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.

mince-pies

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! 😉

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Melissa Corkum posted this week about how she is ‘slacking’ as a parent for the sake of her sanity. Also how this is OK because no one is suffering as a consequence and actually it is all completely fine. She’s encouraging others to do the same, and I am very much on board. I love this idea of posting about the stuff we’re not doing, in the name of self-care. So, here’s my December contribution to the #mommyslacker revolution.

December Slacking

Things I have not done

  1. I have not written a single Christmas card yet.
  2. We are still undecided about whether we are going to write our Christmas newsletter (usually a mildly sarcastic antidote to all the saccharine nonsense about little Jacinta having passed grade 8 piano at age 4, it has traditionally been a highlight of our Christmas preparations and properly laid out in InDesign, because we are publishing/media types). It’s normally printed by now.
  3. The tree is not up. (It’s only not in the loft because we put it in a cupboard in January and it has stayed there all year.)The tree is not up. (It's only not in the loft because we put it in a cupboard in January and it has stayed there all year.) Click To Tweet
  4. I have not taken a festive family photo/made a snowman (no snow here, which didn’t help)/bought the family matching Christmas pyjamas for photographic purposes, despite everything on my Facebook feed.
  5. 10 ways I am slacking as a mumI have not taken the children shopping so they can buy presents, despite their requests. (This can wait until they have finished school.)
  6. I have not posted Christmas presents to overseas destinations before the last posting date. (They will still get there.)
  7. I have not done any baking with the children. (I bake to relax. Suffice it to say their presence does not contribute to this state of mind.)
  8. I have not done any Christmas crafts with the children. (Because it is easier to make them a hot chocolate and put a DVD on than concern myself with who is throwing scissors at whom, and how to get glitter glue out of the carpet.)
  9. I have not washed any of the bedding in the house for over a month. (No one has contracted a major illness yet.)
  10. I have not got one of those elves on shelves. Our children have known the truth about Father Christmas since they were in foster care, so it seems a bit pointless as well as a big old faff to voluntarily create a new mess to clear up every morning. Who has time for that?
I have not got one of those elves on shelves. It seems a big old faff to voluntarily create a new mess to clear up every morning. Who has time for that? Click To Tweet

Meanwhile…

I have had a couple of coffee dates with Pete after the 8am school run, did manage to go out for lunch with him without the children last weekend, am working my way through series 2 of Elementary in the evenings, am taking part in December Daily for my own enjoyment and did have a pyjama day while Pete and the girls were out on Sunday. So there. #selfcarewins

What about you?

Want to join in? The hashtag for Instagram and Twitter is #mommyslacker, or click on the badge below if you want to link up your blog about slacking off. Thanks Melissa for the great idea!

 

 Mommy Slacker | December 2017

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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

holesinthewall.co.uk

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

theopennest.co.uk

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

alcoates.co.uk

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

securicare.com | trainers@securicare.com | 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

able-training.co.uk | info@able-training.co.uk | 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

youngminds.org.uk | 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

samaritans.org | jo@samaritans.org | 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.

And…

  • 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.

Thanks!

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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! 😉

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Pretty much all the adoptive parents I know talk about Christmas with a mix of dread and weary experience as one of the most challenging times of the year. It is certainly that way for us. At times it has been absolutely horrendous. But on balance Christmas 2016 was the best of our Christmasses with the children so far. I’m revisiting this post from post-Christmas 2016 in order to apply what we learned to our preparations for this year: my Christmas survival plan.

Christmas survival

Spending Christmas Day on our own

Not travelling (other than church – see below) or having guests meant that we were better able to set the pace according to what the girls could manage. We didn’t have to worry about accommodating anyone else’s wishes or expectations. This was a massive improvement on previous years where we’ve tried to please the extended family.

We’re doing this again this year.

Kindles

Last year’s main Christmas presents to the girls were Kindles and I have no idea how we survived without them.

Being able to give the girls an hour’s Kindle time so we could all have a breather from each other was a massive sanity-saver. They even voluntarily did maths on them! I am a huge fan. (Need convincing? Read my post In Praise of Screen Time.)

This year I think giving them some new apps (as we do for long journeys) will be a huge help for all of us. Another hint to anyone considering buying Kindles for children is that the customer service is fantastic.

We’ve had Charlotte’s replaced for free, within 48 hours, with no hassle, three times.

Limiting presents

On Christmas Day we did stockings and four presents for the children. The stockings happened first thing, which for us is always a manageable 7.30am. They were pretty simple: chocolate, sweets, bath bombs, bracelets with times tables on, chewable bracelets, glue and sellotape, and whoopie cushions. Once opened, the contents were decanted into named ziplock freezer bags to avoid any ownership disputes. The stash lasted them until at least the end of the holidays.

For their main presents, we have previously had issues with them becoming overexcited and overwhelmed. Too many things to open tends to turn the whole thing into a consumerist frenzy where it was just about opening the next thing without appreciating anything along the way. So last year (our third Christmas with the girls) we applied a rule I’ve read about previously but felt was quite draconian: ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read’.

My rule for reducing my children's Christmas present stress? Simplify. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. Done. Click To Tweet

Surprise! It worked!

It turns out this is brilliantly liberating and much more manageable for all concerned. No massive gifts: we gave them each a book or two, a doctor’s set, a new school bag each, a scarf for Joanna/dress for Charlotte, and a doll (I hate dolls, but Joanna’s therapist was adamant they should have them, so there we are). And that was it. Of course they have other stuff from friends and family, but we spread those out between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day so it all calmed down a little bit. We could probably improve this further by specifying that they will be opening one or two presents each day after Christmas to stop some of the pestering about the things that are still under the tree.

We’re using the same principle this year. 

Colour-in tablecloth

These colour-in tablecloths have become a bit of a tradition for us – they come out on Christmas Eve and provide a bit of entertainment while they wait for Christmas dinner and any other lulls when they can’t decide which of their presents they want to play with and are ‘SO BORED’. They don’t get completely finished so could probably stay out for the whole holiday, though they do get a bit grotty if they stay on the table for meals for a week.

Pyjama days

On the 27th we all stayed in pyjamas all day. The girls were allowed to substitute lunch for chocolate and sweets from their stockings and have unlimited screen time. I finished reading a book and EVERYTHING. This day felt like we were edging closer to how we want Christmas to be. So we did it again on the 30th.

I’ve already scheduled a pyjama day in again for this year.

Learning from our mistakes

Those were the successes. But we’re learning from some failures too.

The things that follow were the most stressful bits of last Christmas. This year Pete and I have hatched plans to manage them better.

Church

Church is a part of our family’s life and last year we went to the 50-minute service on Christmas morning. The girls struggled with it and didn’t want to join in the singing. Pete struggled with their attitude. I struggled to be all things to all people: backing Pete up, quietly managing Joanna’s strop, and giving Charlotte the sensory input she needs (bouncing/patting/back-scratching) to be able to stay in the zone. This isn’t just a Christmas issue – most Sundays have an element of this. But it does make for a certain amount of tension.

This year, we need to all discuss our feelings, needs, and expectations to make this work better. The plan is to go to our parish church, which isn’t our usual church but is the one attached to the girls’ school. They’re familiar with it, it’s walkable, so no meltdowns in the car, and it’s a quick nip home to cook the Christmas dinner. 

Family visits

In 2016, Boxing Day was our day for the Christmas visit to the in-laws (an hour’s drive away) and was the worst day, both in terms of behaviour and general horrendousness. When Charlotte had screamed at me for half an hour and my mother-in-law was eager to get us all to the table despite seeing very clearly that we were in the middle of an incident, I just walked out, intending just to sit in the car for a bit, away from the screaming. But I could still hear the noise from the driveway, so I drove round the corner and had some time out there instead.

Last year I said we needed to rethink how we arrange our time with them – maybe visiting them before Christmas and asking my mother-in-law to reconsider putting her best crystal glasses and special crockery on the table and then us all stressing about whether they’ll get broken. This year we’ve said that instead of going for a Christmas dinner as usual, we’ll go in the afternoon and stay for tea. That should be a more relaxed, buffet-style arrangement – less stressful for all concerned.

The schedule

We are big fans of using schedules to help us all through school holidays. They are a particularly big deal in the summer, but they’re also helpful at other times of year. With all the upheaval caused by school nativity rehearsals and mufti days, we’ve decided to start the schedule this week so that the girls can write on stuff that’s happening at school too.

If you want to use my downloadable, editable holiday schedule template, you can grab it here.

~*~

If you’ve had any revelations of sanity-saving ideas, I’d love to hear those too. Please share them in the comments.

PS If you missed it, you might also like to read Five ways to help an adoptive family at Christmas. It’s a great post for sharing with the people you’ll be seeing over Christmas to help them prepare for adoptive children’s needs.

You can get a handy summary in printable PDF form by clicking below. (It’s free.)

 

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