Survive or thrive?

This week’s theme is surviving strategies – what a great theme? One that we ALL need to hear and have probably struggled to find over many years. We’ve been in this world of adoption for about 11 years now – 3 on the process and 8 with our three children. Along this incredible journey there have been many surprises, disappointments, challenges and moments of victory.

I also sit on a local adoption panel and each time I’m there seeing new adopters come through the thought goes through my head – “how on earth did we get approved and why did they give us three??”. This question comes from the fact that we were not a strong couple when we went through the assessment – we had issues as many of us couples do and of course the immense pressure of having any traumatised child placed is great BUT three!!

The only reason we were allowed to have three I’m convinced was because we could ask for help. We had reached out to others in the past to help with our relationship at times and had a strong network of support around us. Sad that the Social Workers at the time didn’t know that of course half that network would disappear once children placed! But we could at least show we had the skills to build support around us.

I’m amazed these days as I see people go through approval process that they haven’t started to build those links with other adopters. They don’t go to support groups, don’t seem to realise that you need to have friends who can understand and help when things get tough. You can’t just magic those people into your life when you are in crisis. You need to already have a relationship before that!

I’ve also, along with many others I’m sure, been very disappointed and outraged at times at the lack of support from the Local Authority. This varies of course throughout the country but often there are similarities. Lack of resources available, lack of understanding, lack of funding and the lack of professionalism within the system means we are cast adrift with our children who’ve been let down by an old fashioned system steeped in bureaucracy.

Having said all the negatives along the way this post is about not only surviving this journey but thriving. Is it possible? When I talk to other adopters or read posts on forums it seems near impossible to get to a stage where you feel you are thriving as a family and not just clinging on for dear life. I’m not saying I have necessarily found the answers but I can say I am forever grateful for many things along the way:

  1. My friends. I started a support group about three or four years ago now with a specific focus on keeping positive, finding hope and also being real. This group of ladies have held me and carried me through many challenges with my children and life in general. Without them I would’ve found it tremendously difficult to stay focused. That’s not to say that within the group we’ve not had very difficult situations with our children but having people who understand and can support is priceless.
  2. Being in the present. I don’t know about you but I find it really hard sometimes to enjoy the little moments that occur. Those times of fun and laughter. Tender moments when a child hugs you (who doesn’t normally come anywhere near you) or just every day situations where it feels ‘normal’ with my children. I hang onto those moments. I have a book by my bed where I write all those tiny moments I’m thankful for – this list is over 400 now. Some days I can’t write anything but most days I can find 2-3 things to write. A nice cup of tea, an in joke with my son, a nice meal out with friends. Life is full of moments and when we can acknowledge them and look back on them it CAN help to balance things when the tough times are overwhelming.
  3. Spreading the load. The complex issues our children experience can be totally all consuming, especially if we tackle them on our own. As I mentioned earlier often it’s not worth relying on the state to help – unfortunately. We could moan about it forever (and we do need to campaign for change) but it is our reality right now. So what do we do? For us we are fortunate to be part of a church community that provides input to our children that is vital. There are other ways though – you could find places like After Adoption and other groups who can be another positive adult for your child. Our youth leaders especially share the load and build relationship with our teenagers who are in that time when they don’t really want to talk to their parents – these mentors are in a position to be able to influence and show our children that adults can be trusted.

These are just three things that have helped us as a family to thrive and not just survive. Sometimes it feels like we’re barely surviving and I’m not saying any of these things are easy – they’re not. But without these three things I know I’d be that person adrift with no support for me and no input from others for my children and with no perspective on the good moments that are there. I hope for you reading this that you have some life lines too! One thing I’ve learnt is we have to be creative about where our support comes from – it’s not from the places it should be, so we have to find them ourselves.

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Nicola Marshall

With over 13 years working in personal development Nicola Marshall has attained numerous skills and a genuine care for others. She is a fully trained coach, adoptive parent as well as the founder of Brave Heart Education.
Nicola Marshall
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