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Letterbox

(462 Posts)
MissFenella Sat 30-May-15 23:42:08

Is it usual/typical for letters from parents to include 'when you are 18 and we meet again....' type stuff.

Letter from birth mum included a few 'wonderful future together' type references.

Putting aside the heart crushing 'she thinks I am babysitting' element (because that is about me not the girls) how would you couch the tone to your children?

HappySunflower Sat 30-May-15 23:44:13

The letterbox contact coordinator is meant to check the letters before forwarding them on-that kind of content is usually edited it out.
I would be sending it back and asking for a revised version!

MissFenella Sat 30-May-15 23:46:55

Thanks Happy - I did wonder as I can see the letter has gone through the process. I will read again in a few days (incase I am being a twit) and see what i think then.

MissFenella Sat 30-May-15 23:51:50

I just think the whole 'see you when you are 18' tone really put pressure on my girls - it's emotional blackmail isn't it? is it?

HappySunflower Sun 31-May-15 00:01:34

It's a totally inappropriate thing to say!
I know that our coordinator wouldn't pass a letter with that kind of stuff within it so I think I'd hold onto it and call yours on Monday before sharing it with your girls.
Trust your instincts. If the tone felt wrong when you first read it, the chances are it certainly is.

Devora Sun 31-May-15 00:24:01

I would not be AT ALL happy with that.

MissFenella Sun 31-May-15 11:45:12

I have re read and its going back with an accompanying letter.

I forgot about the comment where she said she was crying because of all that she is missing - that is not on is it?

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 11:59:48

I think it just sounds like a very sad person. She probably is crying because of all she is missing. Is that a problem? Genuine question.

Devora Sun 31-May-15 12:53:09

duplodon, I'm sure she is very sad and grieving and my heart goes out to her (as it does to the birth mother of my child). I don't think anyone on this thread has criticised her for her very natural feelings, and I hope she is getting help with her grief.

But MissFenella's job is to take care of her child. These letters are intended for the child. Contact letters from birth parents can be very upsetting and unsettling for adopted children (though they can have important benefits, too). Many adopted children want to know that their birth parents are doing ok, so may be upset by letters that imply they are not. All adopted children need to know that their new family is a place of permanence, and though they will need to explore, as they get older, the option of contacting their birth family once they are adult, this should not be presented to them at a young age as inevitable - that could be very destabilising and even frightening.

Both birth parents and adoptive parents need to be aware that contact letters have to put the interests of the child first. There are rules for both sides. For example, I could never (and would never) write a guilt-tripping tirade with comments like, "Thanks to your early neglect/abuse, we are dealing with x, y, z" or smug stuff like, "This is a dream child! How sad for you that you can't watch her grow up!". it's not a letter for expressing our natural feelings, sadly - that's a luxury that none of the adults have.

So, no judgement here on the birth mother for her feelings AT ALL. But the letterbox facilitator has been very lax in allowing this letter through - they should have gone back and gently explained why it should be rephrased.

Lilka Sun 31-May-15 13:50:50

duplodon Devora really said it all already, but letterbox is supposed to be for the children. Think about how an 8 year old, for instance, would feel if they were given that to read. It would likely be confusing, very upsetting, worrying, potentially led to the child feeling personally responsible for their birth mother's sadness, and personally responsible for fixing her sadness themselves, maybe guilty for loving their adoptive family or feeling happiness in their family life. I can't see it leading to anything other than very negative emotions in the children.

It's not a problem and completely natural that their birth mum is crying and missing them deeply. It's about how you express it and to whom - in effect guilt tripping a young child and putting pressure on them to come and find you to fix your sadness asap is not beneficial for the child, it's going to be emotionally harmful to them.

Very sadly it demonstrates that birth mum isn't able to put herself in the childrens shoes, think about what they might need to hear and put them before herself. That's not uncommon, but absolutely it's very sad. So the onus is on the letterbox coordinator to do their job properly.

I've done letterbox for a long time. It's usually difficult and very emotional for absolutely everybody, but the key is that everyone has to put the kids feelings first. I put so much thought into my outgoing letters, and I never expected their birth mum to be able to just fire a letter out or not find it incredibly difficult to write, and I didn't expect her to manage to write all the letters without anything inappropriate in them - but I DID expect social services to monitor letters and not pass on anything like MissF's letter.

MissFenella, I would absolutely send it back with a letter basically saying you can't accept anything which is going to be emotionally harmful for your DC's, and you hope it can be reworded.

Italiangreyhound Sun 31-May-15 14:12:56

MissFenella re I just think the whole 'see you when you are 18' tone really put pressure on my girls - it's emotional blackmail isn't it? is it? Yes it is. Of course they should not be under any obligation to find and see birth family. They have you and if they choose to find birth family they need to be ready for it. It may be an early meeting would be disastrous for all.

Please do send the letter back to the letter box controller. I think it would also be better for birth mum to face the reality the children may not wish to find her when they turn 18.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 15:04:42

Oh I understand a bit more now. I suppose I would have imagined it showed she had genuine love for the child, and that the child would feel less loved if she thought the mother had no sadness about her being adopted and/or didn't have a genuine wish to see her one day. I guess that the letterbox co-ordinator needed to deal with this. I suppose I can't see it as not seeing the child's perspective but maybe seeing the child's perspective differently.

MissFenella Sun 31-May-15 15:32:22

duplondon - of course children understand that their birth parents will miss them. We do talk about it. The problem with putting it in a letter to them is that no one can do anything about it.
You have left home, so how would you feel if your parents only contact with you was once a year and telling you they wish you hadn't gone and how they cry every night - and you could not respond.

All - thanks for the advice, I will be sending this letter back.

Lilka Sun 31-May-15 15:53:52

My DD2 (and DS) birth mum would always write that she was thinking about them and signed off with variations on "Lots of love". That wasn't an issue for me, because the expression of love was a positive emotion and 'being thought about' was just that - my DD2 who was an older child when she was adopted and always read the letters, knew she wasn't forgotten, without the pressure of the kind of things MissFenella's family have recieved, which I would have sent back.

Mind you, having said that, my DS once demanded to know why, if she loved them so much, did she abuse his brothers and sisters and fail to keep them and him safe, which was one of the questions I dreaded being asked and thought might come up one day sad Obviously the messages he was getting from the expressions of love were also confusing and making him upset and angry, but before he was old enough to express those emotions, I could only do what I thought best and I had always judged that loving expressions were a good thing when they weren't coupled with inevitable reunion remarks etc. Obviously that hasn't been what he needed, though it was what DD2 needed. He told me to stop writing about him a while back.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 16:57:17

I'm honestly asking out of genuine curiosity, not with judgement. I suppose if I got a letter that was very cheery I might feel conflicted by it too, as though I didn't matter or as though the past was being denied if there were memories of going into care and the experiences leading up to that. It seems a very difficult thing to get right. It must be very hard indeed when there are trauma memories. I had a very traumatic childhood and did lose contact with my dad and I suppose in my dreams and hopes I would never have wanted contact saying he was having a lovely life without me. In fact one of my saddest memories is a time he let me down badly and I tracked him down and his new partner told me what a lovely day they had had the day he didn't show up when I needed him, so that is my personal bias and I in no way assume it extends to other families in different situations.

It just all seems a bit contrived and generally my belief is kids tend to know when things are inauthentic. I supoose my sense would always have been that it would be better to get something authentic and upsetting and process that than something inauthentic that feels false as it is harder to make sense of. Very hard sort of thing for everyone.

MissFenella Sun 31-May-15 17:04:51

Yes its obvious you really don't get the situation Duplodon and your experiences are not relevant or helpful here.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 17:16:00

There is absolutely no need to be rude! You know nothing about why I am visiting this board. Not that I'll be sharing it now. I was just discussing this as its of interest to me and this is a public forum. I'm not sure why you felt the need to be so dismissive and unpleasant.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 17:23:31

I honestly hope you're not usually so unempathetic to people when they share experiences of their own loss and sadness just because it is different to your own. We are all human and feel pain. It was so unexpected it brought tears to my eyes and I never get upset online. I often have the experience on MN where people don't understand issues that are deeply personal and relevant to me, it's part of being on a huge public forum. I know most people are just trying to understand because they have an interest in things because they matter to them on some level for reasons they may not even share. Anyway I will hide the thread.

Lilka Sun 31-May-15 17:37:00

I didn't get any sense you were judging me, duplodon.

One massive problem with children getting genuine-but-upsetting letters, is that they generally don't get any therapeutic support to help them process the contents - and the majority of adopted children would require therapeutic help if they were trying to process upsetting contact. Without proper support, I don't personally believe that the majority of trumatised children will manage to process their feelings and move forwards - they will probably end up stuck with all the negative feelings and guilt long term. Especially given the massive lack of post adoption support. Given that I don't think my children would be capable of handling or dealing with very upsetting letters, I couldn't allow them to reach them as vulnerable young children.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 17:39:23

I'm sorry, it actually totally goes against my values on Internet behaviour to leave it like this with an angry upset comment before I go so I am sorry for whatever I said that unintentionally upset and angered you. I in no way intended any unkindness or to cause offence. I won't share my interest in this topic but it is genuine and I was trying to say that I didn't understand it as a process and to state what my confusion was and to do so in as cautious a way as possible. I work hard to be as kind and moderate online as I can be and I try not to make personal comments, so I apologise if my message was unclear.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 17:46:48

Xpost - I absolutely think you are right Lilka. Trauma is such a difficult area, however it arises. I wasn't removed from my home and I probably should have been. My mother has even said this to me this year. Our family has done a lot of work as adults on our history but it would have been better to get that support as children. When you have a trauma history, it leaves this massive hole inside you and it is easily triggered by anything that seems to communicate to you that you don't matter. It just happened to me even there, just reading that my experience wasn't relevant. Unfortunately that is a particular thing that triggers me. It makes me very tearful and shaky and I've done masses of therapy and mindfulness and all sorts of things like that and am a fully functioning, capable adult in a loving home with safe, happy children.

I wish all of you the best with navigating these difficulties. I meant it when I said it seems a very difficult situation with lots of pitfalls, and I meant this in a compassionate, heartfelt way.

Devora Sun 31-May-15 17:52:52

Duplodon, I just wrote you a long post and then it disappeared into nothingness. I wanted to say two things:

1. I do understand the point you are making. As a child I would have loved, loved, loved my father to give any indication at all that he gave a shit about me (a birthday or christmas card just once in 20 years would have been nice!). As an adult, I would love him to tell me that he is sorry he missed out on my childhood - but I'm 50 now and no sign of that day dawning.

2. The problem of inauthenticity is something I've thought about a lot as an adopter. The adoption process trains you (rightly) to be positive about birth parents, not least because children tend to carry their parents' shame. But there comes a point, I think, where our children also need to hear that we are a teensy bit judging about certain behaviours - because that might give them important permission to express their own anger.

Similarly, birth parents need to communicate that they care about their children, that they are aware of the enormity of what has happened. But they also need to give their children permission to move on. As an analogy, it's like waving your child off on their first residential school trip. They want to know that you're tuned in to any anxiety, that you'll be thinking of them when they're gone, that generally you're happier when they're around. But they don't need you weeping and shrieking as they leave, because that would freak most children out and make it very hard for them to settle.

Devora Sun 31-May-15 17:54:01

I'm really sorry to hear about your experiences, duplodon. Thank you for your contribution to this thread.

duplodon Sun 31-May-15 18:07:12

Thank you for your kindness.

This thread has actually made me answer my own question, because honestly, I initially read the shrieking upset as love and strongly identified with the birth parent's sadness. Just discussing it, I see that comes from having a learning history where that was what attention looked like, and the absence of that was non-responsiveness, neglect and abuse. So I was strongly reinforced by 'being there' for emotionally unstable adults and it feels comfortable and like love to me. And sadly, if it wasn't there in the context of my parents I felt unloved, so the 'safe' letters would be equally problematic potentially.

I guess the moral of the story is children with histories of trauma need support to process difficult internal experiences to move forward, and absolutely need protection from anything likely to reactivate trauma and that will be very different depending on their individual histories.

SponsoredByTheBadFairy Sun 31-May-15 18:19:42

What an extraordinary level of insight and capacity for reflection that last post (and others) shows Duplodon - I'm sorry your own history has perhaps made life harder, but from here, it seems that you have an enormous depth of ability to build positive things from those foundations.

Highly emotional letterbox letters are, sadly, often about the emotions of the adult but with little or no thought about the emotional impact on the child. That said, they are incredibly hard things to write for everyone, and a good birth family support worker can be massively helpful in co-creating a letter that is meaningful, but child-focussed.

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