Thursday, 20 September 2012

Back to basics and creating connections

We got our feedback from our MIM (see post here aboutInteraction) this week. We met with the Theraplay Therapist – Dave, who has watched the video of us all interacting with each other and analysed it. Of course, I know this is only one person’s opinion, but it all makes sense…For info - Dave knew very little about us before meeting us, so he can be objective.

The good news is he feels that Mini does have an attachment with us, which I would hope for after 4.5 years. And he seemed to feel it was a positive, loving relationship. He could see lots of kindness from me and the NC towards Mini. He also picked up lots of eye gaze –again important for a kind, loving, nurturing relationship. 

Interestingly Dave picked up on rejection and abandonment as being a big issue for Mini (even if Mini himself doesn’t realise it) – and wasn’t surprised when we explained the contact in his first year. He feels this is a big part of the problem, and suggested that we never, ever walk away from Mini. Even if we’re going to the toilet, we should just check in with Mini and let him know which is something that I try to do anyway.

Dave feels that some work around Mini and Dollop and their differences will be important in the future, and he feels that he could offer Mini some life story work when we are all ready. Mini already knows he’s different – that’s part of our problem too, and so this work will be really important to him in helping him make sense of himself, and what’s going on in his head.

 He also picked up on Mini’s inability to play (we already know he is play-delayed) and gave us the news that Theraplay would be a no for us right now. I’d pinned all my hopes of moving forward on this, so I’m a bit gutted, but I understand that Mini isn’t ready for it. We are under instruction not to introduce any more Theraplay activities at home, and not force play at all, although we’ll continue with the Theraplay techniques we already use – weather massages, our version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, occasional swinging Mini in a blanket and more…

We’re also too soon for PACE – Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. Right now we only need to work on Acceptance and Empathy. I’ve talked briefly before about the ‘I wonder’ technique of Dan Hughes - part of Curiosity, and many adopters use this successfully, but for Mini, wondering about what he’s thinking or feeling won’t work because he genuinely doesn’t have a clue. For now, we need to provide more narration on his 'inner world' for him and give him the words first.

The biggest thing to come out of this feedback session is a lack of attunement. I like to think I’m quite connected with Mini, but Dave thinks that as much as we’re not attuned to Mini, he’s not to us either. We need to connect with him more and become part of his inner world. Sometimes we are, but Mini doesn’t recognise that. It comes down to missing that first year with him. With a birth child, indeed with Dollop; there was an instant connection, something natural. When she was a baby we mirrored her faces, that’s how she learnt – when we smiled at her, she smiled back and so on.
Mini might have had that with his foster carer (I’m sure he did…she is great!), and probably in contact sessions with his birth mother, but it wasn’t consistent because he had different carers, and it wasn’t with us…

So before we move on, the NC and I have to work much more on matching Mini’s body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, so he understands and feels that we’re ‘getting’ him. So no bounding up to him at the school gates if he comes out looking like he’s had a crappy day. And if something upsets him we need to match him and talk for him about what’s happened and what he might be feeling, and apologise if we’ve made him feel that way. And when Mini’s hyper, talking quickly and animatedly will match him and will ensure he doesn’t have a chance to butt in and disagree. Hopefully it will also make him think ‘oh yeah, they understand me and how I feel, and yes…that IS how I feel’.

So we’re going back to basics, and we’re rebuilding and re-attuning with each other. And we’re making Mini feel like we get him. This is all pretty scary, and it’s hard, so Dave will support us and we’ll see him again in a month or so. If we’re still struggling with it, we’ll have to do….’ROLE PLAY’… and the thought of that is more scary!


  1. Gosh what an interesting post. So much to think about - not surprised it's scary for you. Very honest - enjoyed reading it xxx

  2. Wow this is interesting. I'm sad for you that your hopes of the theraplay haven't come to fruition just yet but there's no point in pushing Mini if he's not ready for it. The attuning is very interesting. I'll do a bit more reading on that. I hope that you start to reap some rewards from mirroring his behaviour. Do keep us posted on how that is going. Good luck xx

    1. Thanks Gem. It's bloody hard work! The NC is struggling with the matching more than me, and is finding the whole thing frustrating. I'm not sure if we're doing it right (we'll find out in a couple of weeks when we see Dave again), and it feels uncomfortable doing it, but I do feel like Mini and I are connecting better so it's worth feeling silly and self-conscious! xx

  3. Sounds Luke good sense , when you think about it , if your good friend or husband came to meet you for coffee and their body language was all down and glum , we would be looking kind of glum too and asking why wouldn't we .
    Just discovered your blog , I am a foster carer , this is amazingly helpful in making me aware of how I can help the children in my care to be ready for adoption and how to support the adopters , thank you so much Xx

    1. Thanks for your comment. It does make sense doesn't it, and I think lots of us do it natually anyway in many situations.
      It's when he's angry or hyper that it's most difficult, but we're getting there.

      I think it's wonderful that you're so sensitive to how you can support both the children in your care, and their adopters x