When the heat turns up

Girl screaming

This week on The Adoption Social site there’s been much focus on CPV (Child to parent violence) and as I’ve been reading others posts I am amazed at the situations some of my fellow adopters are enduring. We have been fortunate that our children have not been expressing their trauma and hurt in these ways on a regular basis. There is the odd outburst of a slapped face or thrown marbles but generally this is not something we have to live with constantly like so many others are. I have been trying to understand this side of traumatised children though and in pursuit of some strategies to help others at our support groups I went on some training recently on NVR (non-violent resistance). It was confusing to say the least but some of the concepts and strategies I’m continuing to process and try to see how they would work in practice.

One of the areas I do know something about is self-care. On my journey as an adopter of 3 and as a coach I’ve been aware of what an impact being an adoptive parent can have on us. The stress and strains of parenting in this way, the levels of resilience and resourcefulness needed by parents and the relentlessness of the task has consumed my thoughts for the last 7 years. I thought I had a handle on this for myself, and maybe I did. However the last few months have proved to me that we can’t ever be lulled into a false sense of security. When you feel you have the balance in your life, something else comes along to knock you off. 

I’m part of a support group of very good friends who encourage each other weekly towards being positive and finding hope in our situations. We talk regularly of the dread that comes with being an adoptive parent. When you first have your child or children that feeling of dread is right on the surface. When you wake up, when you pick them up from school, when you are out with new people with your children. All moments of dread – “what will they be like?”, “will I be able to cope with their behaviour?”, “will other people understand?”. As you carry on this journey there are moments, maybe even months when that feeling of dread sinks a bit further inside. It’s not on the surface but it’s there. You are just waiting for that phone call from school that they’ve been excluded again, or that they’ve been in a fight. It seems that dread is somehow our new companion.

When I think about all that adopters have to face sometimes it can be overwhelming and this is when I know self-care, hope and support are essential. And we have to be readjusting that all the time. As I said recently this has been a problem for me. The level of stress and pressure from other areas of my life means that the landscape has changed – I need to be finding what gives me balance in this current terrain. I remember some time ago I had some coaching from a friend around those feelings of dread and I really felt four strong statements came out for me. The question I was asking was this “will things turn out ok?” Of course may be not a question we can ever answer, but I felt reassured that things would be ok as long as I can do these four things:

  1. Find my balance 
  2. Adapt to the change in terrain 
  3. Stay connected to the source 
  4. Keep things in perspective

These four things have kept me sane at times. Knowing that I have to always find my balance, be grounded and make sure all areas of my life are healthy. has given me focus Adapting to the change in our children’s phases of development has been challenging, going into the teenage years is different then the toddlers for sure. Staying connected to the source for me is about my faith but I know for others it may be about why you adopted in the first place, or what you hope for the future of your family. And finally keeping things in perspective as much as possible – being honest about how small or big the issues might be and this is hard at times as we all have different references for this. But what I do know from the NVR course, and what I’ve seen, is that when the problems we’re facing are brought into the light and shared with others it can make a huge difference.

The one area that really struck me from the training was about a support network around our family. Not just friends to talk to, laugh and cry together but people who will get involved with your children too and take some of the burden of responsibility and accountability. I can see how powerful that is and I will continue to look into the different aspects of NVR and how they can help families dealing with trauma and its affects.

For now my heart goes out to every family that this impacts – whether aggression and violence are a regular occurrence or sporadic, those feelings of dread are real and live in many of us. I only hope and pray that support will be found for people, and that others will start to realise what a challenging role being an adoptive parent can be.

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