Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Life isn't always a bed of roses

We have been very lucky.  Katie settled in with us incredibly well and we haven't really had too many difficulties with her behaviour and those we have had have all been manageable with parenting strategies.  We had several months of her refusing to stay in bed last year which brought enormous frustration and stress until we discovered the power of the Squinkies.  We rewarded her staying in bed with a Squinky every morning until her bedtime routine was more settled.  Now she goes to bed really well.  Another major ongoing battle is mealtimes.  Katie finds it difficult to sit and eat a meal.  She is very active and has never been a big eater so we reflect this in small portion sizes but most of her food will still end up on the floor or smeared in her fingers and it takes a long time before she will accept a new food.  We have made lots of progress and she will now eat several vegetables (and loves baked carrots) but family meals are difficult and stressful to say the least.

The past few months however have been particularly challenging.  Katie has turned four.  She is incredibly bright and needs lots of mental and physical stimulation. She is ready to start school but can't start until September so we have started working on her reading which she is enjoying.  She struggles with her behaviour when she is feeling bored and it is during these moments of boredom that she gets herself into trouble.  She annoys the cats; draws on things she shouldn't be drawing on, challenges me at every turn and generally finds anything naughty to do that she can think of.  She is a typical pre-schooler in many ways: she doesn't listen to anything you ask her to do; she feels frustrated that she can't get things her own way all the time and has the most amazing temper tantrums. She is still missing her daytime nap (although anything more than 20 mins sleep during the day now means she won't sleep until around 9pm/10pm) so is tired much of the time as she still wakes around 6-6:30am.   Her behaviour, when in this frame of mind, has also caused her a few problems at pre-school.  Her teachers and I have come up with a plan that she helps the teachers around 11:30am each day, which seems to be her boredom time at pre-school.  I feel it is important though for children to experience feeling bored at times and to find creativity within that boredom.  At home, I feel like I am constantly correcting her behaviour or putting her on time-out.  We are currently using a penny reward system where Katie receives pennies for eating her meals nicely and for behaving nicely.  She can then either spend the money on a treat at the end of the week or save it up over a period of time.  I am trying to ignore some of her behaviours but I will admit I am struggling with that.  I am also trying to get more organised so that Katie is clear about what is happening each day and when it is happening in the hope that this will help her (and me!).  I have been feeling pretty exhausted for a long time and recently haven't been as creative, or as patient, as I was a few months ago. I finally saw my GP before Christmas and a blood test showed that my iron levels were very low. That explained a lot!   I am hoping that now I am on iron supplements I will start to feel more energised again and able to find my own creativity to help Katie.

My husband and I have questioned ourselves whether Katie's difficult behaviour is linked to adoption; her age; or some sort of behavioural issue.  One thing that is clear is that Katie is suffering from being an only child. She spent the first two years of her life in a busy foster home with lots of children around.  She misses this on some level I think and wants someone to play with.  I try to have lots of playdates for her to compensate for this and this helps but she is sad when people leave.  She is excited that we are going to adopt her a sister and we really hope that this will help with her feelings of being lonely.  She has benefitted enormously however from being an only child. We have had lots of time to support her development and her breadth of vocabularly is a testament too this input.  She needs more than that though and that is becoming so clear.

Katie has been asking a lot of questions about dying.  When she will die? When I will die? When the cats will die?  I wonder whether she is experiencing some underlying anxiety about separation and whether some of her behaviour is linked to her move to us.  Katie has lived with us for nearly 2 years now; the same length of time she was in foster care.  Since moving in with us she has experienced a close friend of mine passing on and she regularly sees the children of that friend and understands that their mum is no longer around.  Several of my friends have divorced or separated during the past 2 years so she has seen her friends now living with only one parent.  One of our cats died during her first year with us as well.  Add this to her big move to us two years ago and it is clear she has realised that people and pets can leave her.  I do wonder whether some of her challenging behaviour is linked to this?  I try to reassure her as much as possible and help her articulate her worries as much as you can with someone who is only four. I see her biting her nails and it really makes me realise that, although Katie has had a very stable start to her life in the sense of having a wonderful Foster Mum since birth; she has been through so much and our job as parents has barely begun.  We are so glad that we decided to ask Katie's foster parents to be her Grandparents and not force that separation.  Adults struggle to make sense of lesser things. I know the emotions I feel from the loss of 10 babies and so many other people in my life and I struggle to articulate those feelings.  How on earth can Katie  make sense of it all?

Life isn't all stressful though.  These issues I have talked about here aren't the full picture of our lives. There is still lots of laughter and love and cuddles and snuggles and dancing but I am keen to try and ensure that there is a balance between the two and it is very easy to focus on the negatives instead of all the positives.  That is what I am now going to take from writing this blog.  Focus more on the positives!

P.S. Katie is now learning to ride her bike without stabilisers!!!!!!!!

Edit Update: Having seen my GP today and discussed some of Katie's worries about death and separation, she suggested getting some books on bereavement for children, which I have ordered today.  Watch this space, will update on how it goes!!


1 comment:

  1. We are eight years in and our children still struggle to understand at a deep level that we love them unconditionally and they are with us for keeps. Structure, supervision and lots of reassurance work wonders.
    You sound as though you are doing a great job. It is such hard work though. It does get easier (and a bit different too!)
    Great post.

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