Out with the old, in with the new?

It feels like all my blog posts at the moment start with ‘recently I attended a training course…’ and this one is no different! I am very grateful for our excellent adoption agency who provide so much training, and also for my part time job that means I have plenty of time to attend said training courses!

Although the most recent one was actually on a Saturday anyway. It was Support Network Training for our friends and family. This time we took two of our best friends who wrote references in our PAR, and we’re going again in September with our parents. The training day was a great idea, and really valuable. It summed up the main information we’d been given at our prep groups about what our children have experienced and how it might affect their behaviour. It referenced Helen Townsend’s book Before I Arrive – which we love – to help friends and family think about the adoption from the child’s point of view.

DSCF4881.JPGProbably the most helpful part for me, and I think for our friends, was an illustration with a ball of wool that we’d already seen at prep group. However, on the other side of the process now, it was very helpful to see again, and both my husband and I found it quite moving.

One person plays the child, and sits in the middle of the room. Everyone else is around them as different characters – birth mum and dad, social worker, foster carer, foster carer’s dog, swimming instructor, adoptive mum and dad etc. A course leader then read out the child’s story. Every time one of the other characters was mentioned, the wool was passed from the child, to the person and back again, representing the relationship, the bond of trust, developed. By the end of the story, the child was connected to all of the other characters by a piece of wool. It was a great visual of the web of relationships the child had formed in just a few years.

The end of the exercise was when the child moved in with his adoptive parents – happy ending, right?

As adoptive parents, and the friends and family of adoptive parents, it’s tempting to feel like this is the start of the story.

A fresh start for our children, a new life. We weren’t part of their old life, and it’s easy to forget that they were! But there will be people who we have never met that our children will love and trust deeply. More than they love and trust us when they first arrive.

After reflecting on the web of wool, the course leader then went round the room with a pair of scissors and cut every piece of wool except the two that connected the child to the adoptive parents. All of those relationships were severed. That child would never see their birth parents again, never stroke the foster carer’s dog again, never play with their best friend at school again. They were left with their new mum and dad, relative strangers to them, who it seemed had snatched them away from all they’d ever known and loved.

Now, as the adoptive parents, this is our happy ending. We’ve longed for our children for so long, and suddenly they’re home! And we know that this is the best thing for them – a safe, permanent home. But what we need to understand is that they need time and help to grieve for what they’ve lost, if they’re going to be able to celebrate what they’ve gained. As adoptive parents, I can imagine this is very hard. I can imagine feeling hurt and rejected when our children cry for their foster carers or ask to go back to birth parents. I can imagine feeling like a failure.

I love my children already, I think about them constantly. We have been preparing for them to come home for months and months. But this is not the case for them. When they arrive they will have suffered much more loss in their few years than I have in my 25. It reminds me of the bit in Annie when Mr Warbucks gives Annie a new locket to replace her old broken one. He wants her to think of him as her new Daddy. Annie loves him and loves her new life with him, but to accept him and his gift means giving up on her hope that one day her birth parents will come back to rescue her. Loving him feels like a betrayal to them.

Now please don’t panic, I’m not expecting our adoption story to be anything like Annie! But I do know that the story is going to look very different to our children than it does to us. Those early chapters will always be part of our children’s stories; and instead of trying to tear out those pages, somehow we need to help them make sense of them so that they can enjoy the rest of the book.

I’d love to know your experiences of this. How have you helped your children grieve? How did it make you feel and how did you deal with those feelings?

 

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4 thoughts on “Out with the old, in with the new?

  1. Al Coates says:

    For my children the key idea that has helped us that is that the grief is ongoing and developing as a child becomes a teenager becomes a young adult. Often we return to the same information with a developed understanding and re grieve. Like pealing an onion, same onion just new layers. Of course their is also the reality that the grief is complicated as it has no end, parents and family are usually not dead but continue their lives apart. Where are they, are they safe, are they happy all questions that children ask or at least think. We’ve different experiences of contact with original family and knowing is much better than not.
    Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rain or Shine Blogger says:

      Thanks, that’s really helpful. It’s tempting to think that after they move in, 6 months, 12 months, whatever, of ‘therapeutic’ parenting and they’ll be ‘fixed’ and we can carry on as if nothing ever happened. But adoption and their pre-adoption experiences are all part of our children’s stories, they will always be there just as my childhood experiences are part of my story and make me who I am. It’s not something to be ‘fixed’ or erased.
      It makes sense that as children grow older they would need more information and understanding, and therefore ongoing support to process and heal. I hadn’t thought of this as we’re right at the beginning! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alun Evans says:

    We’re just over the honeymoon period and our two are starting to realise that this “placement” is forever. The hardest part for them has been the change of surname which is coming soon.

    We just remain open and available to talk to them and make sure we reinforce the life story work that has been done with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rain or Shine Blogger says:

      Thanks for commenting, how old are your two? I don’t think we’d thought about this until we first went to prep groups. It’s so exciting for us, we hadn’t realised how hard it will be for our children. Great to find out how other people are dealing with it!

      Like

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