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Tantrums and tears during introductions (not just mine!)

(35 Posts)
mahrezzy Sat 25-Apr-20 13:05:09

Hello all. I've posted previously about being petrified about starting introductions (I still am, I'm still a wreck!) and how introductions were delayed because of Coronavirus and the lockdown.

I'm incredibly thankful that my LA has agreed to start up introductions again, and this started last week (over a three week period). I know lots of people aren't being given this opportunity and I'm so, so grateful.

My little boy is now 21 months and we've definitely bonded. When I arrive at the FCs house he bounds over calling 'mummy'...... we've probably seen each other about 15 times in total now (from our first glimpse where we met to 'playdates' after that) as well as lots of video calls and he lets me play with him, feed him, change his nappy etc. However he hates going to sleep and fights it every step of the way but I've managed to put him down a couple of times, despite there being plenty of tears (he cries with the FCs he's extremely attached to too, I know it's not just me, although there is a huge element of not wanting me to be the one to put him to bed or for a nap).

However, I know that him seeing me more and more (with a view to him coming home the week after next) is starting to impact on him and some of his tantrums are about him wanting his FCs. Whenever he has a tantrum I stay calm and use a variety of tactics to ease him through it. I try to explain what's going on and why I think he feels the way he feels, I distract him, I sing to him, I pull funny faces, tantrum with him, I read to him, I ignore him (while staying close to him). I'm at a loss though as I think it's perfectly reasonable that he feels the way he feels (he wants the carers he's used to, he wants to feel in control) and he's expressing his emotions in the only way he knows he can.

Does anyone have any advice on how I can help him and me through these tantrums during the next two weeks (and beyond, of course!). How can I further bond with him and start to shift the attachment so that his tantrums are less about not wanting me and more about the situation at hand? Or am I being overly optimistic and wanting something that's going to take months and months?

Thank you in advance.

OP’s posts: |
mahrezzy Sat 25-Apr-20 13:06:48

PS, he won't let me physically comfort him when he feels this way. He's very tactile and is happy to sit on my lap or be hugged when he's content, but doesn't want me anywhere near him when he's upset.

OP’s posts: |
Niffler75 Sat 25-Apr-20 14:32:59

@mahrezzy Aaaah so hard! 💐My son was the same at age 3. Nightimes were tough.
I used a teddy if my son would not let me comfort him. I would sit near him with teddy and offer hugs while hugging teddy, interact with teddy like you are talking to your son.
Does he have a fave blanket he can wrap himself in. My son used one, them started to ask for it with my perfume on, and he still sleeps with this. He is 9 now.
Remember this is him communicating distress. He is too young to put into words how he is feeling. Try to be a calm presence. These things will get better with time!

ifchocolatewerecelery Sat 25-Apr-20 23:03:53

I was going to give you advice based on my experience but then I remembered the video that went viral at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately I can't share the link to it but google holding the space viral video and also watch the video of the father explaining the story behind it. It's a 3 minute video of a meltdown that lasted for about 45 minutes.

It's very similar to what I do. My LO doesn't always want to be touched and anything I say can make it worse.

I gave milk in a baby bottle at the end of a meltdown until my LO was 3.5 when they started biting through the teat. I would also do a change of place so when they woke crying in the night we'd either go downstairs for a cuddle or she'd come in with me. I live in a safe area and you'd also see me carrying her a short walk around the estate at literally any time of the day or night. Now she's been home nearly 2.5 years and is 4, she will seek a drink with a straw to help or ask to go a little walk when she's feeling overwhelmed.

EightWellies Sun 26-Apr-20 07:24:16

I think there's a distinction to be made between tantrums, which most 21 month olds will have and the signs of grief and distress that your wee one will be showing. I would handle the two differently - kind firmness for tantrums, staying close and what has been suggested above re the teddy for grief. He's confused and scared. Three weeks sounds like really long Intros. Is there any chance of them being shortened? The sleeping thing in particular - he's off to sleep without knowing if you will be there when he wakes up. How unsettling for him. This process is so hard, his whole world is turning upside down and you're expected to start parenting from scratch with an audience. There's really no way other than to go through it and start rebuilding on the other side. Once you are home it should gradually get easier, though it sounds like you may have to consider cosleeping etc in the early days.

Jellycatspyjamas Sun 26-Apr-20 08:44:43

One thing that might help in terms of attachment is to talk through your day or the time he’s sleeping. So lots if “minus going to help you get some sleep for our busy afternoon, while you’re sleeping I’m going get a cup of tea/clean the bathroom/sit right here beside you and read my book”, then lots of chat about what you’re going to do together in the afternoon

Even now I talk to my two about he checking on the sleeping overnight - I usually have a funny story about how they had wriggled their covers off, or kicked their favourite toy out of bed. Anything that links you to them while they are sleeping or apart from them.

Even during intros, leave them knowing you’ll be thinking about them and will see them tomorrow and then when you do see them, lots of chat about how much you missed them. Anything that reminds him that you’re still connected to him even though he can’t see you (which is the very essence of attachment).

mahrezzy Sun 26-Apr-20 11:55:53

Thank you so much for all the replies - lots to think about!

@Niffler75 I'm definitely going to try this with one of his stuffed toys tomorrow. I did try it briefly last week but I felt like I was being 'mean' by paying attention to a toy when he was laying on the floor crying / being cross so I quickly abandoned it. I'll try again.

@ifchocolatewerecelery I just watched the video. Whenever he's had a tantrum I've automatically got down on his level and sat with him, so I feel like I've made a start. I wish he'd let me comfort him. I know it will come in time. I also know it has to come from him and it's about his need rather than my wish.

@EightWellies I agree, three weeks seems like a lot, especially when you factor in the many, many times I've spent time with him already. However, the SWs and FCs are already talking about extending it further if he's showing signs of not being ready to come home. I don't know what's for the best so am trusting that three weeks (or even more) is right and right for him. He's extremely attached to his carers and they want me to spend the next two weeks practically living in their home and taking over his care while they make themselves scarce. Previously when I've put him down for a nap I've gone home afterwards, which may account for the confusion. I won't do that again.

@Jellycatspyjamas thank you, these are good ideas. I've not done these things (although I always tell him how much I've missed him when I've seen him. I'll definitely give it a go.

I'm still having huge wobbles about the whole thing. What am I DOING?! Why am I changing my happy, easy life for such an unknown? As much as I think I'm doing a good job of being calm and happy with him, I wonder if he can pick up on my fears too. I'm not having cold feet, not exactly - the thought of not going through with this or disruption once he's home is devastating - but I am scared. Apart from the tantrums he's a happy, sunny child. If I was him I'd be having tantrums too. He's got a lot to be angry about.

OP’s posts: |
Niffler75 Sun 26-Apr-20 12:06:10

@mahrezzy I know What you mean. I think it you word it like 'I can see you are really upset. Mummy would love to give you a hug.' Then model hugging teddy.
This was given as advice by a therapist and worked very well for us. Plus it gives you something to do and may help if you feel frustrated as I did! ☺ It helped to keep me regulated too!

Jellycatspyjamas Sun 26-Apr-20 22:57:17

I'm still having huge wobbles about the whole thing. What am I DOING?!

I think that’s a wholly human response to the changes you’re facing - swapping child free simplicity for all the complexities and sheer work that come with children would give anyone pause for thought and you’ve not had the enforced preparation that pregnancy brings, or the hormones that help with bonding. A good few wobbles and the odd tantrum are to be expected.

EightWellies Wed 29-Apr-20 11:41:54

Just wondering how you're doing mahrezzy . Hope intros are proceeding well.

mahrezzy Wed 29-Apr-20 17:38:19

@EightWellies thank you for thinking of me.

I. Am. So. Tired. 14 hour days (from the moment he wakes up to the time he's coaxed to sleep). Three meals a day. Nappies. Nap time. Everything is a battle where he doesn't want me, he wants his FC. I understand, I really do. It really got to me today.

He still won't let me comfort him when he's upset. Cuddling a soft toy and talking to it (explaining I wish I was hugging him, that we're going to calm down, that I hear him, that I know he's frustrated and scared) helps a lot. But then he goes off again.

I'm only three days in. It has to be better than this, doesn't it? He resists me at every turn. He likes me when I'm not trying to meet his care needs but my goodness he's not certain when I am.

OP’s posts: |
Niffler75 Wed 29-Apr-20 18:58:56

@mahrezzy It's ok. The vast majority of adopters feel like this. It is a highly emotional time. You are shattered.
Have you finished introductions? Gosh I remember the feeling of being so shattered, desperately wanting to do the mum thing and my new 3yo resisting me at every turn, not letting me near him, not eating food I had made, crying for the FC!

.....BUT, and here's the thing. From an attachment point of view, he misses his FC. He built a relationship with FC. He is grieving. That is really positive (but obviously distressing for him and you) . It would be very worrying if he was not bothered about the move.
This shall pass and things will improve. Find little ways of sharing moments together. My son used to love bubbles, especially in the bath. He also used to howl with laughter when we goofed about.
Break the day into small chunks, get out in the fresh air. Do not feel guilty about using a bit of TV time so you can grab a cuppa.
Let go of all but essential housework, easy meals etc! And sleep when he sleeps.
Just remember this is normal and it's ok! It will get better. 💐😊

EightWellies Wed 29-Apr-20 19:07:55

What Niffler75 said. It's totally exhausting and it will get easier. Go easy on yourself and remember that getting through every day is all you need to do right now.

Niffler75 Thu 30-Apr-20 13:54:06

@mahrezzy How are you today? 💐

LMST Thu 30-Apr-20 20:32:17

@mahrezzy you are doing an amazing thing and not only that; you are doing it amazingly well. Be kind to yourself. Being a parent to a toddler can be frazzling at the best of times and you have extra complexity on top of that.
I bet you're doing a better job than you're giving yourself credit for.
Hang in there. flowers

user1479136681 Fri 01-May-20 22:50:22

@mahrezzy it doesn't feel like it yet but it will get easier. It's hard to parent a toddler, let alone early into placement, during a pandemic!! You're doing so well. Be kind to yourself too. You'll get through this and look back on these early days.

dimples76 Sat 02-May-20 10:31:41

@Mahrezzy hope that things are getting easier. I have just adopted for the second time and I can't imagine doing such long intros and spending so much time in FC's house. First time when DS was 18 months it was 7 days, this time for DD (8 months) it was meant to be 7 days but condensed to 4 due to CV.

Have you had a mid-point review yet? I found both times in FC house the children would definitely be looking for FC when in need of comfort but when at our house much more receptive to me - guess that they didn't have much choice!

Intros are tough at the best of times but in the current circ even harder. My SW was saying yesterday that a lot of FC are reporting that children are more clingy during lockdown. I know my DS has been and I guess it's natural when your world contracts - even for those too young to have a clue what is happening.

mahrezzy Sat 02-May-20 19:04:15

Hi all. It's been really, really tough (and of course it has, it's an adoption transition being done in a pandemic!). I have to say, the hardest bits have been dealing with the social workers!!

He's very clingy still with the FCs and when they're around he'll go to them (of course he will). But when we've been going out by ourselves he's perfectly content with me and I can see that we're getting there. I have hope that when we're at my house that he'll swap his care needs to me as they won't be here. He has to, really! We still have at least another week to go (there have been a few issues related to his past which have come up, which need some thinking through so the transition might take EVEN LONGER), but we're getting there.

There have been lots of tears (the FCs are incredibly attached to him and have always thought of him as part of their family) and lockdown has made it harder for everyone. But he's a champ, he's doing so well considering how confusing and difficult this must be for him.

Your messages have all helped so so much. I had a rest day today and I was able to find the time to read them! :D

OP’s posts: |
Niffler75 Sat 02-May-20 19:32:06

Gosh @mahrezzy how long are intros lasting? They are dragging on a bit! 🤔

mahrezzy Sat 02-May-20 20:04:25

@Niffler75 I wish I knew!!! I'm hoping they're going to let him come home earlier than planned rather than later. But of course it's important we get this right. I think the social workers have fucked up a couple of things with regards to how the transition has happened and we're going to need to rectify them. It's quite outing so I won't go into it but I've been furious.

I linked with him in October and matched with him in February.

OP’s posts: |
Niffler75 Sat 02-May-20 21:06:49

I'm sorry @mahrezzy things have not gone very smoothly. Our intros for 3 year old were 3 weeks long and everyone including SW's at the end agreed they had been too long and caused much confusion for my son. 😔

user1479136681 Sat 02-May-20 21:16:11

@mahrezzy re the foster carers and clinginess we observed the same thing, he only wanted the foster carers when we were together but once it was just us, he came to us. He was very confused and disoriented during intros, doing bedtime routine and then going back to FC's house was hard. I think once you're home it'll be s different dynamic. You seem to be very sensitive to his needs and you're going to be a great parent.

Jellycatspyjamas Sat 02-May-20 23:15:35

It sounds like there have been mistakes along the way - the foster carers really need to deal with their own feelings about this. He was never going to be part of their family of permanency was his plan and they need to get support their feelings of attachment to him.

It feels like your intros have gone on forever so I’d be looking for very very good reasons to extend, based on your child’s actual need. He’ll grieve the loss off his foster carers in any event, but it’ll be incredibly confusing for him to bounce between you for an extended period of time.

clairedelalune Sun 03-May-20 07:27:05

I would be pushing for the move to you to happen, they are too long. Mine was same age, with excellent attachment to fc. He was fine with me during intros when the fc weren't around. I felt the 10 days we did was too long/confusing for him; 3 weeks is just unnecessary I think and extendingit further is very stressful for all concerned. We also then didn't physically see fc for 2 years after, although we had very regular contact via phone and still do.

SequinPie Sun 03-May-20 09:41:59

Gosh they are dragging this out!

We did introductions just before the lockdown and we've just got having her for 10 weeks now!

Our daughter was really attached to FC. We found during introductions she was ok with us on our own but as soon as the FC was around or we were in their house she wouldn't have anything to do with us. She'd scream and cry quite a lot if we tried to do something with her and they were around, it did get worse as time went on and the confusion built. We'd pick her up in a morning crying and was smiling and laughing by the time we got to the car!!

We took photos and videos to show the SW to help evidence that she was ok with us without the FC. We also had very experienced FC who understood what was going on.

She did let us know when she'd had enough of us. She used to wave 'bye', get her coat and stand by the door. I found that really heart breaking and tough to deal with. When you're already a knackered emotional wreck every little thing is tough and can feel so personal.

All I can tell you is it does get better. 10 weeks in and she's absolutely fine. We still have our moments but soo much better!

Hope things get moving for you xx

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