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Archive for the ‘attachment’ Category


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holding handsThe title of this post didn’t mean much to me until last week when I listened to a presentation from Laura Steckley at a Scottish Attachment in Action conference. Laura talked about the concept of containment and how it relates to the regulation of emotions from early infancy and beyond…

Containment in this context describes the process where an infant seeks out emotional regulation from their carer by projecting their unmanageable feelings to their carer to manage. The carer absorbs the feelings and reflects them back in a more manageable form. It is an important part of the infant, caregiver relationship and links closely with the attachment process.

I really liked this way of thinking about emotional regulation, especially in adoption and fostering where children might not have had much emotional containtment in their early years and could still be projecting what’s unmanageable for them and chucking it your way to process. It helps make sense of those situations where ’emotions run high’...

Another important point that was made is that carers can become ‘uncontained’ in trying to contain the emotions  of children in their care…

All of this got me thinking about ‘containment for containers’. For practitioners that can be in the form of professional supervision, for parents and carers it might be one-to-one support, a chat with a social worker, support groups, online forums, friends and family, or a book and a cup of tea. Whatever works for you, it’s important to recognise that you’ll need to find ways to help you feel supported and ready to deal with whatever emotions might be thrown at you.

On a professional level, I have regular supervision, and on a personal level I rely on my network of friends and family, and lots and lots of tea… What works for you?


Written by adoptresources

September 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Checking in…

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One of our boys pushes against routines and longs for free time with no structure. So the summer holidays are his idea of heaven, or so he thinks. In reality though, he’s not sure how to handle the lack of structure and we’ve learned over the years that putting in a bit of a framework, chunking up the day into blocks of time and giving him options for what to do when, gives us all an easier time.

As he gets older and more independent, playing out with friends has become a big part of the holidays. He’d happily disappear for the whole day but too much time away can see him disconnecting from us. You can almost see him putting a bit of distance between us… a bit of bravado, bad language and attitude all helps keep everyone at arms length.

stop clockSo we’ve built in an invisible checking in system – giving him a 2hr check in time – either in person or by phone. So he can still play with friends and feel like he has the freedom that the rest of his peers have. The end result is that things don’t unravel so quickly and we keep a better connection even with more freedom.

What strategies help you keep the balance over the holidays?

Related posts:
surviving the summer holidays
a weekend away

Coming soon… Adoption summercamp – a weekly programme to help you keep your sanity over the holiday season… email for more details

Written by adoptresources

July 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm

When the going gets tough…

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Being a parent through adoption brings it’s ups and downs…. some are part and parcel of being a parent and some are unique to adoption. When you’re in the middle of a down, it can be difficult to pick yourself up and keep going. The hard thing is that this is often when your child needs you the most.

To be emotionally available at a time when your energy levels are low is not easy. So what can you do…

  • tune into your own feelings (difficult when you’re tuning in and trying to respond to those around you!!) and recognise when you’re getting stressed
  • take some time out – even if it’s just to go into another room/sit down for a cup of tea/read a magazine
  • don’t try to tackle difficult issues when you don’t have the energy or resources
  • explain how you feel in easy to understand, non-blaming ways… “I’m not going to… right now because I’m feeling tired/sad/need a rest…”
  • and give an opportunity to reconnect… “we can try that again when…”
  • take a step back and think about possible triggers for whatever is going on right now… are there any recent changes that might explain changes in behaviour… sometimes things that have been dealt with a long time ago can resurface as children reach a new developmental stage
  • is there anything you can bring into your family routine that can help
  • talk to someone who understands… your health visitor, social worker, friend, fellow adoptive parent, foster carer, adoption coach
  • explain to your partner/family how you are feeling – can they help take the pressure off you/are they ok?
  • ask for help from your support network…
  • if you can , book in some babysitting or extra childcare to give you a chance to recharge your batteries ***you need to balance this with the fact that your child needs you and will need to see more of you but they do not need you stressed and approaching burn out***
  • think about your diet, sleep, exercise etc – often at times of stress we don’t pay enough attention to our physical needs.

Part of the secret is in recognising your stress levels and acting on them and remembering that to be able to care for your child and respond to them emotionally, you might need to give yourself a little TLC first.

Do you have any other tips to share? I’d love to hear your comments.

Written by adoptresources

July 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Being a Mum

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It took me a while to feel like a Mum. Now this could be something to do with adoption or not. It could be that it just took me a bit longer to adjust to things and that I might not have felt I earned the title with a baby either. My guess is that it’s partly due to the massive jump from not being a Mum to being a Mum and partly due to the nature of adoption and trying to fast forward the relationship of being a stranger to being the closest of relatives.

First time around it took me a while to feel like a proper Mum – to feel like I knew what my children needed, that I could predict and meet their needs with the blink of an eye/beat of a heart. Second time around, I had earned my Mum badge of honour, so things didn’t feel so strange, I didn’t feel so ‘unreal’.

Another big difference between our first and second adoptions is attachment and the effects of early neglect. We were the fourth family the boys had been with. Their view of life was not that your Mum and Dad were there all the time but that people came and went and, sadly, from their very early experiences that Mum and Dad were not people you could rely on to keep you safe or be there for you. When they came to us we were so eager to be parents but they were not so excited at the prospect of a new set of parents. The imprint left by their early experiences skewed their view of the world. People had moved in and out of their lives so why were we going to be any different? In fact, they often seemed to be on the lookout for the next set of ‘new parents’.

Our daughter was in care from birth so her early years were very different and her trust in adults and belief that she would be taken care of well established before she became part of our family. She is living proof that, with the right support, you can transfer secure attachments.

As well as the differences in our children’s experiences, I think too that some of my feelings about being a Mum relate to not having had the experience of being pregnant or of caring for any of my children from when they were seconds or minutes old. I miss that I’ve not had that time with them but it doesn’t define my relationship with them. It takes time to build up trust and for love to grow and although I wasn’t ‘Mum at first sight’, I am Mum in all the important day to day ways that matter now.

Written by adoptresources

March 12, 2010 at 1:02 am

Adoption is…

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I was checking out some of the AdoptResources webpages before launch of the website and one of the boys asked what I was doing… I told him the site was going to have bits of information for other Mums and Dads who have adopted and said that another thing that I’d like to do is put some stuff together for boys and girls who have been adopted. He thought that I knew all there was to know about adoption (!) and I said that I didn’t because I don’t know what it’s like to be adopted and asked if he could help out with that… “Well,” he replied, “it’s a bit like being homesick… ” I don’t know what I was expecting but I didn’t predict that. He went on to say not homesick all of the time but some of the time… Son number 2 was listening in and chipped in… “well, I think it’s like being kidnapped…” . That response was a bit more predictable as it fits with his current view of what’s happened to him and allows me to be the evil, wicked stepmother/childcatcher/kidnapper character in the dramatisation of his adoption.

I love that the boys can talk about how they feel and I genuinely don’t feel upset by revelations that, at times, I am second best. One thing that I’ve grown to know is that there is a huge loyalty to the birth family running through the core of our boys even though they know on some level that their birth family didn’t quite do what families should do. Holding onto that connection is like a survival instinct – to lose connection with who you are, where you’re from might mean that you’re forgotten about, even threaten your existence.

So I’m not going to engage in a competition for the title of real parent – I know how real I am and also know the parts I can’t fulfil (again not chip on the shoulder stuff but honest open realisation of the fact that my relationship with my sons did not begin from their beginning). It makes me no less of a Mum, just a Mum with a difference… and one of my jobs is to help my boys make sense of being homesick or of being kidnapped…

Written by adoptresources

February 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm

The Importance of the Early Years

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Children’s early experiences give them an understanding of their world, the people in it and themselves. From this they build their sense of self, trust in others and start on the building blocks that will help them learn. Language skills develop, along with the ability to form relationships and interact with others. Physical and motor skills develop, along with sensory awareness. A huge number of seemingly small steps occur equipping the child with key skills to function and thrive in our society.

There has been a lot in the news recently about parenting, from the three main parties in the UK competing for the family friendly vote, to the debate surrounding a horrific crime committed by two young boys who have been on the receiving end of some spectacularily poor parenting.

‘Good enough’ parenting provides children with the right environment to grow and develop emotionally and physically. There will always be the odd bad day where some of our parenting choices might not be the best, but on the whole, most parents are motivated to do the right thing for their children and this can only be a good thing. The parenting section of any bookshop is a testament to the efforts we go to to get it right for our children. But neglectful parenting, where even a child’s most basic needs go unmet, can have a deep and lasting negative impact on children.

The importance of the early years is universally accepted, but our response to poor care in the early years is not just about improving the current situation for the children involved (through parenting support or finding alternative care – whatever response is appropriate in the individual situation). Our response also needs to accept that the effects of neglect will not necessarily be wiped away with committed parents, a good routine and a few sticker charts. We need to look at different strategies and approaches that might help fill in some of the gaps, and at ways of helping children to make sense of their story and build a true and positive sense of themselves. With appropriately targeted information and support, there are things that can be done to repair some of the damage caused by neglect.

So some of the current media focus needs to stretch a bit further to reach those who have suffered neglect, recapture some of the magic of the early years and improve outcomes for their future.

Written by adoptresources

February 3, 2010 at 8:14 pm