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Coping Mechanisms.

Coping Mechanisms.

So for those of us attempting to support our children who come with a range of trauma and problematic starts in life; we spend a considerable amount of time observing - thinking about and trying to work with their coping mechanisms. 

We all learn: either in our training, by reading or by experience that our children have a set of coping mechanisms that endeavour to keep themselves safe. Their brains have become hard wired in such a way that trying to make change is terrifying for them. I heard an amazing metaphor about car tracks in the snow and how when we try to drive across them it can cause chaos – much like our little ones brains. So any attempt to remove these coping mechanisms is likely to end at least in dysregulation and melt down or at worse increasing and adding to their trauma. 

I understood this objectively before munchkin came and I understand it subjectively now that munchkin is here. What I didn’t think I gave much consideration to was MY own coping mechanisms: good and bad. Through my training I considered what support I may need and how I may function in moments of stress, but did not identify how I can stop myself from feeling overwhelmed in general life.

What I didn’t give enough consideration to was how I would feel about giving up my coping mechanisms which, up until I was 44, had kept me safe and stable. There are the little ones and the bigger ones: a glass of wine with friends after a tough day at work is replaced by running to after school club to not incur a penalty or increase anxiety in a late pick up. 

In 2 years I have been out after work 2 times.  A morning 5K run or a gym session is replaced by running around the house, mainlining coffee and tracing lost reading or spelling books. The lack of exercise has also lead to an increase in weight (and a decrease in positive body image) and a sore back. 

Now for the big one: in 20 years I had visited 72 countries. I spent most of my adult life on flights, taking photos and being the envy of my friends. I had seen this as an amazing set of experiences and an opportunity for dreams to come true. But now, now I am not so sure...

When I reflect back I was running. The list I was running from was endless: feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, fear of commitment, having no baby. 

So now when I feel inadequate and lonely - what can I do? I can’t get on a plane, as there isn’t a country for me to run to – my coping mechanism of 2 decades has gone…I feel a fool for not realising it before munchkin was here and I feel an even bigger fool for not working it out for the last 2 years. But now I have, what do I do……… 

I need to develop a set of coping mechanisms but how do you do that – don’t they evolve naturally?  Eating chocolate isn’t working for me, watching rubbish TV doesn’t work; day dreaming of where I could take Munchkin next school holiday isn’t the best thing.

So last Monday was day one: the day I said I need more support, that I need some better coping mechanisms to make me feel less lonely and less inadequate. So I start the day by meal planning something healthy but tasty, I decide to spend money on myself and book an Osteopath appointment. I decide not to go shopping, to do no cleaning on a non-work day and to have lunch with a friend. I decide to cry when I feel sad and don’t care who knows. I decide to come clean with my friends and admit that I am lonely. I say a small thank you to the most amazing soul mate I have, give my munchkin a kiss and allow myself a little smile and a feeling that today I don’t have to be perfect -  just good enough is ok.


All Was Good.

My siblings and I grew up being told by many around us what good parents we had and I guess we have always accepted that at face value...

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All Was Good.

Terminology that comes easy

I admit that  I am an older mum, but my brain hasn't gone to mush. I am not stupid, in fact I am quite clever - so why does the playground expectation and language floor me every time?   

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Terminology that comes easy

Get Real

'I thought these are your real parents, no?' 

'So you are not real brother and sister then?' 

I guess most adopters have experienced questions such as these being asked of us or our children at some point. It's frustrating to say the least and at worse it can feel insulting and indeed be quite painful, even so I am surprised at some adopters reaction to it. 

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Get Real

Growing up.

I left my nearly 10 year old daughter at home, on her own, for the first time last week.

 I knew she was tired and that a 10 minute walk to collect her sister from a local playdate would be met with moaning and groaning, so I gave her the option of staying at home whilst I popped out...


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Growing up.

I Hate You.

I was at a meeting with non adoptive parents and somebody brought up the fact that their child had screamed ‘I hate you' at them the day before and how hurt she had been by this, almost all of the other parents said that they had experienced the same and the group went on to discuss how difficult it is to hear  and how hurt they had been.

Both our sons have indeed declared their hate for us in fits of anger - as well as the possibly more dramatic ‘you are not my parents anyway’, but neither my partner or I had been hurt or upset.

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I Hate You.

Parenting is hard work.

I underestimated how hard parenting is.

I love my child dearly and parenting him has turned out to be both more wonderful and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined but also much much harder than I ever thought.

It's hard, testing work and it's difficult to navigate. 

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Parenting is hard work.

Change.

We sense a change.  

A small change, but a real change and - fingers crossed - a fundamental change. Although of course we could be wrong - we certainly have been before....

We think we are seeing signs that our younger son's anger and the screaming and shouting that are a consequence of that anger are being controlled. They are still there, still part of our lives, but it's somehow feeling different.  There now seems to be a desire from him that was clearly not there before, a desire to bring our 'battles' to an end. It's clearly a struggle, but a struggle that maybe he is winning. Slowly, gradually he seems to be taking control. 

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Change.

Bedtime Stories

....I’d share some of the books that have helped our family along the way as we wrestled with tangled feelings and attachments, not adoption books per se, just beautiful stories. So, this is not exactly a review, not exactly a blog, just some thoughts on the healing power of story. 

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Bedtime Stories

Are You Gay?

Why is it apparently so difficult for parents to ask their children if they are gay?

Time and time again we read or watch accounts of young men and woman coming out and saying that their mother or father said that they had realised for a long time.

Realised, but had said nothing. 

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Are You Gay?

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