Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.


This week I’m thankful because:

  • Pete finishes work for Christmas tomorrow. This gives us three days of quiet before the children break up. We intend to have our own drama-free Christmas lunch. I think there should be hats.
  • The school carol concert is over, and with it all the routine-disrupting rehearsals. The girls sang enthusiastically, looked in the right direction at least 50 per cent of the time, and amused us by winking and grinning at us throughout.
  • I had a lovely day of self-care on Sunday, while Pete took the girls to the cinema (they saw Ferdinand, which I gather was very funny) and then to their cousin’s birthday party. I slept. Then I listened to podcasts. Then I made mince pies. It was blissful.

  • At the end of last week we met with the heads of adoption and fostering for our LA who told us what had happened at the previous week’s multi-agency meeting. We’re being referred to the Child in Need team in order that they can do whatever assessing they need to do of exactly how difficult things are for us as a family. Then they can tick a box that will allow us to apply for funding for a weekly SEMH boarding school place for Joanna (which has so far been declined by the SEN department who think shuttling her back and forth an hour each way every day is fine). We also talked about respite and what that might look like in practice and we are working together on a plan. AND they wanted info from me on safe holding training and CPV because they are reviewing their policy! No problem. (It’s here if you want a copy.) So there’s still nothing actually tangible right now, but things are moving, I think.
  • I have pretty much finished my Christmas shopping – just a couple of things still to get and I am having a shopping trip with my mum today. Top of Charlotte’s wish list is an Elsa dress, but the only one I’ve found has a button that plays Let It Go. So obviously that little device will need to be removed and the dress sewn back up, because there are limits to my tolerance! I’m thankful to have a mum who is very handy with a needle and thread, so I might delegate that to her if she’s willing.
  • The rest of my Christmas preparations are still in disarray, but I’m fine with that. How about you?

What are you grateful for this week?

Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉


In the next few weeks, I’ll be developing my resources page into a series of pages with content that’s wider-ranging and more useful to adoptive parents. I’ll be creating pages with free printable downloads to make them easier to share with those who support you (and those you would like to provide support). Here’s a taster of a work in progress: a quick guide to the resources that are available to support families experiencing child-to-parent violence (CPV). As always, your feedback (in the comments below) is really welcome.

CPV resources

Resources for managing child-to-parent violence (CPV)

Helen Bonnick

Helen is a social worker and researcher/speaker on CPV. Her website contains numerous resources for families and professionals dealing with CPV, including details of training, a reading list, downloadable leaflets, and a blog.

The Open Nest

This is a charity founded by adoptive parent Amanda Boorman. The Open Nest runs training and events, short breaks and retreats, including therapeutic work with families. Amanda has written powerfully about the need for adoptive parents facing violent behaviour to receive training in safe holding: Part 1 | Part 2.

Al Coates

Al is a social worker and adoptive parent involved in advocacy to government for adoptive families experiencing CPV. He has also been involved in CPV research projects, and runs The Adoption and Fostering Podcast with Adoption UK’s Scott Casson-Rennie.


Safe holding/restraint training providers

Securicare | | 01904 492442

Securicare’s therapeutic safe holding plans are designed for adoptive parents, kinship carers and other individuals with a responsibility for responding to children who present challenging behaviours that require safe intervention to prevent harm. The service aims to produce a child-centred safe holding plan, covering therapeutic safe holding skills as well as advice on calming and de-escalation. Securicare provide a bespoke training session in support of the plan designed to provide the knowledge and skills which will enable parents and/or carers to safely hold a child when they are engaging in physically harmful behaviours.

Able Training | | 01476 848327

Able Training run courses in managing challenging behaviour, conflict and aggression, led by trainers who are highly experienced, particularly in social care settings, and understand your issues and can deal with them sensitively. Able Training operates throughout the UK with a network of trainers, providing on-site training for public sector and third sector organisations as well as private sector companies. They are happy to tailor and adapt any course to meet your needs.


Other resources

Young Minds | 0808 802 5544

A telephone helpline for parents struggling to support a young person’s mental health needs. Available 9.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Samaritans | | 116 123

A safe place for you to talk about whatever is on your mind, available 24/7.


All this information is available as a PDF for easy printing and sharing.
Click here to grab your copy.


  • If I’ve missed something out that you think should be added, please leave me a note in the comments below.
  • If there’s another adoption-related topic you’d like to see me cover in the same way, leave me a note about that (also in the comments). I’d love to hear your suggestions.



Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

This week I’m thankful because:

  • The Playmobil nativity set-as-Advent-calendar is working really well. We are still constructing the stable at the moment and the girls seem to be really enjoying it. No pieces have yet been chewed or lost.
  • Yesterday we celebrated St Nicholas Day. This has been a tradition we’ve enjoyed with the girls for five years now, and we love it. On Monday after school (when they came home a bit a lot dysregulated, because school + December = too much change to the schedule) we watched the VeggieTales DVD about St Nicholas (also part of our tradition). On the night of the fifth, we all leave a shoe outside our bedroom door. ‘St Nicholas’ then fills them with treats overnight This year the girls got a Smiggle pencil sharpener and rubber, some chocolate coins, and a little Lindt Father Christmas and reindeer. We’ve never made any attempt to pretend that St Nicholas is anyone other than us, because that’s how we roll with truth-telling and not wanting to alarm them with the idea of strangers in the house. So the whole St Nicholas thing is done with a nudge and a wink and it is just a simple part of our family’s Christmas experience that I really love. I also enjoyed Charlotte’s idea of putting Paddington’s welly out with her boot, just in case he picked up a bit more chocolate.
  • Reindeer jumperOn Tuesday I had an afternoon away from my desk that didn’t involve going to a meeting! I did a bit of Christmas shopping (including this fabulous jumper for Joanna) and took a bit of time out in Starbucks just to stare into space and zone out in the name of self-care. It was lovely.
  • Last week’s multi-agency meeting happened. No-one has yet told us the outcome – we have to go to yet another meeting to hear that. It’s this afternoon. I am so sick of having meetings when a quick email exchange would be so much easier (and provide a paper trail for their promises). But that’s what’s on offer, and so off we go to find out exactly how much of what we’re asking for is going to be a fight. I’m thankful that at least this is some sort of progress.
  • I have some freelance work on this week, which I love. It helps me feel like I am using the parts of my brain that being mum doesn’t always reach. I feel much more me when I am working. I’m thankful that I get to balance both.

What are you grateful for this week?

Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉


Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

Advent calendar

This week I’m thankful because:

  • It’s nearly Advent. I put our Advent calendar up yesterday. These bags have become a bit of a family tradition. Some years we put notes in them to indicate a particular treat or activity, such as having a hot chocolate and watching a DVD, or making biscuits. Other years it’s the easier route of emptying a couple of bags of fun-size chocolates into them. This year I bought a Playmobil nativity set and have put a few pieces in each day. AND chocolate. The thing is so heavy I’ve had to add knots to the string at strategic intervals to stop all the bags sliding to the middle. I’m trying not to think about the likelihood of bits being chewed, sneaked to school and given away, broken during meltdowns, etc. I’m hoping we can do this.
  • This week is crazy busy, but we are surviving. On Monday Pete and I visited a potential SEMH school for Joanna. It was good, we liked the headteacher, and they are fully on board with PACE and appropriate therapeutic approaches. They just don’t do boarding, which is what we are pushing for. When I mentioned this, the head was great. He said he’d gladly tell the SEN department they were full if it meant us getting what we wanted from them i.e. the other school.
  • Post-adoption support, CAMHS and SEN are finally meeting today (as we have been asking them to for the best part of a year) to put together a multi-agency response to us. I’ll let you know whether it is anything near the package of support we have been asking for.
  • It’s properly cold, the days are shorter, and I love it. I think I was basically born to hibernate. I am unashamedly typing this from under the duvet. It is lovely.
  • I am of the opinion that once it’s December, it’s mince pie season. I don’t do anywhere near as much baking now as I did pre-children, but this weekend I hope to get those going. I’m thinking that the tree can wait another week though. Am I right? When are you putting your tree up?

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 


You know an adoptive family. Maybe they’re a part of your extended family. Perhaps they’re your friends or neighbours. You want to help, but you’re worried about doing the wrong thing and putting your foot in it. But unless the adoptive family in question is quite unusual, they are likely to be delighted with any expression of desire to help out. So go for it. With just a few adoption-friendly tweaks you can make to make your efforts even more appropriate for them. Here’s how to help an adoptive family at Christmas.

How to help an adoptive family at Christmas

1. Simplify.

Keep things as straightforward as possible so as not to overwhelm the children. One present, not five. One small family gathering, not a tour of the country. Predictability, not surprises. Many adoptive families have enough internal stress without adding any external pressures. Keep things relaxed and low-key. Think chilled-out gathering at home, not formal restaurant where impeccable table manners are required.

When you see an adoptive parent in January, better to cautiously ask ‘And how was your Christmas?’ than to launch in to ‘I bet you had a wonderful time with your children’ and make presumptions of yuletide jollity. Click To Tweet

2. Give experiences, not stuff.

Many adopted children break things exceptionally quickly. Mine have been known to break Christmas presents before they were even out of the wrapping paper. They are just not very good at being careful with things. Sometimes they don’t feel worthy of nice things and so they break them to restore them to their idea of normal. Others (including our girls again) feel enormously overwhelmed by presents from all and sundry, and opening a huge pile of things sends them into a cycle of extreme highs and hyperactivity followed by a big crash into a meltdown. So it’s helpful to give them an experience instead: a homemade voucher for a trip to the cinema/theatre/zoo/planetarium provides an opportunity for you to give attention to the child and almost certainly helps out the adoptive parents at the same time. (Hint: all the adoptive parents I know would love this.) If you’re too far away to offer this, then you could get creative. Vouchers for things they can download to a tablet, perhaps, or cinema vouchers if you can’t take them yourself.

When thinking of gifts for adoptive parents, remember that they can probably buy their own alcohol and chocolates, welcome as these things are! It’s a cliché, but your time and friendship are priceless. Give them a list of dates when you’re free to take them out for coffee and listen to them/look after the kids so they can have some respite/be available to do DIY where the children have broken things. Or give vouchers for ironing/lawnmowing/dinner-delivery/whatever you can offer. You get the idea.

3. Lower your expectations of what they can manage

This is especially true in terms of gatherings and parties. The children may not be able to sit still for very long, regardless of their age (children don’t ‘grow out of’ being neglected and abused and may be emotionally and/or developmentally ‘stuck’ at a lower age). They may be extremely attention-seeking and oblivious to the usual rules of social interaction. The family may not be able to arrive on time (because of meltdowns when getting ready, and/or leaving the house, and/or during the journey). They may need to leave early because they can see before you can the signs that a child is heading for a meltdown, which could be due to a new environment/too many people/Uncle Mike’s aftershave/being asked questions/something being not as they expected. Understand this and don’t take it personally. Assume they are all doing their best and don’t pressure them.

Adoptive parents are pretty much all constantly exhausted. Be gentle. Click To Tweet

Adoptive parents are pretty much all constantly exhausted. (Here’s why.) Be gentle. Don’t ask them to bring anything that requires hours of baking to the bring-and-share lunch. Do ask if there are things that will make it easier for the children to manage, such as specific foods they will eat happily, somewhere quiet for them to decompress, someone they feel safe with who can take them to the park for half an hour to burn off some nervous energy, etc.

4. Think laterally.

Give books about adoption and/or the child’s specific needs to other family members or mutual friends you know to be supportive. Ask the family for recommendations, or try some of my favourites:

No Matter What
The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting
Building the Bonds of Attachment
Why Can’t My Child Behave?
and for teachers, What About Me?

(For a more extensive list, see Advice for prospective adopters.)


5. Remember that Christmas may well not be downtime for adoptive families.

When children thrive on the regular routines of school and predictable daily life, they can find school holidays hard to cope with. When you add it all the extra expectations and emotions that surround Christmas, it’s no surprise that they find themselves confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. Therapeutically parenting children in this state of dysregulation is very hard work, even if adoptive parents sometimes manage to make it look easy.

Remember that Christmas may well not be downtime for adoptive families. Click To Tweet

Gone are the days of lying of the sofa for a week with a stack of all the books we got for Christmas, only moving to replenish our plates of mince pies. Downtime only comes when the children are asleep, by which time we can barely keep our eyes open enough to watch the Doctor Who special. When you see an adoptive parent in January, better to ask ‘And how was your Christmas?’ in a cautious tone of voice than to launch in to ‘I bet you had a wonderful time with your children’ and make presumptions of yuletide jollity which may not be accurate. I believe it is possible to have an enjoyable Christmas with adopted children, it’s just that we are still waiting for it to happen here.

Share for a happier Christmas…

If you’re an adoptive parent and think your family and friends could use a few pointers along these lines, keep reading! You can get a handy summary in printable PDF form by clicking below.