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Foster Carers' TSD Standards covered:

Author Details


Name: Sally Donovan, Adoptive Parent and Author

When the adoptive family boat is steady, it is tempting not to do anything to risk rocking it.  There are times when we must sit tight, for everyone’s benefit and wrap ourselves in the warm cloak of routine and predictability.  There are also times when it’s beneficial to stretch fragile comfort zones a little for example when Mum needs some time away (it’s hard work keeping the boast steady and sometimes it’s boring too).

It is only within the past year that I’ve started going away.  Not going away very often you understand, just occasionally.

Last week I visited The Open Nest charity in Whitby and was away for three days (two sleeps) and my absence compromised the cloak of routine and predictability.  I had prepared everyone carefully and put in place comforts and attachments and nice food and mobile phone top ups: all part of the ‘think toddler’ brain gymnastics I go through so frequently now it’s second nature.

I returned from a relaxing and rejuvenating trip to be greeted with a laundry basket full of wet clothes and bed linen and a child who within a few hours of my return was bouncing off me in a state of what I can only describe as barely contained anger and eyebrow raising rudeness (after having apparently ‘coped really well’ while I was away).  A shadow of despondency passed over me at the return of something I thought we’d cracked a while back.  For a day or two I tried to kid myself it was a urine infection whilst a voice in my head quietly whispered the words ‘regression’ and ‘trigger’.  Even after the experiences of the past few years I still fall back into the welcoming arms of denial from time to time.

Before long my boiling, obstructive, wet child collapsed into me and without any prompting said,

‘I think I might be feeling angry with you for leaving me because that’s what my first mum did.’

She had put the pieces together and I realised that the regression had come with a bright flash of progress.

‘I wonder if that anger has reminded you of what your life was like as a baby?  I wonder if that’s the reason for the wetting.’

‘I think it might be,’ she replied.

‘It must have been frightening and lonely.’

‘Yes <long pause> and I don’t want to talk about it any more.’

I am practiced at listening to the child who shouts, smashes and rages trauma, because there’s nothing to do but take notice.  It is impossible not to take notice.  The ‘out there’ trauma style of our older child demands attention and energy and thought and wondering.

The quieter, ‘undercover’ trauma style of our younger child can be more puzzling and less demanding of immediate attention.   It looks different, but the same fears and anxieties and shamefulness lie beneath it.

When regression involves the return of a behaviour which we find frustrating, especially if it increases our domestic workload, it is tempting to ignore it or to try and nag it away.  ‘For goodness sake, how old are you?’ we may feel like bleating.

This week has been a lesson to me in the need to listen hard and to look out for the pieces of the puzzle.  So often regression comes at times of stress or transition and so often I’ve found that it paves the way for remarkable learning.


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