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!

Follow:

 

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.)

 

Follow:

WhotChilli is a collection of family card games designed to promote numeracy to children in fun and engaging ways. It consists of six sets of six numbered cards, a 12-sided dice, and instructions in numerous languages. The whole box is the size of a deck of playing cards, so it’s pleasingly portable for travelling or keeping in a bag as an emergency distraction!

WhotChilli card game

I tested out three games with help from Joanna (age 9) and Charlotte (age 7). I was interested to see what level of numeracy was required of them. Joanna is about average for her age in her maths abilities, and has a good memory for her tables. Charlotte, who we think has FASD, really struggles with maths. She is easily overwhelmed and frightened by the idea of having to work out answers. I was going to have to sell this one to her with diplomatic skills of the highest order. I showed her the funny pictures on the cards and hoped for the best. It worked.

Salsa

We started with the game Salsa, in which you each make your own ‘recipe’ using the cards. The object of the game is to work out another player’s choice of cards and what order they have placed them in. You score 5 points for the right card in the right place, and 1 point for the right card in the wrong place. Every round you have to use the score from the previous round to deduce what might be right. You agree before the game how many cards (between 3 and 6) you’ll use.

WhotChilli

This game proved a bit too tricky for us, so we tweaked the rules a bit, pointing out which cards were right. It still worked well as a game of reasoning, but removed the scoring element. Maybe we can add that back in once we’ve got used to the concepts.

Lookin’ Hot

Next we played Lookin’ Hot. Everyone starts with a set of cards up to one number less than the number of players, so for our group of three players we each used cards 1 and 2. The first player rolls the dice, then chooses which card to put face-down in the middle, then the others put their chosen cards down too. If the first player is the only one to choose that number, they can multiply it by the number on the dice. If someone else has picked the same card, they multiply the card number by the dice number, but subtract the result from their score instead.

WhotChilli

Joanna coped OK with the multiplying (she loves her tables), and Charlotte, as predicted, needed help. But the constant adding and subtracting two-digit numbers using mental arithmetic was too much for both of them, so we decided only to add on positive scores and skip the subtraction. We also decided to add in the number three card, because we found playing with two choices was a bit limiting. This made it more likely that we would choose different cards. Once we’d made those adjustments, we were away. We could also have whipped out pens and paper to carry on adding and subtracting according to the instructions, but our version felt more inclusive for Charlotte.

Chilly Chilli

Finally we played Chilly Chilli. In this game all the players get a set of the six different cards, lay them out face down in front of them in the order of their choice, and memorise which is which. You then take it in turns to swap two of your cards for two of anyone else’s. The object is to get rid of your hot chillies and gaining lots of cool ones. This was much more of an even playing field, as Charlotte has a great memory for these sorts of games. We all enjoyed this game the most of the three.

WhotChilli

WhotChilli card games

WhotChilli: the verdict

WhotChilli would make a good gift for a more able young mathematician (or one with slightly more patience as they improve). It says it’s suitable for ages 6+, but that doesn’t apply equally to all the games. I’d recommend it for children 8 and up.

The cards themselves are fun, and if left to their own devices my girls would happily invent a few other games to supplement the ‘official’ ones. The pack costs £9.99 and is available from Amazon.

Follow:

This is a guest post from a friend in the adoption community who needs to remain anonymous, but wants to share their experience of meeting their children’s birth siblings in the hope of helping others.

meeting-siblings

We have been a family brought together by adoption for over 10 years. There are a few of us in the family, however, it always struck me that given we read our children’s CPRs and all the other information we receive, if we are lucky enough to receive it all, there are extended family who naturally become our family.

My children’s siblings are always a part of my life, they are family too.

Over the weekend we were lucky enough, after three years of trying, to meet the now adult siblings of our children. A surprise message out of the blue three years ago instigated this meeting. It has taken us all this length of time to be able to feel able to do it. Our children were not involved. You may think that cruel, but right now they are not ready for it, and they may never be.

We met in a train station coffee shop – we felt that it needed to be somewhere that we could all feel as comfortable as possible – as we all knew that the anxiety for us all would be immense.

I hugged sister – I was not sure how it would go, but she hugged me back. I got emotional but kept it together.

We bought coffees and we began to chat. There were no awkward moments. It flowed.

Our first lesson

We knew all about them. They knew nothing about us – NOTHING. They lived for the first few years not knowing what had happened to their siblings. No one had told them they had been placed for adoption. Youngest was removed from a holiday he was on – and that was the last she saw of him.

Our second lesson

Appreciation that they had been adopted. Despite the first few years of their not knowing, they have learnt enough about our children to know that they have been well looked after, and cared for, attempting to repair the damage that they have all experienced. They acknowledged that the trauma will have been more intense for our children as they had differing placements and the worst experience of our care system you can imagine.

Our third lesson

If only we knew then what we knew now… Yes, contact is a scary thing, and it would have needed careful planning, facilitating and reviewing. But had I known that these siblings sat not knowing, not knowing where they were, who they were with, were we monsters, were we cruel, did we love them – that could have been easily remedied.

Their first lesson

They now know that their siblings have been loved and cared for. To see the relief on their faces was worth every single minute of over ten years.

Their second lesson

They discovered that their siblings have very similar issues with attachment, trust, anger to them.

Their third lesson

Never assume adoption is always a bad thing. Family and friends had been rather critical of adoption, as you would expect, and that was the siblings impression as a result. They see the difference it has made.

*

I did cry. I felt so patronising and insulting to these two brave souls in front of me, who had been through just as much in their childhood as my children – and I was the one crying. To be told that they are grateful that their siblings have such fantastic parents blew me away. I sniffed, sister held my hand, and I gave myself a good talking to – this was not about me.

We spent three hours together, and we have so much in common. We’ll meet them again, and that was a mutual decision by us all. We feel they are more a part of our family now than ever.

Their decision to share what their message will be when they do all eventually meet was upsetting, and I leave you with some of it:

‘If you are expecting to meet our parents and for them to be the parents you hope for, then don’t – you will be very very disappointed.’

Thank you for reading.


Further thoughts?

Have you met any members of your adopted child(ren)’s birth family? How did it go? Has anything changed for you or your children as a result? What advice would you have for others considering direct contact? Maybe you’re weighing up the pros and cons for your family at the moment. I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts too. Please leave them in the comments so others can benefit.

Follow:

It’s the morning after Adoption Sunday and I’m still upset. My Facebook and Twitter timelines are peppered with stories from Home for Good and their advocates, calling on people to adopt and celebrating gatherings around tables, which has been this year’s theme.

I used to be among them. I have spoken at church, encouraging others to adopt and foster. And yet this year it all rings hollow for me. Why? Because after these gatherings around tables – to use their metaphor – who stays to help with the washing up?

washing-up

As I said during National Adoption Week, the recruitment of new adoptive parents and foster carers has to go hand in hand with the recruitment of people who will provide genuine support to those families. Not just childcare for toddlers, not just a lasagne and a toy when the children move in. Full-on, long-lasting support.

  • Support that mows the lawn and mends the holes kicked in the doors and walls.
  • Support that’s there when you need to talk without being judged.
  • Support that comes to training with you to learn to cope appropriately with dysregulated older children.
  • And yes, support that sometimes cleans the kitchen too.
  • Support from the sort of people you can be authentic with, instead of perpetuating the ‘adopters are superhuman’ idea that some seem to have.

Where are these people?

The rhetoric says that this is what is available to us at church. But it just isn’t. I don’t know where these people are. Lots of people we talk to at church (when we’re able to get there) say ‘that sounds difficult’. I believe a precious few genuinely pray for us regularly. But who is there we can call when Joanna runs out of our front gate and across the park? Who will come and help us find her and bring her home?

In an emergency of course we’d call the police. But we’d rather have friends. We’d rather there were people at church who celebrated with us the Sundays we were able to get there, and helped us engage the children in some calm, low-key way, perhaps having lunch with us occasionally, lending us their presence so we could get home safely without the usual post-church transition meltdowns that are some of the most dangerous, violent and frightening we see?

In an emergency of course we'd call the police. But we'd rather have friends. Click To Tweet

Church as family

Home for Good have an excellent booklet on support which I plug whenever I discuss this subject. I recommend it. But I would dearly love to see them go further, taking the focus off the prospective adopters and foster carers alone and talking about who we are as the church, and how we are family to those who are struggling. Not just children who have come from care, but adoptive parents and birth children who become adoptive siblings with all that entails. I’d like to see Adoption Sunday generally being broader in approach – taking the family model that step further.

Pointing to his disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”’

Matthew 12:49–50 (NIV)

There is so much more I could say. I’d love to discuss the parallel – if I can speak in the church’s language for a moment – between adopter recruitment and support on one hand, and evangelism and discipleship on the other. I really think we need to see it with the same long-term perspective, otherwise we are setting people up for a very painful, lonely journey.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’

James 2:14–17 (NIV)

Come on, church. Let’s do this better. Let’s offer meaningful, long-term support to families – to our collective family.

Follow: