Telling It Like It Is.... Book Rhymes with Right Hook!

It’s amazing how quickly the light hearted feelings from a holiday dissipate and fade away into nothing more than, well a memory. This is part of the purpose of these posts. Telling the story behind the pictures.  The memory plays fantastic tricks on us. With time we forget just how stressed we might have been at the point in time the photo was taken. We can look again when the memory pops up a year later on Facebook with our rosy-tinted glasses firmly placed over our eyes and feel a wash of nostalgia at how much the children have grown and how cute they looked in that outfit. The ability to move on from painful emotions is important for our mental health. Getting stuck in difficult emotions is part of what leads to mental health problems. Being able to let emotions come and go is the key to emotional well-being. Living in the moment and accepting that we might feel a huge amount of differing emotions in the space of 24 hours is an important skill for us as adoptive parents and for the children we are parenting. Often our children are stuck in their emotional development and project onto us a variety of challenging emotions, forcing us all to become stuck in a loop of trauma and secondary trauma. Slowly we realise our world is a little less colourful and our emotions feel more restricted and flat as we guard ourselves against the myriad of challenging behaviours we face on a daily basis. That’s why it is important to feel all the emotions that come and go each day. Taking a moment to really feel and acknowledge anger, sadness, joy and happiness and helping our children to recognise that feelings aren’t permanent is an important part of emotional development. Often though we fear the voracity of our children’s emotions and feel we have to dampen them down as quickly as possible. Never fully acknowledging the full extent of their rage, or ours. “Quick, distract them before they kick off or meltdown or lose the plot” (delete as appropriate) is the mantra I hear many adoptive parents whisper under their breaths. We hold our breaths and hope that making no sudden moves will let the moment pass.

What if we weren’t scared of all those emotions and felt comfortable and confident in expressing our feelings and teaching our children to understand the full depth of theirs. What if we stopped and really acknowledged their feelings, in the moment. “You really want that toy don’t you?  I can hear how much you want it. It feels like a really big wanting feeling doesn’t it?” Stop for a moment and imagine saying that to your child. What are the fears that rise up in you? Write them down and ask yourself why you have those fears. What would happen if we could confidently allow our children to really feel all those feelings but also feel confident in then saying “I can really feel how much you want that toy today but we won’t be buying it today”. Stop again and take a moment to see how you feel now. I suspect you’re feeling terrified of what might happen. I know I do. Yet this is something we are attempting to do with Katie and Pip. Taking some of the fear out of parenting their very big emotional reactions. 

This is very pertinent for us currently because Pip’s emotional responses are enormous currently. Scary enormous. I have a lot of breath holding going on. With good cause at times but I will say when I can be brave and go for the above approach and manage to keep my own fear in check we generally have a better outcome than when I try and shut down his emotions. I have less than 5 seconds generally between hearing a problem arising and world war 3 breaking out with Pip totally losing all emotional control. Trying to be one step ahead is an almost impossible task. I also realised this week that my own exhaustion and trying to keep everyone happy is playing a part in me missing escalations. 

The children are currently both doing the reading challenge at the local library. Six books have to be read over the holidays and then they have to recount the story to the librarian in return for a sticker. Both Katie and Pip are getting stuck into books and I’m hoping we can finish them all in the allotted time. When we went to the library this week to return our first books there was a table set up with cut out cats, glue and colouring pens. Katie was keen to make a cat and Pip reluctantly made a necklace that looked like Double G’s from the TV programme Game Shakers. I was trying hard to meet the needs of both children. It was a tense day already when we arrived. Things hadn’t been going well. I was tired and feeling fed up and quite frankly just going through the motions. Pip was anxious about telling the librarian about his book so I suspect he used up some of his emotional restraint in successfully doing his retelling. Whilst we were doing our glueing and sticking, with Katie needing a lot of help because she is also feeling stressed for a variety of reasons, Pip got another book he wanted to scan out and take home. I was in the middle of helping Katie as he grew more and more insistent that he was able to scan the book himself. Because his reading isn’t yet confident enough to read all the instructions I said to him that he just needed to wait for me to finish with Katie and I would help him. He continued to insist he could do it. I tried to shut his need down with the age old “wait a minute and let me finish helping Katie”. He didn’t want to listen to that reply or wait for me to finish. I then made the error of feeling irritated with him because he kept on moaning at me to scan the book and I cannot always meet the needs of two people simultaneously, unless it involves slushies. I continued to repeat that he needed to wait a moment mostly because he was starting to get quite rude. The next thing I knew he lost his temper and punched me in the eye. 

That was a shock I can tell you and it bloody hurt too! I felt a wave of embarrassment and frustration and pain and failure as a parent all mixed up together. Pip ran and hid behind some bookcases and a lady who was also sat at the table with us with her children got up and gave me a hug. I wasn’t actually expecting that last bit to happen and I struggled with being comforted in the midst of all my own emotions which gave me more insight into how my children might feel at times of high emotion.  She said to me that she was used to the same difficulties with her children (leading me desperately to wonder why but sadly I didn’t find out). Pip came back a few minutes later and cried his little heart out with the shame of what he had done. We had a cuddle and I reassured him he was ok but that he had hurt my eye.

Although we resolved the issue as best we could I was left with a sore eye and a feeling that I could have handled the situation differently in the run up to Pip losing his cool by really listening to his need to scan that book our urgently. You and I know it mattered not a jot for him to wait 10 minutes but at aged 5 with the emotional age currently of a toddler I made a call to put Katie’s need (and mine) to finish off her cat before scanning the book out. Logic doesn’t factor with toddlers though does it?  However because I’m emotionally rather stressed myself due to the intensity of the holidays with the children without a break I wasn’t able to acknowledge his feelings because I was too busy trying to shut them down. I forgot he was highly emotionally charged and prone to excessive reactions. Sadly I can’t go back in time and experiment whether the alternate approach would work. All I know is I felt sad and depleted for the rest of the afternoon. Our cat was rather cute though and I learned that Pip has quite the right hook! It’s amazing what you can learn at the local library. 

The other thing I wanted to ask the readers of this blog is if any other children are obsessed with glue and sticky slime? Katie is seriously obsessed with making sticky concoctions or adding hand cream to blue tack which I know she likes squishing. I suspect there’s a sensory element to this but it’s causing real problems at home. I’ve set a ground rule that she’s not to steal my shampoo, soap, flour, bubble bath (or anything else slimy) and make slime in her bathroom or bedroom. Flour is a nightmare because if you don’t add salt it expands and moulds quickly. I’ve said we can make it downstairs at the table we use for crafts and homework but she continues to steal ingredients and mix secretly. I’ve clamped down by hiding as much as I can but it’s exhausting constantly wondering where my toothpaste and nail varnish etc has gone. I lock my bedroom door and have locked away my baking ingredients but Katie has a real “screw you” attitude going on currently and won’t be set rules by anyone at home. She’s ruined her en-suite as a result which is heart breaking. I’ve taken her phone away which I know won’t solve the problem because FASD affects her ability to restrain her whims but makes me feel a bit better.  Also I’m fed up with being called a “fucking bitch” so felt some response was required. I also feel if she’s not able to restrain herself with things like making slime I have to be careful of letting her have the phone. I find sticky slime all over the house, on the furniture, in her bed. It’s horrible and ruining clothes and furnishings. The funny thing is because she tries to find things I have to choose new hiding places constantly so I’ve hidden the phone and now can't find it. It’s a bit like changing passwords and then not being able to remember the clever new one you made up. I’m not sure what the answer is. I’ve tried buying her ingredients and setting boundaries about making concoctions downstairs but she continues to ignore the rule about her bedroom and not stealing. Even going to the library I noticed she put glue all over her hand to fiddle with it. I’m curious if anyone else has had this issue? I’m torn between understanding her sensory need and protecting our poor house and I’m fed up with trying to find my missing belongings. As always I’m happy to hear any suggestions or solutions. The stealing at home is a real problem that I know is shared by many adopters. 

So tell me, how are the holidays going for you? 
Are you breezing through enjoying your days or are you feeling frazzled and disheartened? 
What gets you through the days? 
Join in and share your tips and ideas in the comments below. 

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