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7 weeks in and drowning

(48 Posts)
ConfusedInBath Wed 05-Aug-15 16:25:14

We've had our GS ( nearly 4 ) with us under a SGO for 7 weeks. We've had limited contact for the past 2 years so basically we are strangers to him and he's very unfamiliar to us. He was taken from BM Jan 2014 and stayed with the same FC till he came to us. We have two dc at home age 8 and 15.

It's very early days, we know that. We know he's been through A LOT. We knew it wasn't ever going to be easy.

But things are dire.

He's very defiant, particularly with me. Outright NO when asked or informed that it's time to come in from playing or to have a shower etc, lots of folding of arms, stamping of feet, turning his back when I'm speaking to him. We are 100% consistent with him, get down to his level, don't spring things on him ie explain constantly what is happening and why, we are trying our best to understand him but I just don't.

He has major issues with food and is constantly asking what the next meal/snack is, he looks on everyone's plate to suss out who's got more, he demands to know why this is. ( because we are all older and bigger ) he would eat till he burst and was/is overweight so we are trying to cut back and watch what he eats whilst still giving him enjoyable food, if he knows that an ice cream/ treat is in the pipeline he is very charming and tells me I'm very cute/lovely in a very false voice!

He is angry and has a temper that appears from nowhere often taking it out on me, he pinches my hand when I'm trying to remove him from a situation or flops on the floor refusing to move whilst screaming. He has said some things that have worried me ( but I'm not sure if these are normal ) like the other day we were sat behind a lorry in the traffic when all of a sudden he said ' you see that lorry i want it to drive over your mouth and throat ' now I couldn't even reply to that if I'm honest.

We are frequently telling him that we don't say unkind things, we don't snatch, we don't shout and be rude etc in calm voices so he knows how we work but things are getting worse.

To add to the anguish our DS (8) is very unhappy and has not accepted him, he does not want anything to do with him. Of course this is adding to all the problems we are having with GS and how he feels in himself. He is desperate for DS to like him and it's horrible to see them both so unhappy.

I've rang the SW and she's coming tomorrow.

But I hoped that some of you would be good enough to help me with some of my concerns please, if you've been through any of them.

slkk Wed 05-Aug-15 18:47:10

Ds was three when he came to us and we had many issues, though quite different from yours. However I will tell you that 6-7 weeks in we're a very dark time for us. He screamed constantly for ten days and I broke down in tears at the children's centre. However i was reassured that this is often a very hard time as the children seem to become aware that the move is permanent and they won't be going back.
We also had a jealous 10 year old at home. We supported him by making sure he had lots of 1:1 time with his dad, getting him to help with ds and allowing him to do things I might not have let him do before, just to show the perks of being big brother (e.g. sitting in front seat, going to bed later).
I really hope that you manage to get through this difficult time with all the children and hope that your love and consistency pay off. Good luck and try to remember to look after yourself too.

Hels20 Wed 05-Aug-15 19:55:54

No advice - just wanted to hand hold. But 7 weeks is no time. We adopted DS when he was 2.5. We had a great 6 months and then everything went pear shaped and I was on my knees, crying most nights because of his behaviour. I even uttered those awful words - "what have we done" - as I couldn't see a way out. And then he suddenly changed (and then couldn't be away from me at night - woke up every night for 9 months without fail 2 or 3 times a night and insisted that I had to sleep with him and he would wrap himself around me. - and then that abruptly stopped (he was 4 when that stopped).

Please hang in there and I think slkk s post is v wise.

Hels20 Wed 05-Aug-15 19:56:43

Ps how is your GS's language? If he is delayed that could have an impact.

JaneDonne Wed 05-Aug-15 20:02:10

I haven't been there and I can imagine that this is a very very difficult time for everyone.

One thing stood out for me though which I hoped might be helpful and that is that you seem to be assuming that you need to do something different. But it may well be that you are doing all the right things but they are not going to be instantly effective.

Your gs has been through so much and he is going to have things to process however amazing your parenting and that, for a four year old, probably looks like this. So his behaviour doesn't necessarily mean you need to do anything different.

You do need to speak to professionals though clearly. I wouldn't say a sw is a behaviour expert. Is there a psychologist you could speak to?

Daisiemoo Wed 05-Aug-15 20:06:06

Oh gosh we are just coming up to 6 months in so I feel your pain. My 4 year old is extremely wilful and can be very defiant. I've found that just being patient (even though I want her to do it NOW!) works. Nothing worked for awhile. At one point we drove to the shops without her shoes as she wouldn't put them on. We had days where she refused to brush her teeth or let me near her with a brush. It makes you exhausted and think what's the point.
However I now allow plenty of time for whatever we are doing so that if we get a NO I have time to coax without stressing too much as stressing makes her worse!
look for triggers and try to avoid if you can. We had to make a rule that we don't go into the living room and no TV until after breakfast and we are washed & dressed. otherwise it was a constant battle because she had started playing or watching TV.
Now mornings are ok mostly.
Not everything will work and we are still trial and error but it does slowly get better. I promise!!

TeamAcorn Wed 05-Aug-15 20:11:40

First of all, I'm so sorry you're going through this sad I dont know if you got to do any of the training us adopters get, as you have an SGO???? It's not a magic cure tbh but may reassure you that what you are going through is pretty normal for your situation. Though any of us telling you that doesn't make it any easier sad

We experienced the food obsession and the refusal to do things/tantrum type flops. We've also had temper tantrums that include hitting out and attempting to smash up stuff in the bedroom.

For the food we were just consistent with when meal times and snack times were and avoided too much debate about it. We hid food out of sight at other times and if I wanted a biscuit I'd hide in the other room to eat it! This obsession disappeared once our LO felt settled, it was definitely linked to his sense of stability rather than the food itself. I can now eat a biscuit with my cup of tea and he may ask for one but if I say no, you had 'x' snack, this is mine, he just leaves it at that. Once he got that he was here to stay and that he was safe and loved it disappeared. He was 3 1/2 when he came to live with us.

As for the other issue, have you tried giving him 2 choices? Children of that age can often feel like they've lost control so giving them some can work, it has with our LO so far (we're only a month in with trying this after some quite stressful months). Don't get me wrong, we still get him to do what needs to be done but the idea is to give 2 variations of the same thing and act like you don't care which he chooses. Today for example our youngest (we adopted siblings) wouldn't get dressed, instead choosing to play with a toy. He likes me to help him. So I said here are your clothes, I can help you now and we'll all go down for breakfast together or you can do it yourself and you can come down when you're ready and join us, I really don't mind which you do. He got dressed with me immediately..I really didn't mind which he did but I knew which he'd prefer wink . We also generally try to give 2 choices for everything at the minute, be it choice of fruit, choice of activity etc. etc. to let him feel he has some control. They say stick to just 2 choices that are good choices (ie one shouldnt be seen as a punishment by the child). So far we've seen far less tantrums and a less defiant little boy smile At the minute I feel like it's too good to be true that it's working ,but you've got nothing to lose to try it I spose! smile We are nearly a year in though so everything is a lot more settled with just this one isolated issue to sort now.

It sounds like you're being pretty consistent with everything else so really you just need to keep going as you are. He's likely testing you to see if he can push you away or whether you'll be the one parent who sticks it out and doesn't leave. Be sure to reassure after tantrums and not to use time outs. We felt like cuddling LO after a tantrum was rewarding bad behaviour but they need it far more than a child who hasn't been through what they have does; they need that outpouring of love and reassurance, that someone is there for them whether they are good or badly behaved.

I can't advise on your birth child as we had no birth children. Definitely get SW to give you some support with it all. Hopefully more adopters with birth children will be along to advise.

Hope there's something useful or reassuring in that post. Look after yourself, this is hardest thing I've ever done and the biggest strain on a family you can get but you'll get there!

TeamAcorn Wed 05-Aug-15 20:22:18

Before people tut at me in horror shock ...when I say tantrum, I mean full on trying to kick/hit/hurt everything and everyone , not your basic on the floor scream until tired out tantrum. When they've tried to hurt you, sometimes the last thing you want to do is hold them close and rock them but it is what they need...or they did in our case.

ConfusedInBath Wed 05-Aug-15 20:28:18

I can't thank you all enough. Honestly just reading all your words are so reassuring that we aren't alone and that we can get through this.
The point made that we aren't actually doing it wrong is reassuring, I probably am being impatient and want results far too soon. I will keep that in mind.
We do do the two choice thing and that does work, the defiance is more when we've asked him not to do something ( ie that may be dangerous or that he's going to break something ) he will say no and that he is going to do it.
Someone asked about his speech, it is very good actually and from what I can see he is bright ie can write most of his name, knows some phonics/numbers etc.
He is very good at expressing an opinion/thought.
I'm going to read these messages to DH.
Thank you all again.

ConfusedInBath Wed 05-Aug-15 20:38:10

Just to add that no, we've had no training/courses etc as we have the SGO. It was literally a week of moving his belongings from the FC whilst seeing GS for a few hours then that was it.
I rang the SW to explain that we needed help, she mentioned Family Support and that she would speak to them, she's coming in the morning so will hopefully have more details.

Did your children get specific help after they came home to you?

Devora Wed 05-Aug-15 20:48:32

Oh you poor thing, that sounds really rough. Just a few things to add to what has been said already:

- Adoptive families don't necessarily get any help unless they fight for it (I didn't, and am). You will need to be very (charmingly) bullish and insistent that they give you support at this difficult time.

- I wonder if you are trying to 'fix' too much too soon - particularly with the food thing? Your GS's primary need is to feel safe, and if he has experienced not being able to access food when he needs it, he may need to know that it is not restricted in your house. Yes, even if that means he puts on more weight while he settles in?

- Dealing with a very angry, disregulated child is certainly something I'm very used to. I would be asking ss for extra help with this - play therapy?

- your poor ds. This isn't easy for him. ss also have a duty of care to him, and I would be asking for help and advice. It's much easier said than done, but any 1-2-1 time you can find for him will be very valuable.

- Hang in there. Fight for the help you need. Above all, look after yourself.

Daisiemoo Wed 05-Aug-15 21:21:09

Hi confused. 6 months in I'm still asking for play therapy to help with attachment as eldest can be very inappropriate with strangers and totally disregard us! Sigh, I'm still asking but have been told they are sorting it out, hurrah! I'll believe it when I see it though!
Think SW want to leave you to muddle through and see if you can find your way without intervention. You do need to be charmingly bullish and insistent as Devora said.
I'm reading The Whole Brain Child at the moment, it seems to be making sense about brain development (to me anyway!) and why children tantrum/meltdown.
Our eldest hits herself when she tantrums and would bang her head, however it is getting less frequent, we do massive outpouring of affection after and holding during to protect her. Initially it did feel wrong to respond to a tantrum like that but as we got to know and understand her it now feels right, most of the time. There's still times when it's a normal can't get my own way and I'm going to try it on because I'm 4 tantrum. Those we ignore/distract and in a quick flash she knows it hasn't worked and will resume playing! But it takes time to get there!! Honestly I'm looking forward to being 18 months and thinking blimey at 6 months we knew nothing lol!! Go have a glass of wine flowerswine

slkk Wed 05-Aug-15 21:56:56

We were supported by a clinical psychologist who specialises in LAC. We also had a very supportive and helpful health visitor who fast tracked us for speech and language therapy and a developmental review with a paediatrician. This led to occupational therapy and we now have an EHCP and a place in a specialist unit. The psychologist support was useful to a point, but really we mostly just needed time to become a family and help ds overcome some of his problems. I had to keep reminding myself that he had had 3 and a half years of things being one way and he wasn't going to be able to adapt to a new way of doing things overnight. A year in I still remind myself of this. Addressing his SEN was very important. As your GS is able to express himself, you might be able to have more meaningful conversations about feelings than we were. Do push for support - I have heard that tberaplay and play therapy can be helpful. If you feel that his place in your family may break down, tell as and they will probably find all sorts of support that was not on offer before.

Kazza299 Thu 06-Aug-15 07:22:01

You haven't mentioned this but I have written a few times on here about how hard all this behaviour is when you don't love (or even like) your child. You might be feeling like this but not be able to say so I wanted you to know that that is normal. I'm 6 months in and now sometimes like my DS. No love yet but I believe it wil.

Phoenix0x0 Thu 06-Aug-15 07:39:00

I'm sorry to hear that you all are having a tough time.

Your GS is a very scared little boy, new home, food, routine and then there are the SW visits. Our DD (only 12 months at placement), had rages that lasted for hours, was hyper vigilant she would stare at adults without blinking and would have disturbed sleep after every SW visit.

What helped us, was to try and incorporate some Theraplay techniques into play (you could ask SS if they could fund this and can even find activities on the Internet) and we treated her younger than she was.

In regards to food etc, have you thought about a visual timetable? This may help him with transitions from one activity into the next and you could put when he will be given a snack/drink. I also suggest lots of excercise that invloves jumping (have you a trampoline?) and swimming is good for skin and skin on contact (the more of this you can get the better).

I hope that helps.

Penfold007 Thu 06-Aug-15 07:43:48

You and your family have done an amazing thing, opened your home and hearts to a virtual stranger.
Your GS has had a very difficult start in life, currently all he knows is when he loves or forms an attachment to an adult they abandon him. He is forming those bonds with you so now he is pushing every boundary he can think of to test your and DHs love and commitment.
Seven weeks is very early days, take every scrap of help and support the SW offers.
As for the horrible language and behaviour he has learnt that either from witnessing or experiencing similar, again he's pushing boundaries to see if you love him in the only way a three year old can.
I'm sorry you are going through this not only must you both be worried for your daughter but also for your younger DCs and your GS

Everythinghaschanged Thu 06-Aug-15 07:59:14

Because you have two older children, I would say at this stage you should be seriously questioning if this is the right home for your grandchild and is this the right thing for your birth children.

I am not going to say, hang on in there it gets better. For my adopted dc, ten years on, it hasn't got better but way worse with exactly the same issues you describe re food and defiance and aggression and violent thoughts except they are bigger and their behaviour affects everything they do (or don't do should I say as school has broken down for both of them.) They should have been brought up separately in a home as an only child with two carers. Then their life chances might have been different.

Sorry if this is not what you want to hear but the impact on family life is so stressful if I were you I would have an honest discussion with social workers about your concerns for the future and safety of your family.

Everythinghaschanged Thu 06-Aug-15 08:01:41

I don't agree that holding a child during a tantrum is always the right thing to do.

DreamingOfADifferentMe Thu 06-Aug-15 08:12:30

Confused, I've often thought of you from the threads a long time ago now, where you were wondering about what to do about your GS, whether to take him and that your DH was a little reluctant?

I have no advice but just wanted to send you love and strength. I guess gentle perseverance is the key, for a very little fellow he's had a lot of change and upheaval and my guess with comments like as the lorry one, he's testing out what he can get away with saying without you pushing him away, but subconsciously, as he's undoubtedly too small to really know what he's doing or saying.

With your own DS, as the others have said, make sure he has plenty of one-to-one time with each of you, and play up the role of the big brother, but also don't lose sight of the fact that he probably also liked being the youngest and that role has now disappeared so he's trying to work out where he fits in, and will resent your GS. As your GS gets older, I'm sure they'll find some common interests like a sport, hobby or even something like paper aeroplanes or making dens, where your son can be the leader?

It must be tough, I can see that, and hats off to you and your DH for stepping up. Some wouldn't.

ConfusedInBath Thu 06-Aug-15 09:27:44

Can't tell how good it is to read these messages. It reassures me that this is normal and that we can get through it. Thank you all so much.

Some brilliant points. Kazza you're right. Sometimes I question my feelings for him in the heat of the moment. He doesn't feel like my grandson tbh more like another little son of mine. He has been adorable so far this morning and I have felt very warm towards him, we've had some lovely cuddles and I've praised him like crazy for coming for a shower when asked first time without any NO'S!

Re our 8 year old we have been letting him stay up later and doing lots of 1.1 with him, lots of praise and boosting his confidence that he's still loved just as much as ever. Our 15 year old is away at summer school ( 5 weeks ) and I think this has added to ds's distress because he doesn't have his older brother to lean on.

I've bought the book Reparenting the child who hurts, have just started reading it so hopefully this will give me some good info too.

EverythingHasChanged I appreciate your comments and I'm sorry that you have found adoption so hard. Right now though I can't think about not carrying on with GS living with us. Its only been 7 weeks. We went into this knowing there would be problems and I think it's too early to say we can't cope.

Thank you all for your good wishes and support flowers

Poofus Thu 06-Aug-15 09:44:55

I have no idea if this is helpful so please just disregard if not. I have never adopted so can't offer any advice about that at all (will leave that to other brilliant posters on here). But I have a (biological) DS who is exactly the same age as your GS and some of the behaviours you are describing fit my DS too.

He sometimes comes out with awful phrases (like your driving lorry over throat thing) - last week he said he was going to shoot me in the face! I know that he doesn't mean anything by it, and is just testing out the effects of producing these phrases on me and DH. Earlier it was "I'm going to hit a big stick on your bottom/your head/your nose" etc. We just said "that's not a kind thing to say, let's not say that" and left it at that. Is it possible that, because you have an already challenging and complicated situation, you might read extra meanings into these things, which are pretty normal for all nearly-4-year olds?

Similarly the defiance. My DS is pretty good, but he does have his moments. Especially the saying no, turning his back, stomping feet when asked to stop doing something - these are all super familiar! We have tried working hard on helping him express what he is feeling ("I can see you are very frustrated, is that right?"/ "you must be feeling very disappointed not to be able to play for longer with that toy" etc) and this has definitely helped, but I am assuming this is just another nearly-4 phase.

I hope I'm not minimising the issues you are facing, and I wish you the world of luck in getting through this, but I thought it might help to suggest that some of these are probably exasperating but quite normal stages that nearly-4-year-olds have to go through (I know you have older children but it's amazing how fast we block out these memories once the phase has passed.)

Kewcumber Thu 06-Aug-15 11:10:56

Poofus as OP has two birth children now 15 and 8 I'm fairly sure that she knows what a pretty normal nearly 4 year old is like and this isn't it! You can tell IME when a child is doing the "wee wee poo bum" type acting out and when they actually mean it. I delayed getting help for my child haven't been told by everyone in RL that his behaviour was all pretty normal and "all children do that" and it remains a big regret of mine as my concerns turned out to be valid and I can't help wondering how much better he might be coping now if I'd sought intervention earlier.

This child has lost people he was attached to twice already and his behaviour shows how angry he is about this. He doesn't realise that OP is a permanent person - why would he so far all he's learnt is that everyone leaves, sooner or later. Confused perhaps he thinks if he's mean enough to you then you'll go away and he can have his foster carers back? Even unconsciously.

It is a horrible phase - you aren't yet bonded with him and yet you are dealing with the most challenging behaviour and he is probably so very confused and angry. He could be the most articulate 4 year old in the world but I can't imagine him being able to process losing another family having been removed from one already.

Be kind to yourself and make sure you're not setting yourself unreasonably high targets. In particular I agree with Devora about this

I wonder if you are trying to 'fix' too much too soon - particularly with the food thing? My Ds was 13 months when I got him and he ate until he was sick. Every day at least once a day for about 3 months. It was very hard not to restrict his food but I didn't, he had to learn that he would always have enough. I did have to start giving him rice cakes (hate the things) because he just wanted to eat all the time. He also couldn't be in a room without someone else eating without eating.

Forget healthy eating and losing weight etc - you need to say "of course you can have some more if you're hungry, you can have as much as you need" (notice slightly subtle message of "hungry/need" rather than "want" no idea if it works but it'll make you feel better! "You don't have to be nice to me - you will always get pudding because 4 year olds always deserve pudding" ie don't make any food conditional on something. That he deserves to have stuff like food (even slightly junky food at this stage) just because - he doesn't need to be manipulative. When he says something alarming I would do the "Thats a shame, because I love you and like to hear you say nice things". DS went through a phase about this age (and well atatched to me by then) of needing to hear me say "I love you even when I'm cross/you're naughty".

Food issues took about 3 months to settle in our house - would I expect take longer with an older child. DS had water issues - would carry around a sippy cup of water all the time (he had been kept slightly short of water) and it became a bit of a control thing for him would get very distressed if he didn't have it. That took longer to settle - probably a year. And even now at 9, school noted to me that he got very anxious if he'd forgotten to bring his water bottle to school so there's still a residual memory of it now I guess.

I do agree with everything on a couple of points:

1 - you might do everything perfectly and you will still have a traumatised child who is difficult to parent - whether as a result of his early life trauma or inherited traits or a combination of both. I absolutely understand why you want to persevere at this stage (I would too) but bear in mind that this may become manageable but it may not be something that can be "fixed" just improved. So yes, fight for all the support you can get and don;t be afraid of threatening to walk away if it helps get you the support you need.

2 - I don't agree that holding a child during a tantrum is always the right thing to do. I have (at a similar age) used "holding" very effectively when DS was having violently angry meltdowns (see poofus I haven't forgotten despite my advancing years!) but only in situation when he was in danger of hurting either himself or me. Otherwise stay near enough to be a noticeable presence but don;t get in the way. Then verbalise how you think they feel "I can see that you were very angry then" and suggest something they like "shall we have a hug/go for a walk to see the trains...etc". DS used to fin his uncontrollable angry very scary and was very emotional afterwards and needed extra nuturing.

I have little advice on dealing with siblings as DS is an only bit having a 9 year old myself I think I would praise him a lot for great "teamwork" and helping your new GS fit in to the family. I don't think he's too young to have a conversation about how scared GS is feeling and will feel for sometime and how that can make people seem very angry. About how he would feel if some strangers took him away and expected him to be happy to have them around when all he wanted to do was be sad about losing his family, how angry he might feel with them for expecting him to pretend that everything is fine and normal.

Sorry - I have a feeling that this is a horribly long post blush

amarmai Thu 06-Aug-15 12:55:58

op you sound like you're doing the right things. Hope your husband is working with you. Sorry it's so hard for your son - kewcumber has good suggestions for him. I found love came without me noticing as a result of doing the hard work of doing what needed to be done. Keep on doing what you're doing and beleive it will get better.

StaceyAndTracey Thu 06-Aug-15 15:05:55

Great advice here

Can I ask - what advice are the Fc giving you ? How did they cope with his behaviour ? Have they been to visit him yet ? Does he phone or FaceTime them ?

CloserToFiftyThanTwenty Thu 06-Aug-15 15:42:03

A lot of this is very similar to behaviours exhibited by DD, particularly in the early days eg pinching my hand as we crossed the road (and little hands can pinch really really hard!!). One thing I can add to the above is that we are now more or less out the other side, but I would say that it took nearly three years to get there (sorry).

Some days are easier than others, but we always tried to respond to challenging behavior with a light and airy, almost sing song approach. Eg

DD: "No, I will not sit at the table and eat the meal that is exactly what I asked for"

Us: "Oh well, that's a shame. Even if you aren't going to eat we would like you to sit up with us, we have some exciting news to talk about" <cue desperate racking of brains for exciting news to talk about>

Often we found by asking a question again a few minutes later ("would you like to sit up to the table now?") we would get a positive response, because in her head DD had done enough to feel as if she had "won" the argument.

I can't say that we never shouted, or lost our tempers, because that would be a lie. But we worked out that DD's behaviour is almost completely about her needing to be in control, whether that is by deciding what to eat, what to wear, or not doing what we have asked (even if she ends up worse because of it, and even though sometimes she is clearly terrified at seeming to have control).

Couple of quick things that we found helpful (after a steep learning curve!):

- verbalizing stuff: "I know that you are cross at us right now, but we still love you"; "you are not in control, we are"; "even if you hate us we will still love you"

- letting our birth child know it was ok to be upset (he had never imagined that a little sister would hurt him - it was going to be all rosey all the time in his head); that we still loved him; and we were really proud of him being such a good big brother

- not being embarrassed to ask for help. We were lucky not to need to do much foot stamping but did have to get over the feeling that we were making a fuss over nothing when we knew what we needed to happen.

flowers, cake and wine for you and your DH

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