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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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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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.

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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.

Susan-Calman-Kevin-Clifton

This week I’m thankful because:

  • Susan and Kevin are still in Strictly and I love them. Their joy is contagious.

  • Our family had our first actually enjoyable bonfire night (if you missed my blog it, you can read it here: Fireworks… without the ‘fireworks’.
  • I’m still feeling the love for autumn. (Sausage hotpot in the slow cooker for the win.)
  • Pete wrote an excellent measured-and-polite-but-assertive ‘enough of your nonsense’ email to our social worker expressing our disappointment and frustration that various things that are supposed to have been done are still not in place. I married him for many excellent reasons, not least his culinary talents, but my word that man writes excellent emails and this makes me happy.
  • I’m looking forward to the Adoption UK conference and meeting lots of my Twitter-friends this weekend. (I’ll be wearing this – if you spot me please say hello!)

thelmatopia-badges

What are you thankful for this week? Are you a fellow fan of all things autumnal? Let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 

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In our house, the start of November brings a strange mix of excitement and concern. Will they or won’t they cope with fireworks this year? Will the children put on their own ‘fireworks display’ as a response to all then bangs and flashes outside?

fireworks

Feeling the love for fireworks

I am a big fan of fireworks. So much so that we ended our wedding reception at 6pm so that me and Pete could slope off to a fireworks display 10 miles away for the rest of the evening. It’s something I hoped to share with our children – wrapping up warm to stand in a cold field, eating hotdogs with fried onions, and hoping that each squealing rocket shooting skyward would burst into one of those huge rosettes that changes colour twice before it fizzles out with a crackle. I have great memories of standing on the village rec, cold feet in two pairs of socks inside my wellies, the waiting all worthwhile for those few minutes of pyrotechnics. I loved it. I’ve never celebrated Halloween, so bonfire night is the autumn celebration as far as I’m concerned. I love a firework.

My children, though, have been known to see it a bit differently.

fireworks

Inauspicious beginnings

For their first three Novembers with us, the sound of our neighbours’ fireworks was enough to frighten the life out of them. Coming from a birth family where sudden loud noises meant parents fighting, the bangs made them scream and hide under their duvets at best, and completely freak out and rage when it was really bad. We didn’t even try to go to a display, though we did occasionally manage to coax them into watching through closed windows – we live on a hill with great firework viewing potential for others’ home displays.

Last year

Last year was our first proper outing to a proper display, back in the village where I grew up. With hot dogs. It was just like the old days, with the addition of a couple of fairground rides to keep the children amused until the display started. I had wrapped the children up in plenty of layers, with scarves and gloves and hats and, importantly, earplugs.

It worked.

Yes, Charlotte got a bit cold and tired towards the end, but she mainly coped really well. Joanna, who had been the most scared of fireworks previously, loved it all. She was awestruck in exactly same way I’d hoped for. It was one of those rare parenting moments where you think ‘This is what it is supposed to be like’.

This year

We made sure that they were (a) filled with hot chocolate and biscuits and (b) wearing lots of layers before we headed out. When we arrived, we went straight to the hotdog stall to make sure that box was ticked. I also made sure I had a couple of cups of mulled wine early on to help me cope with proceedings.

Our fireworks display involved half an hour of standing watching a ‘fire dancer’ and some people with glow in the dark hula hoops before proceedings started. Pete and I muttered about the appropriateness of wearing a leotard and fishnets and dancing in a cold field at night, but the girls loved it. It helped that Pete procured some toasted marshmallows at this point. Nice work, husband.

marshmallows

Finally the fireworks started. They were excellent. They were also loud. I wasn’t sure how the girls would cope – last year there was a lot of holding hands over ears – but this year they took it in their stride. Boom.

Shh. I think we’ve cracked it. We’ve done fireworks… without the fireworks. And they loved it. Long may it continue.

The girls’ fireworks pictures from their activity club today:

 

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