Thank you. Just by looking here you have already demonstrated a desire and willingness to start understanding the unusual parenting task ‘they’ (those you love) have undertaken. They are on a rollercoaster and really need your support, however it won’t be easy, what you expected or what you desired for them.
Sometimes you may be confused and may feel they are doing “it wrong”; that their parenting style is too lax/firm; too controlling/free; not age appropriate. Sometimes you may think the child needs punishment for “bad behaviour” yet the adoptive or foster parents respond with hugs and in soft “babying” tones. You want to nurture/play/scold/spend individual time with the child but they stop you.
Yes – they are doing things differently to your way. Yes – they are inhibiting your desire to be a granny/uncle/aunt/grandpa or be significant in that childs life. Yes its frustrating and upsetting. Yes you want the fun of grandchildren like all your friends. Yes – there is a sound reason.
Seven weeks after my (this is written by Helen Oakwater) children were placed with me for adoption in the early 1990s, close friends, John and Rebecca, played with the children in the garden while my husband and I prepared lunch. Afterwards one of the kids asked “are they our new mummy and daddy? I was horrified and assured the children we were their “forever parents”. I later reflected that John and Rebecca behaviour was the same as ours during “introductions” at the foster carers. No wonder the kids were confused. It accounted for why their Ninja turtle trainers were filled with urine (again). Fear overriding bladder control. These kids had experienced multiple moves. So how could we demonstrate to them that this ‘placement’ was the last? One way was to be their only carers/nurturers; the only people fulfilling parenting roles. Subsequently John and Rebecca came in the evenings after the kids were in bed.
Back then, there was little understanding about the effect of maltreatment, neglect, frequent changes of carer. People thought infants incapable of remembering anything whether good or bad. We now know better. Every memory is stored, (even though we may not be able to consciously access them). Children hurt through maltreatment, need therapeutic reparenting to (1) undo the damage and (2) fill in the developmental gaps. Unfortunately my parents never grasped this concept. This made life difficult for me as they undermined my parenting strategies, even when these were recommended by professionals, books, courses and experienced therapists. I did not feel supported or understood by my parents, hence sadly was unable to fully share my life with them. They could not see that the kids were not “clean slates’ when they arrived, and that the legacy of trauma pervaded our lives. They wanted my kids to be like their friends grandchildren. They believed that the children should be punished or smacked for “bad behaviour” (spare the rod and spoil the child) and could not accept that the kids behaviour was fear and shame based. In short, they only saw things from their perspective, not from the childrens or mine.
If, by educating yourself and being open to new thinking, you are able to stand in the shoes of the hurt child and their new parents; you will understand the need for therapeutic reparenting (undoing the damage and filling in the gaps) and work out how best to offer support. This is a priceless gift for your loved ones. It will enable your inclusion in their lives.
Please explore this site (and beyond), read, learn, listen. Widen your horizons. Review your expectations. From this perspective you can make a massive difference to the life of the traumatised child who has entered your world. Your role is not just to make them feel welcome, but to support their parents in creating an environment where they feel safe, secure and eventually can heal.
This is not a task for the faint hearted. Its not for the sentimental. Its not what you expect or probably wanted. However it could be the biggest and best thing and you’ve ever done.
You might find this article AUK article dec 14 xmas about Christmas helpful as it offers more explanations and practical ideas.