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Help! Lack of bonding going too far!(29 Posts)
I have posted a lot about how difficult I am finding it to bond with as now 8, placed for 11 months.
But I feel things are coming to a head. My parents and other family members commented over christmas that it is obvious that I don't like him. They say I talk to him very badly and are on his case constantly. I don't disagree.
But what am I supposed to do? I just can't seem to 'fake it'
I have seen a councillor but it didn't help. We have seen camhs once and have another meeting in 3 weeks. I'm just not doing the poor lad any good.
I have no experience here so you may want to totally disregard my comment. My view is that you have given this relationship a long time and you have obviously tried very hard. No-one goes into adoption believing it's not going to work out. I worry that you will damage this boy even more if you try to keep on pretending. Time to be completely honest? and hope that the social workers will be able to reassure and help him? Are you a lone adopter?
Kazza, this sounds like an emergency situation and you should be getting loads of input from social workers - are you? Have you had the final adoption order? Have you had any training in therapeutic parenting of traumatised children?
Incidentally, I think 11 months is not a 'long time' in bonding with an adopted child, but if others are picking up on your actively negative feelings then you really can't let this situation drift on.
How does your son relate to you?
We have not got the adoption order yet. Have had therapeutic parenting and safe base and going to see dan Hughes this month. I feel I know what I should be doing I just can't seem to do it. SW not been super useful. Keep telling me it's normal.
Ah ok, so you've had the training but it's hard to get motivated to apply it? Is the core problem, then, that you don't love him and parenting is feeling like a really crap babysitting job? (I'm not trivialising, but that was how the first year felt to me at times - and I had a cute baby, not an older child.) How often did you see the counsellor?
The social worker is of course invested in keeping this adoption from disrupting, but must know that adopting a 7 year old can be very challenging. I would be very clear with them that the adoption is at risk and they simply must get you some really intensive, expert support asap. If you can't save this situation, you need to know you have done everything you possibly could. They have to help you with that, and the time for being polite and restrained in how you ask for that help is definitely past.
Are you a single adopter? If not, how does your dp feel?
OP, I think there are 2 key questions here:
1. Why are your close family members saying that it is obvious that you do not like this child? Not just that you're not displaying overtly loving signals, but that you are displaying signs of active dislike?
2.Do you want to carry on? Do you honestly, sincerely, absolutely, genuinely want to continue with this adoption?
My impression is that you don't want to carry on.
No judgement here. Just trying to help you clarify your thoughts.
I'm not an adopter, yet, but I do have a birth child about that age. They can be very annoying. Deliberately annoying. Endlessly, gratingly annoying. And I am bonded to my son. I love him to bits, but when frazzled can snap and long for him to go away and do something alone! This age appears to be becoming human and sensible one minute, and they're starting to get their own opinions and life, but actually they're clueless, and babyish sometimes. Sometimes, it feels like having a stroppy teenager, who is still of an age to follow you to the toilet... It must be so hard for you. I find life easier if we get out the house, but I am aware you need bigger help than this.
I also found the concept of 'love bombing' helpful, a bit like this: www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/22/oliver-james-love-bombing-children. I realise the concept may appear barmy, and not at all work for lots of people.
I really hope you get the support you need from social services, as you obviously care about your son.
Not a single adopter. DH is very hands on and has given up many hours at work to be home more. He feels very similar. He says he loves him but we both spend hours and hours going through all the things DS has done today. We analyse why all the time and work out a new strategy but then it very quickly deteriorates with both of us picking him up on everything he does and challenging everything. We are both struggling.
But we are dedicated to seeing it through. It crosses my mind that it would be easier if not but we will continue to fight.- for help hopefully not with him!
Thanks for everyone's thoughts x
It is very difficult to keep acting in a positive, loving way if that is constantly challenged and rejected.
So from that view the SWs are probably right - this is normal. But very difficult to face day in day out.
What would help? Respite? Do you and DH have time for yourselves at all?
There have been times when I disliked DD1 so much I found it hard to be in the same room as her. The lies she told about me, the constant resentment towards me... But under all that was a mixed up little girl terrified of rejection.
Only you and DH can decide if this is right to continue, but please do that from a place of getting as much support as you can, and not beating yourselves up for not being inhuman!
Do you think it might help to give examples of interactions and explain what it is about him which you struggle with personally (without being identifying) here, so that people can maybe give some new strategy ideas?
Did you have a lot of experience of children of this age beforehand and did you particularly want to adopt an older child?
Agree with pp, that children can be astonishing annoying, even when you love them more than life itself.
We had a lot of experience - I think that might have been part of the problem - we thought we'd be great! Lol I'm a primary teacher in deprived school and DH is mental health nurse and has worked in camhs. We chose an older child and also have his half brother now 5.
Specifics: he has a lot of jealousy of his brother and is constantly being sly and saying nasty things to him. Ds 2 is mostly oblivious but it's horrible to watch. He gives brother 100s of instructions in a minute. Has constant control.
Control is exhausting. He tries to take it at every opportunity. He is manipulative and does everything he can to get his way. He has recently shoplifted. He is one step ahead all the time.
I know he purposefully tries to push me away but it's working. I hate that he gives me hugs when I have the Ipad so he can look at it and says he loves me followed by can I have a biscuit. There's nothing genuine. He also won't call us mum and dad and stops ds2 from doing so.
When I write it down I know it's all due to his terribly low self esteem and self preservation, I know I need more empathy but I can't find it.
Both those examples are normal behaviour of the age, in my experience. I have 'yuk' to all affection. Unless a go on the NintendoDS is offered, in which case it's all 'I love you!'
The love bombing thing is all about control, and allowing a child to have a period of controlled control. So, within legal and practical limits, you allow a chunk of time over to their control. It helps stop the constant clashing here. I don't know if it could be useful at all, as I don't know much about raising adopted children.
This sounds like you have the insight and the knowledge to objectively know what's going on for your DS, but you are (totally understandably) burning out from the relentless experience of living with it. Please ask now, loudly, for some proper support for YOU from your social worker - whether that's ongoing regular counselling, or respite, or home support, or whatever will help heal and restore you to claw back some of the empathy you are too exhausted to show. What you are doing is really REALLY hard, and although after 11 months, as PP have said, this probably is "normal", it's also totally normal to find it painful and overwhelming and heartbreaking.
My 8 year old ds has been similar in recent years. Since he started school. Not adopted.
It has nearly broken me. It has been vvv hard. I really sympathise.
These are some random ideas.
My dh, who works, I am sahm would take ds and dd younger away every 4 to 6 weeks. Stayed at youth hostel, camping, friends anywhere. Or I would go away. I cannot tell you how much more patient and loving you feel when you have had silence for 2 days.
The examples you give my ds has done and been doing last few months years. We have finally touch wood stopped the putting down of dd by being very firm. We did three things to him (stopped his favourite magazine etc) and he stopped. He was also getting bullied at school and we have addressed this.
He used to be very controlling etc. Amongst other things. Ironically the controlling wasn't the major issue, but Imo was a manifestation of feeling out of control, over stimulated etc we have been v consistent. He must eat his food (ironic I know), strict bedtimes, strict screen time. He would also hold onto his wee, so strict about toilet.
Since he hit about year 3 he has improved massively. He has gone from strength to strength. Much more relaxed, happy and chilled.
My point is are you reading too much into this. He could just be a typical (or maybe difficult) 7 year old, but it could not just be because of the adoption.
Think creatively, you know him well. Get lots of breaks. Sometimes you just have to bide your time and let the months and years pass. Parenting is hard hard hard.
My ds has been the most humbling thing that has ever happened to me. He has challenged me beyond anything. I used to think I was actually a bit of a knob and would have been judgemental. I hope I havnt been patronising in any way, I just wanted to give you hope.
My point is are you reading too much into this - I doubt it. I think what Kazza has described is very typical of a traumatised adopted older child. Kazza, have you been offered specialist mentoring? Do you think it might help? Or theraplay?
Can I just be clear I don't think my ds stopped doing certain things because of anything we did, that he has just matured. Although no one can know for sure.
That sounds really hard. My 2yo AD is controlling, (or tries to be -god help us when she's older!)and trying to describe the behaviour to people everyone nods and says their child does that, but there can be a subtlety to the behaviour of traumatised children which makes it feel very different.
Have they done a sibling assessment? Ruled out a trauma bond? Have you looked on adoption uk for advice? I think I'd be looking for a package of support for those behaviours, and poss a more experienced SW to give you some constructive advice.
I don't think anyone who hasn't lived with a traumatised child can understand the intensity of the behaviours. Ignore any 'all children do this' - you know this is well out of the normal range.
Sadly traumatised children have their earliest experiences as needing control as a matter of survival, as the adults who are closest being the most dangerous, and other children being competitors for survival.
Everything gets seen from that perspective.
I agree with the previous posters - these behaviours sound like very challenging trauma/attachment based behaviours - control, manipulation, emotional manipulation/mirroring rather than true empathy/emotional responses, theft. Living it, day in day out for 11 months with 2 children is hard. Look at any post on mn to new parents about how tough it is - and those babies don't move around, lie, steal, control, push/pull us.
I think Dan Hughes will be a good source of help. Do you think there may be secondary trauma - ie you are taking on your elder son's trauma, feeling his emotions, experiencing his behaviours?
Definitely shout clearly and loudly. As Devora (I think) says, the LA have a vested interest in keeping the placement going sand aren't living your home life - your sons behaviours won't change without the right support for all of you. Tell them you are sinking. Don't be pushed into applying for the AO until you are all ready and have the help you need.
Sorry if my post sounded extremely bossy! Didn't mean to make my suggestions sound like orders, was just typing one handed on a rubbish kindle that keeps crashing!
Thank you so much for your support and ideas x x
Tell them you are sinking this, loudly now. Make it clear you aren't applying for the adoption order until you're happy with the situation.
Anyone who thinks that shoplifting in an 8 year old is "normal" needs to have a long hard look at their "normal" 8 year old.
Just because some unadopted children have emotional/behavioural problems (which may indeed be temporary) does not mean that this is "normal" behaviour. Indeed when you're listened to people tell you for years that "all 8 year olds/boys do that" then discover that you were right all along and you've missed the chance at years of intervention that they could have had then you do feel
mindnumbingly guilty a tad upset.
I think we as parents are generally very astute in assessing unconsciously whether the behaviour we see is within the range you'd normally expect.
It's one thing with a child who is normally bonded to you and has been for a number of years to go through a phase of not wanting physical affection (I haven't experienced this personally - my 10 year old is very affectionate with me though does wince and shrink from kisses from other people) and very different in child who isn't bonded with you and never has been. Not only is it different because you have no idea if your child is actually capable of behaving appropriately for a sustained period but also you have no memories of your lovely huggy child who wants kisses and adores you in the way toddlers do to sustain you.
The more you can see his behaviour with you as a reflection of whats going on inside his own head and not a challenge/judgement of his relationship with you the better. Of course (and I say this with bitter expereince!) that isn't always possible but it might help you disengage a bit more and stay calmer/saner.
If any of this advice is ridiculous, irrelevant or inapplicable, then I apologise in advance.
I think that his behaviour is likely to be a mix of reactions to or reflection of his past, and reactions to his present, and normal developmental. I think that the behaviours such as stealing are a cry for help, and I agree with pp that stealing is not normal, nor is intense jealousy etc. While he is "reacting" (and communicating his needs through jealousy, stealing, manipulating) you are not seeing his unique special qualities, and not feeling positively towards him, and he is not developing and learning and loving. Obviously if you are talking in a certain tone and on his case too much as per your family's comments then he will be feeling stress in reaction to that and that will be part of the problem (no judging here, we have all been there) so that has to stop.
I think you probably agree you are in for the long haul. To cope you do need to diarise regular time for you, to do whatever you need to do to get the necessary headspace.
In relation to time spent with him, if it were me I'd zero out all my expectations and focus on his needs during those ideas, and try to be the most patient I could possibly be. I would try to deal with behaviour issues as quickly as possible, not dwell on it more than necessary, pretty much ignore it other than enforce the appropriate boundaries, and try to spend as much time as possible setting in motion helping him deal with things in a positive way, trying to put into action all the therapeutic methods, having fun, etc - even if you think you do it badly at first you will become very proficient I am sure!
He may be feeling very ambivalent - on one level very much wanting to be with you, on another missing parts of his past, feeling confused and afraid - all on top of all the things secure children of his age feel at this age and need help with.
I would probably also write down on a sheet with 3 columns my original expectations vs current realities vs what you want for the longterm future, if it were me, just so that my small brain was clear on the situation.
It is possible for children to recover from trauma and negative experiences - I am confident of this as I have seen it happen. Having said this, although I have a bit of experience I have no expertise so the above does need to be read in that context. Dan Hughes' method sounds great for all children adopted or not, so hope that helps.
*"during those times" not "during those ideas"
I like Combined's idea of setting aside regular times to focus on your DS, but keep them really short (10 minutes) and perhaps look at theraplay nurture games (good book on Adoption UK website). I would also treat him within those sessions as though he were far, far younger - in a positive, not a judgy, sort of way. The odds are that emotionally or developmentally he either IS younger than his biological age, or NEEDS to be treated that way sometimes. It's very hard when he won't let you close enough to nurture him, but there are ways (Caro Archer's 'Parenting the child who hurts' is good for examples). I like her game idea of taking a bowl of sand, or bubbly water, and hiding some items in it. You sit either side of the bowl, or if directly facing is too much for your DS, you could sit alongside each other. You both let your fingers explore the sand or water, feeling for the hidden items, and occasionally letting your fingers touch. No holding, and no prolonging the gentle touch. It's a starter way to get your DS not to see touch as a means of control, or as something to be feared.
I would say all that though comes AFTER your own need to survive. Follow Kew's advice, shout really really loud for help. You need it. You know the old analogy of putting on your own lifejacket first or you won't be able to save anyone else? You are in basic survival mode here, and it's totally OK to need proper support. Even if you were super-human you wouldn't be able to, and nor should you have to, help your DS heal on your own.
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