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Has anyone successfully thrown the adoption instruction booklette out of the window?

(45 Posts)
Chicklette Wed 20-Apr-16 23:35:41

I don't often post on here but the forum has been a great source of information over the last few years. Sorry if the post gets a bit long but it's hard to articulate what I mean.

My partner and I adopted 3 years ago. Our kids were very young approx 6 months and 18 months. We did a lot of reading on attachment etc and prepared out family pretty well. We funnelled fairly consistently and beat ourselves up when our boundaries slipped and granny's or granddad got too cuddly or random strangers were too engaging. Life was pretty mundane and low key for ages. We carried them a lot, lept into rescue mode when either of them had a tumble and tried to follow what we had learned at prep group etc.

I'm in no way saying we were perfect, I'm too shouty 😳 and there were loads of things that I feel we could have done better.

We parent in a much more natural and relaxed way now as I'm pretty confident on their attachment but we still do basic stuff- respond to needs, bang on about adoption to Nursary etc and parent them based on the fact that they were adopted IYKWIM.

The reason for my post is that I sometimes encounter adopters who don't do this. Like recently someone, not a friend- just the friend of an aquaintence- said they used controlled crying and I've met others over the years that have, for example, gone to weddings in the early weeks, been on holiday, not funneled, used babysitters, left kids at holiday clubs early on etc.

When I hear this part of me worries about their kids but another part starts to doubt if all the effort was worth it and worse, I start to doubt that any of it was the right thing to do and worry that I've done it all wrong - a common theme as I'm sure you can appreciate!

I suppose it also taps into the fact that when you adopt you never know how your kids would have turned out if they could have stayed with birth family and you don't know how you would have parented a birth child if you hadn't spent years reading about attachment!!

Also I guess it is in relation to the fact that I hear the phrase "but they were sooo young, surely they won't remember anything" etc etc about 10x a day!

Oh, and a very close relative was adopted in the 50's and they often comment that they have no idea how they turned out so well adjusted without all this attachment parenting nonsense!

So I guess what I am interested to know is did anyone just parent in a less 'adoption focused' way and feel like their kids turned out well- whatever that means! I guess I mean happy, bonded, attached etc.

I'm in no way being judgey, I'm just interested to know as I suppose theories and experts information changes over time and it's good to hear real life experiences.

Thanks for listening

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MypocketsarelikeNarnia Thu 21-Apr-16 00:02:26

Not sure I understand what's not natural and relaxed about prioritising your children's attachment tbh. For me that's natural parenting, with my bc and my ac.

I'm sure someone will pop up to tell you that they use cc or have their kids looked after by strangers and 'they are absolutely fine'. Will that prove anything? What will 'they're fine' mean from random strangers on the Internet? What is it you want to do differently?

Personally I hate the idea that attachment parenting is some weird unique way of looking after adopted children. I was parented like this in a very working class household in the 70's as was my mum in the 40's. It's not a 'booklet' it's just putting your children's needs first.

Chicklette Thu 21-Apr-16 00:29:43

Yeah, I know, it's hard to put down what I mean in words, I could really just do with a cup of tea and a chat with some random strangers with grown up adopted kids rather than a written conversation!

I suppose it's in part that I don't know how I would have parented a bc. There are certain things- like responding to their needs and not doing controlled crying that would have been natural to me. This is because it reflects how I was raised- ie by cuddly loving parents who parented vaguely along attachment lines. However, I was brought up in a large busy family and my nieces and nephews are to some degree 'parented' by the extended family so funnelling felt quite unnatural to me. My kids are generally pretty happy but are also wary and a bit anxious. I'll never know if they would have been any other way in other circumstances but it is something that I wonder about. Are they anxious coz of their early years trauma? Are they anxious coz I restricted their access to others by funnelling? Are they anxious coz that's their natural personality? Are they anxious coz I shout sometimes and I am not a perfect parent? I'll never know. And I suppose that's it, I'm not really looking for advice and I'm not going to change how I parent, I'm just interested to hear how other people did it and whether they feel it was right for them or do they wish they had done it differently?

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Chicklette Thu 21-Apr-16 00:47:21

In fact, not letting family and friends hold my baby and not letting people feed my kids felt very unnatural but it also felt very right. I feel it was the right thing to do but at the same time I sometimes second guess or doubt myself

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Italiangreyhound Thu 21-Apr-16 02:26:37

Chicklette my kids are not grown up and only one is adopted but I will pitch in .

I am sure you did the right things and here is why....

Attachment style parents is (IMHO) the best way to parent any child, we did it with birth dd (now 11) and just followed on with our son who joined us aged 3 by adoption 2 years ago.

Shouting is not great but we probably all do it! DS says Daddy is shouty but really , me and Daddy both know, it is me who is shouty! What I do do, that Daddy does not do so much (Daddy being my dh of course!) is I hug, and I snuggle, and I smother with kisses, in a way I just scrumch him up, as I did with dd before him (and do still when she lets me) and that close physical contact seems to make up for the fact I shout a bit! It's also scarier for kids when men shout, unless the men are tiny, and soft- voiced!

We all know someone who smoked 80 fags a day and lived to 100 or ate bacon and chocolate all day and is a size 8 - but MOST people who smoke 80 fags a day will get very ill and the bacon and chocolate brigade will be size 16 plus, I know I am one of them!

Your kids are fine now and that is fab, just keep on doing what you are doing. We don't ever really know what our kids have experienced or suffered pre placement, we were not there but they were, the fact they were pre-verbal may mean they have no real way of expressing what might or might not have happened, so when people say they were so young it is just a statement of fact, like they have brown hair, you can't assume because of that there is nothing more to know or nothing more to accommodate!

So ... in relation to the fact that I hear the phrase "but they were sooo young, surely they won't remember anything" etc etc about 10x a day! When you hear this from friends I would just explain, actually that is really unhelpful, we don't know exactly what they have experienced before they came to us (I don't mean bad stuff, I mean any stuff) and yes, they were relatively young, but we are parenting in the way that we feel is best for them. Unless you really do not feel this is best for your kids?

I find it easier to surround myself with friends who parent like I do, at least for things like holidays and getting advice from them. The cry-it-out brigade know my views and we just don't discuss it, it's fine. We can still be friends but I don't need their parenting advice. I am not training a dog, I am hopefully enabling a human being to be become all they can be, two of them in fact!

It sounds almost like you are not certain in what you are doing and think your friends may have a point, but to be honest all kids are different!

You parent the kids you have. My dyslexic dd with autistic tendencies and my very bright adopted son who is overly emotional and gets hot and bothered at the drop of a hat are both equally lovely and equally annoying! I parent the best way for them based on all they are but with the caveat that sometimes I just need to get us all through the day in one piece!

I bet you are doing a fabulous job! grin

Tippy6312 Thu 21-Apr-16 09:41:24

I know what you mean. I think we were those parents who were possibly too much the other way.. (through lack of knowledge/thrown in the deep end so to speak). I have the same thoughts as you, but in reverse. As in we have a happy settled boy, with moments of anxiety sparked by different kinds of things, needs reassurance a lot, but on the other hand, is very friendly, social, has formed bonds with wider family he now loves dearly and has several close friendships. I forever wonder 'what if we didn't do XYZ, what if we did that differently'

Like you've pointed out, you never will really know, and you made those choices at that time, and continue to do so, to what you feel works. I wish I had known more, and received any form of training or guidance into 'attachment style parenting' as it does / and doesn't come naturally to me at times. I would have certainly done things differently if I had my time again. In the same breath as a family, I am so pleased with how far we have come.

tldr Thu 21-Apr-16 09:57:08

I had an incident recently - we had a houseful of guests and DD had a nightmare, probably caused by too much excitement during the day. DH spent ages upstairs calming her and just hanging out with her til she was happy to go back to sleep. He came back down and got told by guest (who, sadly, is family) that he over-indulged her.

And I just thought, who the fuck thinks comforting a scared child in the night is over indulgent?

So, I like to think I'm doing it how I'd do it anyway. (ie kindly...)

Italiangreyhound Thu 21-Apr-16 11:48:41

Indeed tldr it's the guests who are over-indulgent, wanting your dh's time when a child is upset and needs comforting is the height of adult entitlement! angry

Haffdonga Thu 21-Apr-16 19:43:50

(I'm not an adopter but have some knowledge about connected areas).

For the comments like surely your dc don't remember what happened when they were babies or all children do that or to the social workers who say it's only attachment disorder nothing serious an adopter once told me they describe attachment disorder to friends and family as brain damage caused by their early experiences .She argued that that is what RAD actually is and by using the term brain damage nobody expects the dc to miraculously stop being affected just because they don't remember.

I'm not necessarily saying brain damage is anatomically correct but is it helpful to use as a term for interfereing laypeople, teachers and social workers?

Most people wouldn't dismiss a dc's behaviour as caused by only brain damage and perhaps it's easier to explain to nurseries or well-meaning but ignorant aunties that a certain parenting style works better if they think of it as a way of helping brain damage heal rather than attachment form.

With brain damage in a young child, the brain is plastic and if the damage is done in early years it has an amazing capability to create new neural pathways and alternative routes to circumvent the damaged bit. Just like with RAD, with your parenting style you are encouraging the development of the new stronger healthy neural pathways.

(Just putting this out there for thought). smile

dibly Thu 21-Apr-16 20:24:18

I often wonder the same Chicklette. Now we're nearly two years in, our day to day parenting isn't dissimilar to what I imagined, just with a truck load more reassurance, research and anxious wondering thrown in for good measure. Sometimes I wonder if that's just habit now though.

With a BC no way would we have waited 2 years for AD to have had a sleepover with the grandparents, or stressed so much about routine, holidays, smells of washing powder, etc etc; and looking at our local adopter network, we're by no means unique. It would be interesting to know if there's any adoptive parents who just cracked on without the additional tools and research, and whether over the long term, bonds formed and issues righted themselves anyway. I also sometimes wonder if we're so keen to try and dodge the bullet of our kids having long term effects of trauma that we're following these currents methods that no doubt will be derided in another 10/20/30 years.

Either way it's been far more intense than I ever imagined being a parent would be, not necessarily in a bad way, but for me, not having had a BC, I find it hard to know whether I'm parenting in the most way that comes most naturally to me, or if I'm more focussed on following the instruction booklette.

Italiangreyhound Thu 21-Apr-16 21:36:31

Dibly my birth child has never had a sleep over with grandparents. not all children are the same.

dibly Thu 21-Apr-16 22:10:33

Well no, of course not. But that delay was an example of an added precaution that we took due to our LO's needs. With the other examples I cited, it illustrates how much more conscious we were of trying to 'get it right' due to her early trauma.

Chicklette Thu 21-Apr-16 22:27:42

Thanks for all the interesting and eloquent replies. As you say Italian Greyhound we all know people who have dodged bullets or who are the exception to the rule so it always comes down to "we will never know..."

I'm a seasoned Auntie so I have an idea of what I might have been like as a Birth parent. At the same time I would have had different kids who would have needed different things and to some degree I even parent my 2 kids differently as they need different things so it's still an unknown!

I'm glad things have worked out for your family Tippy6312 it sounds like you've done lots of things 'right' but it is hard when you read stuff that suggests you should've doing XYZ.

It sounds like you have a similar experience and thoughts as myself Dibly That is just what I mean, all the snuggling, kind,gentle parenting, fun stuff, attachment games stuff is relatively natural to me but key things such as not having babysitters, sleepovers, holidays, overnight guests in the house, not having anyone feeding or comforting the kids for ages was pretty alien to my family and culture. I am fairly confident that it has all paid off in our case but I am intrigued to know if others did it very differently and don't regret it. And I am always wondering if all the current theories will be rebuked in the future.

And yes, I tend to just think "whatever" when people suggest I'm mollycoddling, over indulging, making a rod for my own back etc etc etc etc etc. Likewise, when people invariably minimise the impact adoption may have had on the kids, I tend to either try to educate or just ignore depending on how patient I'm feeling!

And as you wisely remind us Italian Greyhound, No kids are the same so we are back to the same thing- we will never know how things might have worked out in different circumstances!

Thanks for pondering with me though!

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Italiangreyhound Fri 22-Apr-16 00:14:23

And Dibly I do think that is a good thing, my point was that it is not just adopted children who need this kind of caution and care, my dd is a birth child but she doesn't really like staying away from us!

Italiangreyhound Fri 22-Apr-16 00:15:40

Chick wink

slkk Fri 22-Apr-16 21:08:55

While being as therapeutic as we knew how, we have been a lot stricter and had to be a lot harder than I imagined we would be as ds had such behaviour problems and no boundaries in foster care. He was very violent and aggressive with our bc. We also did do a weekend away and a holiday fairly early on and ds was the same when we were away as when we were home. In fact, he was so happy and relaxed after coming home and for a while behaviour was way better. I think he just enjoyed the time we were all together as a family and this benefitted him. He also seems grateful every time we take him anywhere and don't leave him there... He is different from many children as he is very flexible and relaxed wherever we are, as long as Dh or I are there. However we cannot leave him for even 10 minutes without us. Now his behaviour at home is better and he is struggling at school. We have tried all sorts of ways to help him improve this but it seems the understanding therapeutic approach is the only way that has had any effect and that isn't damaging him and making it worse.
I'm reading a lot now and we are still learning every day. I guess none of us really know how we will parent our children but we can just do the best we can at any time.

delilabell Sat 23-Apr-16 15:39:05

I think we are borderline as to how we treat ds. I think it's all down to the individual family unit.
We are very open with ds about adoption. We don't do controlled crying,naughty step etc. We still sit with ds to get him to sleep at night. We explain carefully any future event and introduce new people carefully.
However, we also don't go to adoption groups/playgroups (I think that is down to our personalities) we didn't funnel with family as ds came from a loud full foster home and needed more stimulation than just us. We took him to a wedding after having him for 6 weeks (he had the time of his life on the dance floor) and holidayed within 3 months of having him because it was quality family time with him which he needed.
Our son does suffer from.anxiety which we manage carefully. He also had huge issues every time he had to see his social worker. But in general is a happy,settled child with his own personality.
I really do think that jusy like every child is unique and needs to be parented differently so does every adopted child.

Kr1stina Sun 24-Apr-16 17:20:29

It's an interesting question

one problem is that the time to tell if you kids have turned out well - happy, bonded, attached - is when they are 25 and not 5. And very few MN have adopted kids who are that old .

I read posts here almost every week stating that a child who was placed months ago is " securely attached " , which is clearly nonsense .

It's a bit like vaccines isn't it - you might as well say " well my child didn't get any vaccines and he's fine so that shows its all nonsense " . Or " smoking can't be bad for you because my gran smoked 40 a day until she was 90"

It doesn't work like that .

FWIW I was adopted as baby, had crap parenting and I wasn't fine . By your definition of happy , bonded, attached . Not at all.

Italiangreyhound Sun 24-Apr-16 22:07:30

Kr1stina I' so sorry to hear that my dear. You share a lot of wisdom here to make up for it, you share what you have learnt but I am sorry to see you had to learn things the hard way.

Kr1stina Mon 25-Apr-16 08:15:30

That's very kind of you Italian < hugs>

Tippy6312 Mon 25-Apr-16 09:12:48

Deli I could have written your post exactly. We also don't do those things (groups etc) and did holidays, weddings. For us it wasn't really the 'not wanting to (groups etc)' but it wasn't offered to us (as well as training courses) due to how we came to adopt our son.

I often feel quite panicky reading posts like this, as I get an overwhelming sense of my goodness you're doing it/did it all wrong. But like others have said it depends on a family and family circumstance. But I can put my hand on my heart and say if I hadn't interacted with my mum / close family at that time, I would have completely broken down, which in turn would have been a hell of a lot worse for DS. I was literally only just keeping afloat.

I suppose I can only hope that as we grow as a family that we are doing right by our son. Almost 3 years in and I'm thankful everyday for how far we've came.

Chicklette Mon 25-Apr-16 21:05:31

Hi, thanks all for joining in or contributing. I'm sorry to hear your experience Kr1stina and your right, we will never really know. Without prying at all do you have any opinions of what the most important/ beneficial/helpful way to parent is??! I understand that this is a bit of a ridiculous question as there will be no right answer but I just wondered if there is one or two things that you think would have made a big difference?

I'm sorry to contribute to panickyness Tippy6312 but as you say, it really does depend on everyone's circumstances and it is not a set of rules, they are just ideas and theories which are debatable at best and I am sure the advice will change over time.

Thanks again

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MypocketsarelikeNarnia Mon 25-Apr-16 22:52:24

Approaches may change over time but I don't think it's quite as subjective as you're implying. All the things adopters do as good practice are rooted in foregrounding, understanding and being responsive to your child's emotional state and needs. That not going to change.

MypocketsarelikeNarnia Mon 25-Apr-16 23:04:38

I'd be very interested to know what you think is 'debatable at best'?

Chicklette Mon 25-Apr-16 23:54:37

I suppose the ones that I debate (in my head mainly) are any of the ones that involve social isolation or encouraging other people to NOT respond to my kids needs.

As a precursor, I should say that I think funnelling has worked well in my family. I remember the phrase "if your child looks like they feel safe with everyone, it means they are safe with no-one". My children needed to learn that their needs would be primarily met by me and they was all linked to them being safe and permanent Iykwim. They were part of a busy, sociable Fosterfamily.

However, it was counter intuitive to begin with and is very different to the way I was raised. I guess I feel a bit more "it takes a village to raise a child" so it had been hard for me to limit the amount of demonstrative love, affection and care that my kids receive from family. I find it draining and awkward. But most of all I worry that one day the theory will say "the majority of adopted kids thrive best when they are emersed into a loving, kind, open and affectionate extended family as soon as possible. This helps to counteract the feelings of otherness or not fitting in that so many adopted adults report." My kids could easily have had that and they have it now but, for example no one except me and partner ever popped food into their mouths or bottle fed them or changed nappies or picked them up when they fell over for at least the forst year or so. And to some degree We still limit care giving and interaction.

Again, I mainly think this has had a positive impact. The kids are great, sociable, happy etc but a little but wary of others at first ( just the sort of well attached behaviour that SW is looking for). Just a part of me worries that all the funnelling will make them less trusting of others in the long term.

We also celebrate the days they moved in/ were adopted and chat openly about adoption, their history etc. Some people that I know who are adopted have said that they would not have liked to have been reminded that they were adopted regularly when they were kids. They think that would have made them feel insecure or not fully part of their family. In the 60's parents were encouraged to stay quiet about it, now we are encouraged to be open so that has changed.

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