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Why are our children so sad?

Prince Ralph July 4, 2022 14:56

I have not been on this site for 10 years. Since I was a prospective adopter and a bit soon after, but i just got too busy with life.

My daughter is 12 and has been with us for 11 years. Things have never been that different from a birth child, except more of everything. More clingy, more intense, more scared, more bigness, so to speak. We have learnt to pre-empt lots and lots. Pre-empt transitions - nursery, primary school etc. We were very lucky to have a primary school where her class peers didn't change. I think nearly every child who started in her class all went through to year 6. The majority of her class were gorgeous kids with big hearts and they scooped up my daughter making her look kinda normal. Whatever normal looks like. It was a typical class of 30 kids and she had lots of friendship groups that she could dip in and out of. She has made and still has some lovely friends from primary school, although she is not with any of them in her secondary school. Forward a year. She is almost a year into secondary school. It has been the most difficult transition I could imagine but I thought she had survived it. We have gone from hiding in the car to getting out of her own accord and I thought all was well. Then came some friendship issues, followed by tearfulness and distrust at school (teachers and friends), the periphery of school refusal, starting her periods, and now here we are, in a difficult place. She is sad most of the time. She oscillates from 0-10 on the anger scale, mainly when she is asked to do anything that involves going out or going to school. Whatever we do, it is never enough. She believes that she was rejected at birth (she won't listen to her birth story, refuses to engage in it) and believes that we don't want her. She couldn't be further from the truth.

So I would like to ask a question of someone who was once in our position. Someone who might do something different, or someone who would like to go back to the moment their smaller younger teen began these very difficult tween years. What would you say to your old family self? What would you do that might have made a difference? Or better still, what did you do that meant things stayed level. What kept the harmony? What got your through? I have a mental health background and lots of experience of working with families. But when it comes to my own daughter and my huge love for her, I am at a loss. I am currently just trying to find outlets for myself that bolster me for when she comes home from school. But I Wont lie. The thought of the long summer holiday fills me with dread. But then, she won't want to go back to school in September anyway.

Safia July 4, 2022 19:22

My son was in a similar position - lovely class at primary school and with the same kids all the way through - loved school and they dealt with his needs by default as he was in the group that had a TA. Secondary school soon became a nightmare - it eventually became school refusal - he was referred to Camhs when he told the SENCO he’d taken a knife and wanted to kill himself. He was 14 by then. I don’t know if I’d have done anything different as such - it’s hard when you have a legal responsibility to get them to school. The SENCO said he wanted to be home educated but I’m not sure that would’ve helped at that point. I also think it was them trying to rid themselves of him - and we agreed another school probably wouldn’t be the answer. I think the main thing is to put her mental health above everything else - at the end of the day it’s the most important thing. Find something she loves and she’s good at - and support it in any way you can. For my son there was a sport he did at school and he was in the team and the coach was very supportive. He now coaches that sport himself. Also if your daughter will engage in life story work that could be helpful - especially with the comments she’s making - the ASF will fund that easily. Try and keep communication open with her and show her you’re on her side and listening to her. Check whether she has any learning difficulties or specific issues with any subject holding her back. And don’t forget to look after yourself

Edited 04/07/2022
Safia July 5, 2022 09:37

I guess something I might do differently now is research all the options at a much earlier stage before it got so bad - and make sure I built up on all the things he loved and things we could do together. I only really looked at home education very late on and it covers a huge lot of options - if you look at the old archives there are many people who took this route and many variations on what they did. I guess think “out of the box” really

mumiam July 6, 2022 13:46

Prince Ralph, having read your post you could be describing my son nearly 3 years ago. Lots of good friends in primary although he was never really a fan of school. We had a disastrous transition to secondary and pretty much went straight into school refusal. For far too long I pushed him and the school as I truly thought school was the best place for him until I had the lightbulb moment when I realised that I did not want that school to be part of any solution. Choosing to home educate has been by far the best decision I have made. We have been able to tailor his education based on his aspirations, he’s bright, intelligent and creative but not academic so he’s able to learn at his own pace and find topics he really enjoys. He does lots of sporting activities too. He’s off to college in September as part of their pre-16 programme so he can begin to study the subjects he will need for his chosen career path.

So what would I have done differently? Chosen home education much sooner in the process. Almost instantly my son went from a highly anxious, angry and unhappy boy to someone who found a way to enjoy life and became able to take opportunities for new experiences. I now live with a happy, content and far too cheeky 14 year old. It has also been great for our bond and attachment.

chestnuttree July 6, 2022 18:32

I would have made it my priority to find a secondary school that was like my girls' primary school. We first chose a secondary that seemed friendly and welcoming, but it was huge. Soon the bullying started and the school just didn't have the resources (or will) to support my kids adequately. So we left and found a small secondary that feels like their primary. That has made an enormous difference. I regret not having left their first secondary right when the bullying started.

I would research mental health problems like ADHD, ASD, ODD, OCD etc. earlier, just to have a very clear idea on how they present and therefore to be able to identify possible symptoms as early as possible. I would consider medication earlier.

My daughters have always enjoyed reading books with characters that were adopted/had mental health problems/ had suffered losses etc. I think they processed a lot of their own life story through reading those novels. Is that something your daughter does?

Did your daughter's birth family contest the adoption? For my children, that has taken on a very positve meaning.

Agape July 12, 2022 17:02

Dear Prince Ralph,

What you describe is not uncommon. There’s a book called “The primal wound”. It’s worth reading. It explains possible, and I insist possible, explanations for what you and your daughter are going through. It also gives some potential home interventions that may help you navigate through her difficulties.

Also, make sure you take care of yourself. It sounds unrealistic but it is a must. Have you got family/friends that could help you? I can assure you, you are not the only one who is dreading the summer so called holidays!

Wishing you the best


santamonica July 26, 2022 13:48

My AS went through and is still going through something similar. Great in primary school and even managed to cope reasonably well with Y7 and Y8 in secondary school. Looking back things started to go wrong at the start of Y9 - being 'ill', late to school etc. Then lock down arrived and his world unraveled. He had just about been coping with the normality and routine of school, this was taken away. The long and short of it is that he school refused through the latter part of Y10 and most of Y11. The stress of trying to get him to school was unbearable for both of us, resulting in violence and aggression towards me. Luckily, I spoke with the adoption social worker and they agreed to fund NVR therapy and get a psychological assessment done. This April my AS was diagnosed with high functioning autism - everything clicked and fell into place. Lock down had disrupted his coping mechanisms and he is still struggling to cope - college is the next mountain to climb - but we will get there. My advice - seek that help now. It may be that the coping mechanisms she had, she can not sustain anymore. Things got better for us, when I stopped pushing and accepted that school was not going to happen. Perhaps home education is the way forward.

I hope that you find the peace and happiness that you both deserve.


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