lost or hurt and that would not be good at all would it!

Me: ok you can go and watch the film, there will be no warnings though so watch it nicely or its back in here with your DSi.

Off she went, tail between her legs to apologise to daddy for giving him a hard time, before going and settling down to watch the remainder of the film. (which went without a hitch by the way).

Now I know she didn’t address my ‘can I trust you to behave’ question, nor did she reassure me that she would be ‘good’ or promise that she would not spoil the film, infact she told me much more than that,  she told me that she needs to know I have my eye on her.  I’ve always known this, her behaviour over the last 4 years has shown me, she just cant manage independence and freedom yet, it’s too overwhelming for her and she gets scared, besides, she’s still working hard on mastering ‘dependance’, I just hadnt realised that SHE knew this on a conscious level!

Besides, her reply made me feel so lovely that quite frankly I’d have said yes to anything at that moment!

I know that baby girl NEEDS to know that someone is keeping her safe all the time, and she knows this as well now it seems!

“Dependance provides the stepping stones to Independance” – Louise Bomber

Baby Steps

Published April 28, 2013 by thefamilyof5

It was almost 3 years ago that we travelled across the country to meet the girls, amongst many other memories I distinctly remember how baby girl clung to me like a baby monkey on that first day and whimpered in to my ear ‘when can I come to your house?’ ‘When am I going with you?’.

Over the next year or so she impressed everyone with her independence, her ability to dress herself, fold her clothes even tidy away her toys, there were no supermarket tantrums, no nagging for things endlessly, no whinging and whining. Her first day of nursery went without a tear or tantrum, unlike the other children she didn’t cling to her mummy and beg her not to leave. Instead she confidently walked past her crying class mates and went off to play. ‘She’s so well behaved’ people would say. ‘Too well behaved’ I would think.

It didn’t take me long to realise my girls were not ‘well behaved’ they were ‘compliant’, too scared to show themselves to us and the world around them.

(Extract taken from Adoption Voices Magazine)
‘For the compliant child the situation can actually be devastating. As a compliant child who is either not causing problems or actually well engaged and visibly successful, she is not seen as having any problems at all. Parents see this child as well adjusted to life, including being adopted, and with no outwardly troubling signs of concern, this child is often overlooked and not given any form of counselling or assistance in dealing with life or emotional wounds. It is difficult for anyone to see that the child who is often referred to as, “mature for her age” or “pleasant and articulate,” is actually in equal distress to the child who is acting out. Both are hurting, both are devastated by the trauma and both have no way to articulate, understand, contextualize or grieve the loss they have endured’

More recently baby girl has been testing some of the boundaries, she’s argued her point, sulked and even stamped her feet. She’s expressed her needs of hunger and tiredness, she’s told me of the foods she doesn’t like and asked for the foods she does. She’s asked for things in a shop, almost nagged for them in fact. She’s expressed her ‘need’ for the latest toy craze that her friends at school have and she must have now! She’s left her toys out and moaned at having to tidy them away, she’s chucked her clothes on the floor and forgotten how to dress herself. She’s left the bathroom without washing her hands and she’s even sometimes come out of school having forgotten something. She’s protested at having to brush her hair and sprayed my perfume all over the floor. You may be reading all of this and thinking ‘well she’s 6, this is what 6yr olds do’ and I’d totally agree with you, however for the last almost 3 years, she hasn’t done any of these things. There is still an element of compliance, its a work in progress for whilst she may protest at doing things, she generally protests whilst doing the very thing she’s ‘refusing’ to do. Baby steps!

So is this regression? Is she going back to being the stroppy lazy 3yr old that she should have been when we first met? Or is this just her feeling safe enough to relax now?

Either way I love it, I’m embracing the fact that she is starting to show me some of her true personality rather than the fake robotic compliance she’s given me before.

However I must try to remember how wonderfully normal this expression of defiance really is, when she next stamps her feet and rolls her eyes at me 🙂

My blog can also be found alongside some amazing blogs at The Weekly Adoption Shout out #WASO this weeks theme is ‘regression’.

2 Sides to Every Story – The Schools Side

Published March 22, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Continued…………

So it seems my 3 girls did all managed to excuse themselves from class just like they told me! The series of events they described to me actually happened.

The deputy head at school approached me on the playground today, I braced myself for a defensive story. What I got was an admission of guilt and an explanation as to how it had happened.

As I suspected the teachers had each assumed that the girls had been summons by the office to attend their dentist appointment and allowed them to leave class.
We now know this was not the case.

School has assured me that this will never happen again and that ALL staff have been advised that they are not to release a child from class based on the child’s hearsay and that a member of staff or parent should be accompanying them out of the classroom.

I do feel confident that this particular scenario won’t happen again, however it has raised huge concerns within me about the unpredictability of the girls, this wasn’t a group decision, they didn’t collaborate a plan during their lunch break, they each individually made these choices, albeit the same choices.
Something inside them that day told them that they had to be responsible for themselves, they had to make sure they got to the school office ready for their dentist appointment themselves, they couldn’t trust the grown ups around them so needed to take matters in to their own hands in order to survive, just like before.

They did it remarkably well too, not that I’m surprised, not a single bag or lunch box was left behind, they remembered everything themselves, big girl immediately took on the role of carer and the other 2 followed her lead they didn’t NEED anyone’s help, they know how to survive.
Once I arrived at school and took over from big girl they relaxed, they were safe again, and the anxiety they’d held in became obvious almost immediately.

My girls can survive, they can keep themselves safe and they can take care of their own needs. But they need to see that the world is a safe place now and the grown ups around them will take charge and keep them safe.

That day, the school failed to show my already insecure and frightened girls that they would keep them safe. Instead their teachers allowed them to be in control which made them revert to those survival instincts once again.

Needless to say I will be making sure ALL their teachers keep a closer eye on my unpredictable frightened little girls in future!

Hello, please understand me……………..

Published July 11, 2012 by thefamilyof5

I’m planning on being a bit more proactive this year than I previously have. I’m putting together a booklet for each of the girls new teachers ready for September in the hope that they will be able to support and understand their needs.

I’ve printed off a copy of this ‘Understanding Why’ booklet produced by the National children’s Bureau and I’ve included a cover sheet to personalise it.

Big girls introduction goes something like this…………………..

Hello My name is XXXXX

My mummy has put together this little booklet to help you understand me.

In 2010 I came to live with my new mummy and daddy, I’m finding it quite hard to settle and trust my new mummy and daddy,  I am trying very hard and CAMHS are helping me with this. I’ve had a very difficult start in life and this has meant that I’ve developed a little differently to other children, I’m emotionally and socially very behind so I might need you to be extra considerate of this sometimes and not expect me to be the same as the other children my age.

Sometimes the adults in my early life did things to make me feel scared and frightened. I will always do my best to keep the adults around me happy by keeping them close, being extra helpful and chatting to them. This sometimes means I forget to just be a little girl and do little girl things so I might need you to help me do things children do, rather than things adults do. I sometimes forget the differences between adults and children and might try to get you to be my friend instead of my teacher, I’ll need you to make sure this doesn’t happen but please be careful not to reject me, I’ve suffered enough rejection my mummy says.

I find school very difficult, it is big and busy and noisy and I don’t always cope with this very well. Sometimes I feel scared and frightened but I don’t know how to tell you this so I need you to keep a close eye on my behaviour and my mood.

Classrooms can be quite scary for me. There are children all around and people walking around outside and up and down the corridors. Please help me by sitting me close to you and with my back to a wall and not a door, that way I don’t need to be worried about what’s going on behind me. My hearing is really good, I developed this early on as a way to keep myself safe, this means that I may become easily distracted by other noises inside and outside of the classroom, please don’t be annoyed with me, I’m just trying to keep myself safe.

I don’t have much confidence and my self-esteem is rock bottom my mummy says, so sometimes when you ask me to try to do something I’m so scared of getting it wrong and upsetting you that I choose not to even try. I will need you to gently encourage me, but please don’t try and force me as this will scare me.  I will always try to keep you happy as that’s when I will feel safest. So just because I say I understand what my homework is, it doesn’t mean I really do, I just don’t want to annoy you.

Sometimes when it looks like I’m having lots of fun and behaving ‘silly’, I’m actually very anxious and need your help to calm me down and reassure me that everything is ok. I will worry about topics, new tasks and tests. I will find it really hard to talk or read in front of the class so please don’t make me if I don’t want to. When I’ve learnt to trust you I might feel a bit braver and more willing to try.  I also might get worried if someone new comes into the classroom or even if I see a new face in the corridor, I might worry it’s a social worker coming to take me away. I might get worried about trips or new activities and will need you to explain to me exactly what is going to happen and what I will be doing and who will be keeping me safe, but if you can, please don’t tell me too early as I may worry about it at night when I’m trying to sleep. If I get really anxious, please let me know I can ring my mummy, sometimes just suggesting it is enough reassurance to let me know I’m safe and it’s all ok.

I find the playground very scary. I don’t really know how to make friends and I’m scared that if I try to be someone’s friend that they might not like me. There hasn’t been much in my life that I’ve been able to control so I prefer to do things  my way as that’s when I feel safest, the other children don’t always want to do things my way and I find this frustrating and sometimes get angry. I’m not very good at coping with or recognising my feelings and will need you to help me with this.

It would really help my mummy if you could tell her about any upsets, sulks or strops I have at school. I don’t like telling my mummy when I’ve had a bad day as I worry she might be disappointed with me. Mummy likes to help me when I’ve been finding things difficult by keeping me close and calm so I can feel safe again.

My mummy has put this book together to help you understand me, I hope you will read it. If you want to talk to my mummy about anything in this book or anything you see me doing or hear me saying, she will be happy to chat, she can talk about me for hours and she knows me better than anyone else.

My mummy has put a complete copy of this booklet in the back page for you to keep if you want to, but please give this book back to mummy so she can give it to my next teacher.

I hope we have a lovely time learning together.

I’ll try anything to help make my girls lives easier and school is one of the biggest things they struggle with.

Fingers crossed that this helps.

Skip to the answers page…………

Published February 27, 2012 by thefamilyof5

………………wouldn’t it be great if life came with an answers page!

Or perhaps if life wasnt so complicated! I much prefered it when MY  mom made all my decisions for me, I wonder where she got her answers from, perhaps she could lend me the ‘book’.

I’d first look up how to teach a 7 year old to be a 7 year old and do the things that 7 year olds do.

Then I’d research how to teach her to interact with other 7 year olds rather than seek adult interaction all the time.

I’d then look up how to help a 7 year old feel safe enough to sleep through the night, and then perhaps how to make her feel secure enough to not be anxious all the time.

And finally I’d look up why there are so many different ‘professionals’ needed to ‘help support’ one child yet only one of me to support her every day and only one of me to find all of those answers, and without an ‘answers page’.

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