As I sit here in a 4th floor apartment looking out at the North Sea, it dawns on me the strategies and advice I found useful when settling my children into their new home with us.
We did receive lots of advice.
Much of the time we didn’t understand the significance of the advice – how it would be helpful and why. We blindly followed some of it and thought more carefully about others.
I think that much of the time when you meet new children you are about to adopt or look after in the longer term you are in turmoil, this huge occasion is happening to you, you are dealing with (in our case) two traumatised, nervous, anxious, excited little people. You are keen to ‘get it right’, want to make them feel ok, settled, at home and welcome. So taking in well meaning advice can be tricky.
I have tried to make this concise and easy to understand…
What we found useful?
Bed times – bed times are as much for the adults as the children, although bed times are tricky for children from a tricky background, consistently putting them to bed at a set time in a comforting, routine way is very helpful. You need a break, the child needs sleep. You may need to do it many, many times and be up and downstairs, but certainly for us it paid dividends eventually. Each time there is an incident, go upstairs calmly put them back to bed and return downstairs. Sometimes I needed to sit with them, sometimes sitting on the landing with my laptop but still routinely letting them know they were safe and that I wasn’t far away and just doggedly kept going with it. Eventually the message went in.
Playing Games – at times it was very hard to create a satisfactory relationship with my children, they were not born to me, they were not a blood relation and reaching a point where I thought we had a ‘bond’ and that we were a ‘proper’ family took years. One thing that really helped was doing Theraplay games, fair weather or foul, every evening pulling some games/activities from two books I have, was very helpful. I would go as far as saying those Theraplay games kept us together when it was very hard. (Theraplay – Helping Parents & Children build a better relationship – Jernberg & Booth, it is an expensive volume but £49 to save a family is cheap enough, and Self-esteem Games – Barbara Sher, we played tons of games from this book and I have many happy memories of these games, and hopefully the children do too.) It’s useful to have a couple of go-to books to grab.
Hand & Foot Massage – I didn’t know why we were told to do this, but I did it again, consistently, massage each others hands and feet with lovely cream (nice fruity Body Shop ones are good). It promotes physical closeness, it feels comforting, it smells lovely, got us sat together, making eye contact, giggling etc. Most importantly it promotes the production of oxytocin (produced when a baby is born, apparently, to help parent and child ‘bond’).
Nutrition – I’m afraid I don’t know too much about this, however, we were told, as the children were traumatised that their ‘gut flora’ would be unbalanced. I am starting to learn more about this but need to read more. So we gave them pro-biotics and pro-biotic drinks and I think it helped. There are lots of other reasons to give your child a nutritionally balanced diet to help their gut but you will have to read up more yourself!
Me-Time – I have consistently had full body massages and found them immensely comforting and useful, the power of touch and being ‘held’ is very valuable. Thanks to Joanne Bull, Chloe Hart and Catherine Hagan. I have also found other therapies very helpful, they got me away from the house for a break and gave that powerful one to one time to get a break and be myself.
I have plenty more ideas up my sleeve, however, this will do for now! The reason I do my Health & Wellness events and counselling is to offer this back to other people, create me-time and a break from life.
I am hosting a very special Self-Care Evening for Foster Carers and Adoptive Parents on 16 May 2018 near York.
Book here: Tickets and Information