Tuesday, 14 August 2012

An open letter to our friends and family

I recently read this great blog post that included an open letter from an adoptive mother to her family and friends. http://casadealegria.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/an-open-letter.html

What a great way to share things with your nearest and dearest without having to say it to their faces  - I know there are some things I struggle to say. Yeah, so I’m a wimp maybe, but to be honest I worry. I already worry -A LOT- about Mini and Dollop, I haven't the strength or emotional capacity to worry about how difficult information about Mini will go down too.
I also think I’m a bit clearer on paper than in person. I get nervous and emotional, sometimes defensive, and lose the thread of what I’m saying. Here I can write, and re-write until I get it all down as I want to say it.
So here’s my go…

To you all,

Thank you for supporting us all those years ago when we chose to adopt. You never questioned us, but you did your best to listen to what we were going through and support us. The process of approval was hard for some of you when you didn’t understand why we had to ‘jump through hoops’ as you saw it. We did our best to explain why, but we never saw it the same way. We used the process to learn about ourselves, about adoption, about adopted children and we did what we had to in order to become a family.

You got excited with us when we first heard about Mini, and you all –without exception- welcomed him into your hearts as if he had been born to us. You all love him and care about him deeply and that is obvious for all to see.

However, things have become difficult, and although some of you don’t understand, don’t see it or don’t believe the cause of his issues; you are still all doing your best to stand by us, listen to us and support us all. And some of you are going out of your way to help us and learn about attachment issues. Some of you have distanced yourselves - and that's fine too.

I’d like to share some things that might help you even further, so you can walk alongside us in this next part of our journey as a family. Some of you have already asked for help because you don’t know how to be around Mini. Please do not take any of this as criticism, it is meant with the best of intentions to help you, us and most importantly Mini.

·         When Mini is hurt, I need to be the one to care for him. I’m not taking over, I’m not pushing you aside, but even now I’m still trying hard to build a trusting relationship between Mini and I. Let him see that his mummy should be the one to heal him when he hurts. By all means make a fuss after I’ve soothed, calmed and cared for him.

·         When Mini needs something, I need to provide it – whether it’s food, drink, a toy or anything else. I might ask you to help me, but Mini needs to see that along with healing him and caring for his ‘hurts’, I will always be there to provide for him, and I will always be his parent…not you.

·         When Mini has been ‘naughty’, then the NC and I need to deal with it in our way. You might think we’re being soft, you might think we’re not addressing the issue, but we are, just in the way that we know is best for Mini. And we are learning (and trying really hard) to see the differences between him being naughty for naughty’s sake, attention seeking, not actually knowing what he’s done, boundary testing because he’s feeling unsafe, nervous/anxious activity. Equally sometimes we might let him ‘get away with it’ because our priority is to make him feel secure and safe, not amplify the shame he already feels about himself.

·         When we talk to him or remove Mini from a situation, please respect what we do. You might not like it, but that’s how we do things because we know what works (and more importantly what doesn’t work ).

·         When we assert our authority, do not undermine us. If I say ‘don’t do that Mini’, then don’t say ‘it’s all right, I don’t mind’. You might have different boundaries and levels of acceptance to us, but we need to keep the boundaries the same in order to make Mini feel more comfortable. Routine is important to him so he knows where he stands.

·         When Mini pretends to be hurt, it’s often for attention or because he’s feeling anxious.  We need to comfort him so please do not use throwaway remarks about diving or silliness. That confirms to him that his feelings aren’t real or valid. Don’t laugh at him or us when we then put a plaster on an invisible cut – read about The Healing Power ofPlasters here instead!

·         When you think Mini is being silly don’t tell him so! We’re working really hard to make Mini feel loved, safe, wanted and important. Knocking his confidence by being negative undoes all the hard work. And actually it’s never ever him that’s silly…it’s his behaviour, though please don’t be negative about that either in front of him.

·         When Mini asks you a question about adoption, let him. If you don’t know the answers or feel uncomfortable then tell him so, and ask us. But don’t ever bluff it, telling him wrong or misleading information (even if by mistake) could make things harder for him.

·         When Mini is getting hyper, take our lead if we try to slow activities down – all kids love excitement, rough and tumble and running around. Mini does too…but we have to protect him from the over-stimulation because he can’t regulate how he’s feeling.

·         And if I forget your birthday, anniversary or other important event then I’m sorry. My head is full of Mini and Dollop, their needs and wants, meeting the new teacher to explain Mini's issues, worries about keeping Mini occupied, the next assessment with Social Services, the next appointment with the CAMHS therapist, the next hospital appointment for Mini’s seizures, my next parent supporter visit, the next blog post that needs writing, along with all the other things that a busy mum of two has to think about and deal with.

This might look scary. It might look like we’re asking you to stay away from Mini and not interact with him, but we’re not by any means. After 4.5 years here, you might think Mini should feel safe and comfortable and settled. But actually, he doesn’t. The only way he’ll ever feel like that is if we continue to reinforce to him that the NC and I are his parents and we are the ones who will always look after him. So all we’re asking is that you back us up and help us prove to Mini that the NC and I are his parents and we always will be.

We all thank you for your love and support

Stix, the NC, Mini & Dollop xxx


  1. Reading your letter is giving me lots of food for thought about how I support adoptive families in my work and in my friendship circle. thank you!

    1. Thank you Mrs V-C... hope you find it useful x

  2. Some great ideas here. I am very tempted to write something similar for our friends and family. Of course we don't do it exactly the same as you (eg when our boys are being silly we tell them so, and reinforce that we know that they are able to behave much better than that) but then every child is different. What works for Mini obviously won't always work for ours.

    What really gels with me in this post is where you say 'please don't undermine us'. Time and again I've felt undermined by usually well meaning people.
    Strangers - when Pup goes up to cuddle a stranger and I call him off and they say "It doesn't matter, he's just being friendly". I know they are not being unhelpful, but they don't hear Pup arguing with me a few minutes later, when I am trying to reinforce to him that he mustn't hug strangers. "But mum, they didn't mind, they said so!"
    Friends - we had an argument with a good friend recently as we were really unhappy about the way she interacted with Pup, she gets him wound up and excited (at bedtime too!) She lets him boss her around when we are really trying to get the message to him that he must NOT boss adults. We are now afraid to let him see her as she point blank refuses to change the way she interacts with him. :(