Week into placement, my heart aches(67 Posts)
We are now a week into placement. Our little boy is doing so, so well. His world has turned upside down and he is grieving for his foster carers.
He broke down in tears today, first time we've had tears. Up until now, he's just said he feels sad, but at last today he let out some of the emotion we know he is feeling. It is absolutely heart breaking to see him so upset.
He has been trying to control everything and not surprisingly, food is the one thing he can control. We know he must be hungry, but he just won't eat.
Please someone come along and reassure me that he won't let himself starve. We are feeding him like he is a much younger child, having foods we know he likes etc. his afternoon, we had inclusion time because he didn't eat any lunch. We all sat quietly on the sofa together and read books. We told him we loved him, but that without his lunch, he wouldn't have energy to play. I have no idea of that's a good response, or a terrible one.
Only a few hours until bed time and then I plan on having a big cry, a glass of wine and a cuddle from hubbie!
Thankyou.i also recommend mn to clients but then sorry they will spot me on another thread ranting about something or being smutty!!
I feel quite humble actually, you guys are incredible, I have a close friend at prep course stage so see it from all angles.
Nice to know you think it's positive me lurking on here.
Thanks again to you all for your posts since my last one. I am touched and grateful.
Only a few mouthfuls of tea tonight again :-(. It's like he is rejecting our attempts to care for him......he did have a good lunch though and a medium sized breakfast. It is so hard. All I want is for him to be happy, well fed and healthy.
Need to remind myself that we are days into placement. Such early days, and to him, we are strangers really.
Thanks again to you all
OP, please keep us updated. This post has really touched me, although I have no direct experience of adoption.
How about going out for a bit of tea of his choice?
He's eating, try not to make much of it and in sure t will pass.
Can I recommend Margot Sunderland books, she is my idol.
Might offer some good advice.
How old us he? Sorry if I missed it.
I think you are amazing and asking for advice is hard but necessary.
I would just say, think about when you are confused, upset, unsettled and anxious, you are on high alert with everything and so your cortisol and adrenaline levels are so high that your body goes into function mode i.e puts it's energy into the vital organs and so your tummy misses out as you don't feel hungry and it is last thing you can stomach(no pun intended)
As he settled and becomes more comfortable with what to predict at home and in his new life he will relax some more and his appetite will come back and control over food will lessen.
When he eats, look at what happens before the meal, why does he feel so settled that he can allow himself to eat?? Try to repeat that and perhaps, just like bath/story/cuddle/sleep routines, look at a meal time routine.
You sound like you are patient, caring and loving, keep that up, he is so lucky to have you!!
Remember to mention it to your Social Worker as they may have some other hints as well
I feel after living with the girls for a year that children need a lot less food than we think. I also know that my two are really put off by a 'big' meal and all the expectations around that. so quite often we have picnic teas (a buffet) we also have bits and dips on a Thursday - all healthy stuff but with a 'naughty' pud. They like being able to select what they want and how much and probably eat more this way.
Hold onto the fact he is eating, just not a lot, but maybe he doesn't need a lot at the moment. I promise that when he is having a growth spurt and eating non stop you will look back at this and wonder why you worried x
Thanks guys. Good suggestions. I will dig out Margot's book. It's in my bedside cabinet!
Dips or a picnic might work. Will give that a go.
Have updated our social worker and outlined our approach and will also take their advice.
When we have eaten in a cafe, restaurant etc, he has eaten really well, so might go out for lunch or tea tomorrow, and that way he is guaranteed one decent meal tomorrow.
Just wanted to add that many children seem to eat very sporadically at that age - my ds2 would have days when he ate one meal, and then picked at others. It is quite rare for children to eat a regular amount of food at each meal.
No personal experience, but my gut feeling would be to relax, try to keep mealtimes calm and fun, with no pressure to eat, and all will fall into place.
Congratulations, by the way. I have a close friend who is a foster carer, so usually see this from the other side. It is so lovely to hear how the journey continues.
Please shout me down if this is completely on the wrong lines, but would it be possible to let him feed himself at times of his own choosing?
My dc from the ages of around 4 were happiest when left to pick from snacks which were available pretty much all day long. We would have nuts, dried fruit, savoury biscuits, healthyish cakes, fritters, french toast, etc hanging around in the kitchen and they would come and serve themselves to snacks whenever it suited.
We would still sit down to meals as a family, but without the pressure of worrying that they might go hungry if they didn't eat we could use these as an opportunity to offer them more adult food.
It sounds really tough, I feel for you. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job with him.
One good meal, part of one and a few mouthfuls of a third is PLENTY to keep him alive. I guess he is also having milk or water outside of meal times too?
Please try not to worry so much. And try to stop seeing it as him rejecting you. You need to try and emotionally disengage from seeing food as love. It's not.
Your son is acccepting your love and care in many others ways. It's very early days yet, you are building a relationship that will last for your whole life. You are not going to fix nearly 5 years of trauma and loss in a few weeks.
You are all doing really well :-)
Your post made me cry, you sound like wonderful parents, he's very lucky.
I'm sure it will get better soon, good luck.
Thanks, and KristinaM that's a good piece of advice and my husband said something similar tonight.
Just peeked round his bedroom door to check on him. He's snoring softly with his teddies. Makes my heart full of love and if things weren't a little tough, it wouldn't be real life would it.
I am at risk of being very in-MN and gushy now (maybe the wine is to blame for that), so off to bed.
Ah, Trinny, that sounds lovely (I think children are at their absolute best when asleep )
What everyone else says.... and...
I go off food when I'm stressed and I think thats quite normal and OK. I think you can even say to him "when I feel a bit sad I don't like eating because my tummy feels wobbly".
I feel that he does need to know that however he is feeling is fine and that you will be there to help him deal with it. Naming his feeling as Lekdr said has also been useful to us in the long term as its hard to talk to a child about how they feel if they can't name their feelings. I find watching TV/reading books with DS and saying "how do you think he feels about that?" and discussing that the character might feel "sad" or "worried" etc takes the pressure off DS a bit and stops making the focus about him 100% of the time.
DS was the opposite of yours (though much younger so different issues) and ate until he was sick virtually every day for about the first three months. Then he started eating barely enough to keep a bird alive (IMO) for a couple of weeks then would eat like a horse for a couple of weeks. The biggest learning exercise for me was not to get so stressed about his feeding habits and let him find his own level.
He did carry a sippy cup of water around with him for probably a year 24/7 (issues with no easy access to water before) until that wore off. At 8 he has no issues about food or drink at all.
Mind you I did think for a while I was going to be the first adoptive parent in history who exploded their child with food because I just let him eat as much as he needed to even if he was subsequently sick.
I'm not an adoptive parent, or parent at all for that matter yet but I've seen friends with children they struggle to feed making meals into a smiley face, or cutting a sandwich into a dinosaur with cookie cutters.
I know the circumstances are different but it might make him laugh and distract him from his feelings for a little while.
Trinny, I'm not an adoptive parent but both my DCs have been fussy eaters. A couple of things helped me to fret less over how much they ate at each meal.
The first was realising that each of my DCs had their own individual body clock when it came to food. DC1 has to be coaxed into eating any breakfast at all, isn't too bad at lunch and usually eats a big supper. DC2 is the opposite - massive breakfast, less lunch, often just picks at supper.
The second was reading somewhere that small children often balance out their intake over several days rather than eating a balanced diet at each meal. So they might eat veg but no meat at one meal and the opposite at the next, but if you watch over several meals they're taking in a decent range of food groups. DC2 definitely does this, DC1 less so.
I'm sure that grief and stress will be modifying your DS's appetite at the moment, but you're also still learning his individual eating patterns and that's bound to take a bit of time.
Wot Methren said!
I am not an adoptive parent but I do have a five year old and my oldest boy was a fussy eater when he was little.
I suppose for your little boy, it's a bit like going on a trip to a different country. The food is different and everything is different and sometimes you just want egg and chips! I remember being little and having to spend a day in a neighbour's house. She asked me if I wanted sausages and I did but I meant sausages like we had at home. She produced sausages which were sausages but not like "our" sausages and I remember feeling so down about it and that I had to eat these strange sausages because I had agreed to eat them!
When my eldest was little, he was a dreadful eater and I got so much well-meaning advice from lots of people who led me to believe that my child would starve to death! He didn't and he now eats raw oysters!
You are getting used to each other and you sound like you are doing really, really well.
A lot of 4 year olds are like this and that's without a troubled background.
You are doing really well Try not to stress about what he is or isn't eating - don't encourage or cajole, or in anyway make it a big deal (I wouldn't say he wont have the energy to play etc). He will eat when he is hungry and wants to - he will be fine x
or probably a nice hot at this time of night!
Trinny, you sound lovely and caring, just what he needs.
My thoughts on the food issue are that if he's been neglected, he is probably not used to regular meals and portions. I don't know how long he's been fostered for but if he hasn't had mealtime routines or not enough food, he might need a long time to adjust.
I would just treat it as a non issue. It doesn't sound as if he doesn't eat enough. If you just provide food and attach no emotions to it, he will find his own balance.
You have my highest respect
U are incredible op. just keep loving him and everything else will be ok.
A much better day today. Three good meals!
Took on board everyone's advice and just stopped any of the cajoling and fuss and encouragement.
I realise now we were just adding unnecessary anxiety when he is already in a turmoil of change. Not helpful, but we have learned a valuable lesson. He will eat when he's hungry.
I suspect grief is suppressing his appetite as some of you suggest. I have had that feeling myself. The butterflies in the stomach, slightly homesick feeling and it doesn't make food appealing at all.
He's still asking at least once a day to go back to his foster carers, which we always acknowledge and reassure. They were a very positive influence in his life; big shoes to fill!
Thanks again, the advice is so helpful.
Do you have a plan (at least in theory) at this stage to meet them again. I wonder if it might be helpful to talk about seeing them again (in the future obviously when he is more bonded with you). I don't know what the offical advice on this but I always felt it was important for DS to know that the people who cared for him did genuinely cared and that they hadn;t abandoned him and that though they were sad that he had gone, they wanted him to have a family that he wouldn't ever have to leave.
I know that balancing act of reassuring him of their care and presence in the background and that they haven't abandoned him vs the need for him to look to you for comfort and support -there is a horrible no-mans-land when they havev't learned to be comforted by you but have lost the person who could care for them (or in DS's care lost his self soothing mechanisms). I found it the hardest thing because really nothing much that helps - except time. It does pass and in Ds's case it passed within a few weeks.
It was a long few weeks though!
I agree with kew. The Foster carers really need to visit you at your home. Sooner rather than later. Does he speak to them on the phone? If not, why not?
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