So the other evening as I snuck into my children’s bedroom’s to stick up post it notes, I found myself sparing a little thought for all the other Adoptive parents out there.
Exhausted from a day at work and yet more negative feedback from the school all I wanted to do was flop in front of ‘trashy TV’ and switch off. Instead I found myself scribbling notes of positivity for my children to read first thing in the morning.
In the world of adoption there is no room for the ‘Slummy Mummy’ and there is an expectation for us to take a therapeutic approach in everything we do. Adoptive parents are required to repair and build attachments by being playful, accepting, curious and empathetic in our responses with little room for human error.
In real life what does this actually mean? Well picture me first thing in the morning with my stop watch racing my child to get dressed when he point blank refuses to get ready for school. Of course in reality I’m still stood there in my pj’s as he wins in a matter of seconds every time, but I silently fist bump the air as I secretly know I’ve won the battle against ODD for that morning.
I’ve tried all manner of Theraplay exercises over the years with my kids. My littlest quite often asks me to play ‘the toilet roll game’. This involved me tying a toilet roll Samurai head band around his head as he karate chopped his way through more loo roll than an Andrex Puppy! Now I’m not sure if it was therapeutic in the slightest, but what I can tell you is that is found us rolling round the floor laughing so hard we were crying. Freeze frame that moment of connection between me and my child and that there is what I believe the methods are trying to achieve in order to develop and strengthen those attachments.
No matter how much training I take considering a therapeutic response ‘in the moment’ is exhausting. Having been parented in a loving yet typical parenting style of that time, at times I hear my mother creeping in and before I know it the words ‘pack it in’ are out of my mouth before I can even consider a response.
Some day’s you’re going to get it wrong and rather than deescalating situations you’ll find yourself locked in a parent and child battle. In the beginning I would think back to my training and inwardly beat myself up but over time I have learnt to name my own emotions so in turn my children learn to understand theirs.
So when I get cross I say sorry and I explain to my children if I’ve had a bad day at work which helps them to identify their bad days at school. On my hormonal days where I resemble the Mandrake plant in Harry Potter (google it that really is me) I explain to them how hormones impact on our behaviour and will for them in the future; and on the days where we cry over them or whilst watching ‘Children in Need’ or ‘Pride of Britain’ (yes both myself and hubster) I explain to them it’s because we are empathetic people who can understand and share in the pain of others.
Whilst therapeutic parenting may sound ‘happy clappy’ to some as my Mum would say (whilst handing me a plate of liver and onions) ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it Joanne’
So, when my child is struggling with eye contact we play the ‘blinking game’ where I stare into their eyes and see who blinks first. let me just say my daughter and husband are legendary at this game but I am woeful as I find myself wanting to avert my eyes in a matter of seconds. Interestingly enough I’ve since noticed that I do this during conversations when I become nervous, shy or uncomfortable.
The concept of ‘therapeutic parenting’ for me is to take what works for us a family, be creative, improvise with the theory and ditch anything that doesn’t work for you or your children.
So the other day I put positive affirmation to the test and we started our day on a positive note. When my youngest child bounded into my room without mentioning anything I asked him ‘did you see any notes this morning?’ and his response which kept me smiling throughout the day ,’Yes Mummy, do you know, I think Father Christmas left them for me’.
My eldest son didn’t mention them either but when he kissed me on the cheek that morning I nearly fell off the bed in shock. Our teenage daughter had already left for school but not without leaving some positive affirmation of her own.
The outcome for me is that there is definitely room for some positive affirmation in all of our lives….will we remember to do it every day…..unlikely. Am I partial to a frozen fish finger and a glass of wine (Daily Mail Slummy Mummies)….absolutely. As my Dad always says ‘everything in moderation Joanne’.
and lastly some positive affirmation to all those parents who are struggling out there.