If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Defiance

"When a law is unjust, it is only right to disobey" Ghandi

Defiance in our children is seen as rude, disagreeable, irritating and frustrating and seems to trigger a quick and often over-reactive response from an adult, I wonder why?

One of our jobs as a parent is to educate our children in social niceties and acceptable behaviour, so when they are overtly resistance this, for me, can sometimes trigger something primal in my response. Perhaps because sometime back in the Stone Age a child saying NO, refusing to do something when asked, dragging their feet in protest or intentionally ignoring us could have potentially led to serious injury or death.

But defiance when it is Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parkes or Malala to name a few is bravery, inspiration and just. How many fictional characters who have a defiant streak become our heroes, Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Alex Rider or even George in the Famous Five.  So how do we harness defiance for good? How do I teach my child to use his strength in a good way and how do I learn to respond to his  attitude in a way that encourages him to stand up for the right things.
 
I have no desire to quash the spark of defiance that runs through my son but I do need to help it flourish into something positive. He is defiant when he views a request as unfair, that may be because he just wants his own way and has not yet matured to be able to look at the bigger picture. Examples of this happen at school every day. He is in the middle of an exciting activity and is asked to do something else, not being compliant in nature his response of course is no and why shouldn't it be. He doesn't understand that learning his numbers or phonics is the basis of his whole education, he is perfectly content playing his dinosaur game.

As the grown ups we have to find a way of working him with, maybe the playing with dinosaurs happens after the phonics, not asking him to do something, just expecting him too interestingly has more success, immediate and appropriate consequences may lead to stomping and even a tantrum, but the message is loud and clear and next time there may not be an issue. But just as important it is understanding why, after all it may not be defiance that is playing out in front of us it could be preoccupation (playing with dinosaurs),fear , or anger. Communication is so important even if sometimes so difficult. Getting a 5 year old to explain how he feels is not easy, but by not assuming that he is in the wrong or that his behaviour is disagreeable is a way to teach trust and that in turn leads to him seeking an adult out to help him manage his feelings.

Obviously, I have failed at this on numerous occasions, hence why I write about it now, maybe writing and thinking about defiance will help me, help him and that is after all what it is all about.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

When is a reward chart not a reward chart?

I had our half term meeting about child 4 the week before the holidays. After the two weeks of agressive behaviour, life is settling down, now instead of aggression and violence usually directed to his peers we have defiance against the staff. The class teacher is managing him well, but the support staff struggle, generally because they try to talk him into doing things, rather than expecting him too. Something the class teacher and Sen Co will work on with them. In fact the teacher is pretty amazing in that she will try something and if it doesn't work she will go back to the drawing board, speak to other staff or us and try something different. If something works fantastic but the minute it stops having the desired effect she will rethink and come up with something new to try. Academically child 4 is doing well but I worry that if we do not resolve his behaviours, his academic ability will suffer in the future.

This week the school have tried a sort of sticker chart, (I know, I know....it sounds like a reward chart and I guess in a way it is one.)  Child 4's teacher has noticed that he loves stickers, if she says "I wonder who will get my sticker for sitting nicely?" He sits beautifully and then is overjoyed to receive a sticker for doing as asked. So, she has created a special sheet full of pictures depicting his day. Every time he completes a section of the day without hurting someone or being rude he gains a sticker. It can be just sitting nicely or moving to an activity when asked. In fact he can't fail to gain a sticker. There is no penance for not getting a sticker they just move on to the next part of the day. By the end of the day he has a sheet full of stickers, they just focus on the good stuff. So far it is working.

 On Thursday he came out of school saying that the teacher needed to speak to me, "uh oh now what" was my understandable response. Well, on Thursday he got through the whole day without hurting anyone! That is the first time, since he started school last September. A whole day and he was so proud of himself. He couldn't wait to tell his siblings, his Daddy and his Nanna and Grandad. I am not one for reward charts, in fact I don't think any adoptive parent is, anything that may set up our children to fail is not of any use, however a reward chart that is not a reward chart but a sticker chart that celebrates the little successes and leads to a major success is something that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I know that the sticker chart life span could well be short but if it means that child 4 can celebrate the joy of making it through a day without resorting to violence then it shows that he is finding his way to manage his anger and that can only be a good thing.



Thursday, 9 February 2017

Growing up is tough

Bullying is an insidious thing and it can have long reaching tentacles that invade not just the life of the person affected but also their family and friends. When you are a teenage boy loaded with testosterone and going through puberty life at home can be tricky at best and down right miserable at worst. Even when the bullying has been stopped there is a residual victim mentality left, especially if there is low level "p**s taking still going on. The children probably aren't even aware they are doing it, it just becomes habit.
For us though it can make our life feel like a minefield of emotions, one out of place comment and our teenager sees red, I mean a blinding red, one where he cannot control himself. He has to make everyone else as miserable as himself. So he hits his younger sister and intimidates his younger brother often reminding him that he is adopted. He will swear and be right up in our faces.
The knock on effect is huge. Both of the girls are scared of him when he gets angry, his brother moves directly into fight mode none of which help as it feeds the anger and his power kick. He will not respond to us his parents except to shout, swear or be defiant. Of course, once everything has calmed down he is sincerely apologetic but sorry is a word it doesn't repair the damage already done.
We have moved into quick, decisive but appropriate consequences and are hoping that this will help him control the rage.




One of the downsides of secondary school is that you are who you begin those pre-teen years as. The persona of year 7, is the one you have to carry throughout that part of your education. Your peers seem unable to allow you to grow, change and flourish, to become the person you are going to be. These are the years where education has such an important role to play, how you behave, how you are treated and how you are educated and not just in academia help to mould you. If you start this time wrong footed or different it is so hard to mature, to find your way. You sometimes fall into a victim mentality and that is so hard to break, you assume that people are out to get you even when they are not.
I have yet to work out how to deal with this. I listen, ask if my help is required to intervene or sometimes I email the school regardless.

We don't have long to go now and child 2 can study his sixth form years elsewhere. Where he can be who he is today and not who he was 2,3 or 5 years ago. He can be the funny, bright, articulate good looking boy that I spend my time with!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A tough week

On Tuesday I was called into school as child 4 had been struggling for the past couple of days. On Tuesday alone he had hurt 10 children before morning break at 10.40am. By lunchtime the teacher had given up on the early years foundation scheme of free flow play and learn for the class and had structured the afternoon into small groups of children being directed to specific activities for 15 minutes before being moved to the next activity all to minutely manage child 4.
Child 4 had been invited to a birthday party the next afternoon, he was tired, scared and struggling with his emotions, maybe a party wasn't the best idea but still he wanted to go so I went with him. I over heard one little girl say to her friend "oh that's just child 4, he is always in trouble at school and a parent said as he was in full tantrum "oh dear Ben rioting again" Normally these comments roll off me but that day they didn't. All my fears were accumulating. Child 4 being known as the naughty child by his peers, parents seeing him as a trouble maker, teachers struggling to manage him. We had been doing so well.
We have shut ourselves away for the rest of the week, quietly talking about being kind and gentle. Ensuring that when he is angry or struggling with his emotions he knows who to speak to and where his safe space is. I spoke to the ELSA support in school who does Theraplay with child 4 about our weekend so that she could help him. His class teacher has changed their day around so that the structured stuff is in the afternoon when he is more tired so susceptible to behaving erratically.
Our mornings and evenings have been packed with tantrums, demands and loud voices have echoed through the house. Meltdowns because I won't allow meals of sweets, chocolates or biscuits, followed by desperate clingy cuddles with him almost climbing inside me. The nights have been disturbed with him ending up in our bed or me cuddled up with him in his.
All this I think was brought on by a complete meltdown by child 2 on Sunday. He had, had parents evening regarding his upcoming GCSE's think he is just realising that he actually has to do some work and it was his birthday, as he has struggled with friendships at school I think he was worried that no one would mention his birthday and 16 years old is a big step for a teenager. This led to a meltdown of epic proportions where he wanted everyone in the house to feel as bad as he did and didn't care what he did to ensure that happened. Of course my attention was all in child 2's direction, so I completely missed the effect that this event had on the other children, particularily child 4. Now, I am left repairing the damage. Finding appropriate consequences for child 2 and working out how I am going to speak to him about the effects of his behaviour on his siblings, helping him be responsible for his actions without starting another battle. He has lost all electronics for the week and has to clean the bathrooms as he swore, a lot. However, he has actually been revising so that's a positive.

This weekend I am spending time with the children, we are going to make bath bombs, filled with lavendar oil, bake some cookies and walk the dog.  Child 3 has a gym competition so she will need TLC and support as she gets very nervous before, although her last two practice sessions have been amazing.

A time for gentle and quiet structure I think is required.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

A road less travelled

Moving into a New Year doesn't hold the excitement it did when I was young. Gone are the days where a New Year brought exciting decisions, major events, resolutions. Now it is just one day morphing into another. I no longer make resolutions as I know I am unlikely to keep them. I watch the fireworks because the children want to and I enjoy the time with them. This time I wondered about where I intend to end up, eventually, after all life is a journey but it's a journey with no definitive destination. We move from one stop to the next. Teenage years to adult hood, individuals to partnerships, new jobs, careers, new homes, cities and countries, then in our case children.



I was lucky enough to be born into an ordinary family, parents that loved me and supported me. They started me on my life journey, in the beginning they drove, choosing the direction that my life was going to take. Then gradually they encouraged or allowed me to branch out on my own. I began to make my own decisions taking the fork in the road that appealed to me, knowing that they were there to share the driving seat if everything went wrong.
Now I am in the driving seat, a seat I share with Mr L. We have chosen a road much less travelled, this of course means that the road is not so easy or efficient. The road often twists and turns and we can't see more than a few metres in front, we hit pot holes, sometimes the road crumbles beneath the wheels, we make wrong turns and have to decide whether to turn back or keep on going. Sometimes we get hopelessly lost and have to call for help. But then we see a light, the road smooths out, we've climbed a mountain, traversed a cliff side, found our way out of the dark trees, reached the bottom of a death defying hill. We can stop, stretch our legs and enjoy the view. We can picnic in a beautiful valley, lazing in the warm sun. We can stroll around a meadow covered with wild flowers. We can be in a place of contentment. But time doesn't wait for anyone, minutes pass drifting into hours and we once again start our journey. Where we are aiming for I often don't know, life is funny like that we start our lives being totally dependant on our parents, what is our end destination? heaven? We move on from one stop to the next, one Dream realised after another. Everyone's dreams are different and a certainty will be that not all our dreams come true.
What is my next pit stop to be. Seeing child 1 and 2 through their exams, definitely a long hard climb. Helping child 3 achieve her NDP in gymnastics, tip toeing through the grass avoiding the egg shells. Supporting child 4 through his first year in school, which means returning now and then to the busy, well travelled roads praying that we can get to our next stop without any prangs or traffic jams caused by others that intentionally or inadvertently get in our way. The journey we have chosen certainly isn't boring but the hiccups along the way are eclipsed by the moments of joy we are often surprised with.







Thursday, 29 December 2016

Love

"Love is all you need" doesn't seem to work in the adoption field. Love is pretty much a given, surprisingly in a way. Who would have believed that you could meet a 2 year old and fall in love so very quickly. I didn't but have been proved wrong. 
Many adopters though will tell you that Love is not enough to help our children, some of whom have been so very damaged by their early start in life. Many children need support and help outside the family unit and the families need support and help to keep their lives on an even keel. I can only speak of my experience not of other peoples, every story is different. I often hear the comment "all children do that, oh he will be fine, he was so little when you adopted him so he won't remember the best one was I know all about adoption I've watched The Dumping Ground" yes honestly that is true!! Sometimes, I doubt myself, am I imagining things, am I over protective or making excuses. When we started school I know they pooh poohed my concerns, thinking I was an over protective parent, although to give them their due they have seen the light and are putting lots of support in place to help with child 4's agression and anger.



I like many over the last couple of days have read the Daily Mail Article "They open their homes to adopt – then find they’ve taken on youngsters who wreck their family." 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4069254/They-open-homes-adopt-ve-taken-youngsters-wreck-family-continue-BETRAY-loving-parents-asks-CAROL-SARLER.html

A coarse and frightening piece of journalism. One that shows little compassion for anyone involved in adoption be it the children, the adoptive families, the birth families, social services or adoption charities. A piece of work that could sadly put off potential adopters and scare adopters like myself who are not living the lives of these families but worry that our lives could change very quickly and we could find ourselves living in homes full of egg shells where one false move could cause family life to deteriorate  into crisis. It tells of the worst case scenarios within adoption, scenarios that are being shared more and more frequently. Not that it seems to change much. No one really wants to talk about adoption breakdowns or families in crisis, I guess because it calls the whole system into question. How many noticed that in the article Katya's birth mother was only a child herself, in care because her mother was in prison, a cycle of neglect that may have been started generations before. The only way to call a halt to the cycle is help and support. Help and support that is either slow in coming or not even in existence. There seems to be an issue with spending money, short sighted because in the long run it will save a fortune. Adoption breakdowns cost the state a fortune, lack  of support could mean that some children will remain wards of the state in the prison system or they end up requiring medical intervention due to homelessness, drug abuse or obesity,  In away it is good that the article has opened up a debate, but I suspect that it is a debate that only those actually involved will join, most of society will if they even read it,  feel briefly saddened or ignore it. I think that It is hard to actually believe that children can behave the way that the article portrays unless you are living it, it is easier to brush it off as "something all children do" than to consider the whys and wherefore as to why a child would behave in such a terrifying way, full of so much anger, fear and sorrow. Especially when you consider the lives of so many children around the world today. It is easy to think we can save a baby or a toddler when we see their sad faces plastered across the media/social media but where is that desire to save them when they have grown into angry, obnoxious and agressive teenagers? 
Love has to be bigger than that we have for our families, it has to encompass all those in society that need it. Imagine what could be achieved if their was more compassion if our tax money was collected properly and was spent on helping those who need it rather than on big salaries.

So I guess all I can do today is pray for those who really need help and that love along with pro-active parenting, training, a supportive school and community and a family that stand well and truly in our corner will be enough. 





Sunday, 18 December 2016

Peace

Peace on Earth is something to dream about, something to wish for, but, finding peace in my little spot on earth is something I may actually find.
Over the last few years I have been trying to find peace in what I have or to find peace in myself, tricky when you live in a busy household, when you are a working mum of four.

Sometimes I am sure that I have grasped this elusive wish and my world feels calmer, softer and warmer. I can be surrounded by the noise of family and friends and find that I am at peace, in fact it is often when I am surrounded by those I love that I am at peace. I don't have to act in a certain way, don't have to watch what I do or don't say and I don't have to worry about how I look.
I have I think, realised that peace cannot be found, we have to create it, we have to live it and in turn give it away wherever we can.



Now with a house full of children all dealing with growing up, finding their way, moving forwards. (Although at times we seem to take one step forward, two steps back.) it seems especially desirable to be able to give peace away. I wish peace of mind to my children, I wish for them to be fearless in their heading out into a world that doesn't care about where they came from, shows little interest in how life decisions, not necessarily made by them, impact on how they grow. I wish for them to be strong and believe in themselves, I wish for them to be compassionate towards others and I hope they recognise that sometimes you have to find the courage to walk away from people to find peace, sometimes you have to leave people to find their own way, because if you walk with them they take you somewhere that you don't want to go.