“This is not what I signed up for” I silently repeatedly.
Maybe when looking at the self inflicted cuts on my daughters arms. Possibly when another twenty quid disappeared from my purse or listening to more lies. Definitely scrabbling on all fours filling five bin liners with furry food, soiled underwear, dead vodka bottles and unidentifiable sticky bedroom trash.
I did not understand that ‘adoption’ meant trauma would walk through my front door on six little legs.
I expected ‘normal’ kids with some attachment problems, whom my love and parenting skills would transform. 25 years later I know better.
How did I survive? I changed my expectations. Eventually. Frequently. Massively.
I learned about child development, what’s normal, what’s not. How maltreatment distorts their inner world, how their brains are damaged by a boozy womb and that beliefs drive behaviour. This cocktail of knowledge explained ‘nonsensical’ actions.
A useful enquiry: ‘does this child have the capacity, right now, to meet my expectations’?
What’s easier? Changing the child’s capacities or your expectations ? Spoiler alert … it’s you.
Until you change; the child can’t (can’t not won’t). Their behaviour is fear driven and your first job is to help them feel safe in their own bodies. All that self regulation stuff they should have absorbed from attuned caregivers as babes.
In a lightbulb moment in 1999, I realised traumatised children had, in infancy, used metaphorical bubble wrap as a protection against maltreatment. Historically useful, but now it distorted their view of the world and the worlds perspective of them. Our role is to gently peel back the bubble wrap and fill the developmental gaps.
When my kids first arrived, (aged 5,4,2) they liked ‘playing babies, as I pretended to wipe bottoms and bottle feed. It was exhausting. Once I thought it must be lunchtime but the clock shockingly glowed 09.40. The youngest (genuinely in nappies) frequently became distressed seeing her siblings receiving this ‘nurturing’. Regrettably I used this as my excuse to stop. They were showing me how below the bubble wrap they needed ‘babying’ to fill their voids. Because I was expecting my kids to adhere roughly to their chronological age, I missed a huge healing opportunity.
You can chose the height of your expectation bar and hence your emotional state.
Expectations are images we created in the past about how things should be in the future. The more detailed the construction (how it looks, sounds, feels) the greater your commitment.Really useful when it’s 100% in your control, however great potential for disappointment when it’s in another’s hands, especially tiny ones.
That’s why ‘to succeed’ we must adjust our expectations throughout the adoption journey and be life long learners.
That’s why constantly updating our knowledge by reading, attending courses, peer support, mentoring and becoming trauma informed therapeutic parents with a realist view of a child’s potential is vital.
That’s why continual personal evolution, enhanced regulation skills, self reflection, transforming limiting beliefs, increasing self esteem and being a congruent, creative, compassionate, courageous, adaptive person with realistic expectations is vital.
What are you expecting? Joy, satisfaction or sadness? Your choice.
This blog was first published on PAC-UK website, September 2018 during national adoption week
National Adoption Week is always emotive. The intent is to recruit adopters. Unsurprisingly some experienced adopters rant at the saccharine articles in newspapers, knowing that below the rhetoric is a deficit of ongoing, deep, appropriate support.
Failing to take the long view, over decades is a strategic, economic and humanitarian mistake.
PAC-UK had a splendid series of truthful and useful blogs during NAW which might resonate with you. In Mondays PAC-UK blog I explored strategies to avoid disappointment: spoiler alert, it’s you that has to change. Having been quiet for months (completing my next book) it’s the most personal blog I’ve ever written.
Sally Donovansletter to the state (Fridays PAC-UK blog) is a cracker explaining how adopted teenagers require so much from their parents, often for few rewards.
The message of all seven blogs is for me; take the long view. Its hard. Bloody hard. Get support. Be honest with yourself and about your situation.
Also the NAW emphasis on siblings worries me. This video explains why and how their trauma bonds can block therapeutic parenting. (Sorry it has a slow start, as I battle with the flip chart paper, but worth staying with it, imho, as the concept is transformational).
BTW: Over the next few weeks the cost for Trauma Triggered Behaviour on line course will be increasing incrementally. (Because it is being licensed elsewhere, I will be price matching). Buy now, while still in double figures. Risk free with a 100% money back guarantee.
Ever wonder why adopted and foster children behave in apparently nonsensical ways?
Why do they self sabotage?
Why do kind or constructive words fail to impact their behaviour?
It’s because beliefs drive behaviour.
That concept rocked my world back in February 2002 on the morning of my first NLP course. It explained so much about my kids. It changed my life trajectory.
Robert Dilts, the creator of the Logical Levels model has generously agreed to do a Facebook Live with me, sometime next weekend during the NLP conference in London. It will be posted on the FAB Parents Facebook Page. I promise you will find it both fascinating and useful.
Will post details on Facebook and Twitter when we finalise the timings. Robert is speaking at the NLP conference and has kindly agreed to fit in “a FB interview”. Not too late to attend the conference.