Top tips for surviving the school holidays

The six-week school summer break has arrived, and the change of routine can make children and their parents feel overwhelmed, so we have come up with some top tips to help you manage the next few weeks.

Routines and boundaries

Kids thrive on routines, but routines will inevitably change over the summer period, without the feeling of safety the school day can bring. Organise a routine from the start of the holidays and try to keep to it as best as you can. Try to avoid surprises like impromptu BBQs and unplanned day trips. Having a visual chart with activities is an effective way to help children see when you are going to be out, going on holiday (and returning) and it also acts as a countdown to when school will be back.

Ensure that boundaries and rules are in place from the beginning. It could mean setting tasks to be completed, such as get dressed; have breakfast; brush teeth, before 30 minutes of electronics.

Plan Days out

Involve your child in the planning of days out, it doesn’t have to cost the earth, it could be a bike ride, or a visit to the park for a picnic. Knowing what they are going to be doing from day to day will help manage the anxiety of the unexpected from such a lengthy period away from school. Remember not to cram too much in and have some down time at home too.

Take time for yourself

6 weeks is a long time to keep the children entertained. Speak to your support network about helping you out for the odd day here and there, to allow you time to re-charge your batteries. Many parents will also need to work during this time, so planning ‘me time’ is especially important.

Going on holiday

If you are going abroad or holidaying in this country, discussing returning home is just as important as talking about going away, as many children will carry with them the thoughts of when they left the care of their birth parents or foster carers. If your child is anxious about flying, reading stories about going on holiday and watching YouTube videos of flights can help.

Having a visual chart showing when you are going away and when you are returning, will add reassurance to your child that they will be coming back. Packing regulating toys and the toys they play with the most can also add a sense of normality, by taking a part of home away with them.

Playfulness

Adding playfulness activities into each day’s routine can help build the trust and connection you have with your child. It doesn’t have to be for hours but adding some quality time (at least 20 minutes) to play will help keep your child calm, and know that you are there for them.

Expectations

We all have good days and bad days and children are no different. We all cope with things differently, so set yourself realistic expectations. Attractions can be busier than normal over the summer, so help manage your child’s expectations, that they may not be able to ride all the rides in the theme park or see all the animals at the zoo. You can use this to teach your child how to deal with disappointment and manage the big feelings that they may have.

If you have tips that you have used to manage the long summer period that have worked with your child that you’d like to share with other adopters then please contact us adoptionwebsite@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

Three Words to describe my parents

Kind, funny, loving, helpful, caring, happy, fun. These are some of the words adopted children used to describe their parents.

As you can see, being an adoptive parent requires the same characteristics as any other parent. However, adopted children will have many unmet needs from their early experiences and will require a little bit extra from their adoptive family.

You’ll be provided with the support you and your family require as you go through the process to become approved adopters, right through to placement and beyond.

Having a positive attitude, patience, resilience, and a sense of humour will give you a good baseline to becoming an adoptive parent and see you through the challenges and rewards of adoption.

Here is what our team said they look for in prospective adopters.

Patience, playful, empathetic, accepting, sense of humour, resilient, resourceful, and committed.

If you are considering adoption and some of the characteristics above describe you; why not get in touch with us to learn more.

Here are some more responses we’ve received from adoptive families who shared their three words with us.

Jillian and John

Mum and Dad

Adopted at age: 2 years

Child age now: 9 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Artist

Ross and Dean

Dadi and Dadi

Adopted at age: 4 years

Child age now: 7 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Quarry lorry driver

Trudy and Edward

Mum and Dad

Adopted at age: 26 months

Child age now: 21 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Successful at life

Sarah and Gareth

Mummy and Daddy

Adopted at age: 5 years

Child age now: 8 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

A normal kind person

Sarah

Mummy

Adopted at age: 20 Months

Child age now: 8 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

A YouTuber

Ruth

Mami

Adopted at age: 1 years

Child age now: 11 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Prima Ballerina

Sarah and Al

Mummy and Daddy

Adopted at age: 13 months

Child age now: 10 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Horse Trainer

Adopted at age: 5 months

Child age now: 7 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Policeman

Cathy

Mami

Adopted at age: 3 years

Child age now: 14 years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Professional rugby player

Adopted at age: 2 Years

Child age now: 13 Years

What do they want to be when they grow up?

Police Officer in the dog section

What does Life Journey work mean for me and my son?

Adoptive parents are encouraged to talk about their children’s life journey with them. It can be a powerful way of helping them explore and understand their history, gives them a better sense of their identity and why they were adopted.

We spoke to Nicola, who is a single adopter from Mid and West Wales about how she introduced her son’s history with him, what tips she’d give to other adopters and anyone starting out on their adoption journey. Here’s what she had to say.

Can you tell us a bit more about your life story journey?

Life story work I believe is critical for the adopted child, but also for me as an adoptive parent. I adopted my son at the age of seven months, so he has no knowledge at all of life without me. To some people this may seem perfect, or people who don’t understand adoption may think it great and the child doesn’t need to know anything, but for me it reinforced that I needed to really focus on the life journey work, so my son knew who he was growing up from a young age.

Almost immediately, before my son even moved home, I wondered (or worried) when is the right time to start talking about the life story? How and when do you tell a child they are adopted? How do you even explain adoption to a child who has no memory of life without you as their parent? Being a single adopter, I also worried about how to explain to my child that he only has a mummy.

After thinking it through I decided day one, at the age of seven months, was the best time for me to start talking about the life journey and adoption. It may seem crazy to talk about this to a baby, but I couldn’t envisage one day saying to my son, by the way your adopted.

Have you maintained contact with your son’s Foster Carers?

We kept in close contact with my son’s Foster Carers and whenever we visited, I would say things like “remember when you used to have a bath in here” taking him up to the bathroom. At first, he didn’t reply as he couldn’t talk, as he got older, he used to say yes and would tell me what he played in the bath, clearly all imagined, and then one day on a visit when he was two, before I said anything he told me “Mummy I used to have a bath here” and “mummy I used to sleep in that room”. Whether or not he had processed this information or not I don’t know, but he had registered and remembered that he once lived in this house, which was a good start as far as I was concerned.

Were you given a life story book for your son?

From a young age I told my son that he didn’t grow in mummy’s tummy. Again, at first, he wouldn’t have understood, but it was being reinforced somewhere inside his brain. When he was three, he pulled up his top and said to his Nanny, pointing at his tummy button, “Nanny this is from when I was a baby, but I didn’t grow in my mummy’s tummy, I grew in someone else’s tummy”. When I was told this, I felt so proud of my son, at the age of three, completely unprompted, walking home from the shop he understood something. Understanding ‘something’ meant to me that when I progress the conversation further then there won’t be big shocks for my son.

I then worked with the Adoption Team to produce the Life Story book. The Adoption Team were great and asked me for lots of photos of me and my son together, my son in places familiar to him now, with his extended family, pets, toys and even asked what he liked. I gave the team lots (a ridiculous amount!) of information about us and they also had photos and information from my son’s first seven months. Importantly the Adoption Team also had a photo of my son with his Birth mother. The book is worded using language I would use every day with my child, and I was asked to proof-read the book and make whatever changes I felt necessary.

The final book is fantastic, it starts by being all about my son now, so it is safe and known to him. It then goes back to the beginning and includes lots of photos of him as a baby, the Foster Carers and the birth mother. Finally, the book moves through the few years that we have already had together. The book contains lots of photos, but also words providing more explanation.

My son loves “The book about (son’s name)” as he calls it. We often sit down and look at the book together. Some days my son will just look at the pages about him now, and completely skip the pages about him as a baby and the birth mother, and that to me is fine, that is him looking at what is important to him on that day and what he can / wants to relate to and being only three I want to be guided by him and have conversations at his pace. On other occasions he will look at the photos of the birth mother, and will say, I grew in her tummy. Just hearing him say that is enough for me at this age, it shows me that my son already understands something. I have on several occasions asked my son if he has any questions when we get to photos of him as a baby or the birth mother, but his questions are only ever queries such as “did I like monster trucks as a baby as well?”, and that’s also ok, because he knows he can ask me questions, and as he gets older I am sure the questions will progress. I also try to add little snippets of information when we look at the book, just tiny extra bits of information about the birth mother so as not to overwhelm him, sometimes this is received well, other times he turns the page.

What challenges do you face as a parent, when it comes to your son’s life journey?

There are always challenges trying to talk about life journey work, even with a three-year-old. Through our choice we have very regular contact with the Foster Carers and my son knows he lived in their house as a baby. However, one day when looking at his book I explained foster care to my son and explained to him it was really kind of Foster Carer One and Two to look after him until he could move home with mummy. My son was horrified and declared that it was not nice of them at all, it was very horrible of them. I very quickly realised that he didn’t understand and was worried that he may have to go back and live there, or they had taken him from mummy. I first reassured him that he was going to live with mummy forever and ever, and then we talked about foster care. Finally, my son then agreed it was very lovely of his Foster Carers to look after him until he could move home with mummy.

Would you recommend any resources to help other adopters?

The other work I have done with my son is to buy some adoption and family books. I bought several books about families and adoption, which demonstrate to him that families can be different and explain adoption, such as saying “you needed a family to love you, I had lots of love to give you” etc. Whilst he will look at these with me, he does protest, and therefore they are looked at only occasionally. However, as I am working through the assessment process for adoption number two, I bought books about adopting a sibling, and these have been more of a hit with my son, and we have been able to discuss why some children are adopted and about finding the right family.

The life journey book has been invaluable to helping my son understand his story so far. Having a photo of the birth mother and some information about her I feel will help him when he is older. We also have the later life letters, but they are safely put away for when my son is much older.

Life Journey work has been a rollercoaster already. Some of the things I have worried about most such as talking about the birth mother have been accepted most readily, and some of what I thought would be simple like the Foster Carers evoked the biggest reaction.

My son is almost four and moved home over three years ago. He doesn’t know his background yet, but he knows he didn’t grow in my tummy and knows the photo of his birth mother and some very basic snippets about her. My son knows what adoption is, he adores his foster carers, he knows he is living with mummy forever and ever, that he can ask or tell me anything, and that mummy loves him more than anything else in the world. For me at this stage this is enough, I will add to his life story as he gets older, in an age-appropriate manner, not overwhelming him, and when I believe he is old enough to understand and process the information.


In relation to life story work, What advice would you give to anyone who has just started the adoption process

  1. From my experience the most critical thing about life journey work is that it is never too early to talk about the life journey with a child. The child’s history is part of them, and you can never take that away or should never want to. The first conversation may seem daunting but having a chat with seven-month-old who cannot talk back is so much easier than the thought of having it with a six-year-old for the first time! My experience with my child is that children are full of surprises!
  • I would advise that you are always open and honest with your child, but in an age-appropriate manner to protect them, help them understand and not overwhelm them. I have always remembered that a three-year-old has no filter. Therefore, whilst being honest, I need to remember that what I say is likely to be repeated, and in order to keep my son safe, details may need to be kept until he is older. This is his life story and not mine to tell, but at the same time what he repeats at a very early age, he may not want shared when he is older. Frequently once information is out it cannot be taken back.
  • My other advice is to work with Social Services to get the right Life Journey book for you and your child. The book needs to be in your language, and it should be age appropriate to your child now otherwise it will be hard to use. I believe my son likes his book because the first few pages are reinforcing positive secure messages to him; is about him now with me, his future, rather than starting at day one as a baby which he does not remember or may be negative for some children. Having a good book that you and your child will use, like we have is so critical to me.

What has adoption meant to your life

Adoption has meant everything to me. I have the most amazing son and I am now in assessment stage to go through adoption for a second time. We have an amazing relationship with my child’s Foster Carers, and I have met new friends and learnt so much along the way.

I would say that in one way I don’t think about the adoption on a day-to-day basis, my son to me is no different to a biological son, and I certainly don’t ever look at him and think of him as adopted. We lead a normal life, whatever normal is. My son is my child, and I am his mummy. However, on the other hand adoption is always on your mind, the life journey work, the unknowns as he grows up and develops, discussions with teachers, anticipating questions, especially around times such as Father days being a single adopter, and so much more.

Adoption changed my life for the better. Whilst there are challenges along the way, in addition to the challenges faced by many other parents, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have already had so many wonderful moments with my child. I wake up every morning to his little voice saying good morning mummy (at a ridiculous time) and just hearing that little voice so happy to see me and call me mummy, is enough to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. There are children out there that need a loving and secure home and providing that to a child, doesn’t only offer them a chance of a happy future, but in my experience enriches your life massively.

We hope Nicola’s story has highlighted the importance of doing life journey work with adopted children and demonstrated how it can help strengthen relationships and children’s trust in adults. If the story has inspired you to consider adoption, then we’d love to hear from you.

Top Tips for helping your Adopted Child through the Xmas period

We all have our own response to the prospect of the festive season. For many of us, our enjoyment of this time of year relates to memories of our childhood Xmases and the desire to create a magical, joyful experience for our own children.

As we do this, it may be worth reflecting on aspects of Xmas which, for some adopted children, might also prove challenging.

Managing emotional arousal

Many adopted children experience difficulties with self-regulation, or the shifting of high-level emotions into a calm, relaxed state. If your child missed key, co-regulatory experiences in their early life, this self-regulation might well continue to be a struggle for them at times. Difficulties managing high-level emotions can be as much of a challenge when the emotions in question relate to excitement as when they are related to fear or anxiety. Consequently, the frenzied excitement we sometimes actively encourage around Xmas can, literally, end in tears. It may be that your child needs a modified approach and extra support to manage party time. It may be that they require your help to maintain a comfortable emotional and physiological state at times of high excitement. Engaging your child in calming, slow-paced activities, using quiet, melodic tones, rhythmic touch and movement and slow, deep breathing can be effective in helping them bring unmanageable emotional arousal down to a more manageable state. It may even be that, for your child, at this particular stage of their development, high emotional arousal is intolerable and feels unsafe. They might crave emotional equilibrium, in which case you might feel that party-time can wait.

Conveying your availability

For many adopted children, change and transitions can provoke a sense of fear and anxiety. Xmas, typically, involves a greater number of visitors to our homes, or more visits to others’ homes, some of which may be impromptu. Even familiar places might be much busier than usual. It can be easy for an adopted child to feel lost, unnoticed and forgotten in a crowd. It can be hard for them to feel certain that they are still at the forefront of your mind. If you are in conversation with others it can seem that your availability to them is reduced. This can be experienced as a threat to their security. Maintaining connection with your child throughout such experiences can reduce any insecurity. You can convey the fact that they remain at the forefront of your mind through subtle means such as physical touch, a frequent smile or a wink and through involving them in your conversations. Keeping them close and conveying that your focus remains firmly on them is likely to help maintain their sense of safety. Depending on your child’s current developmental profile, you may decide to minimize the number of people with whom you interact over the holiday period.

Managing change and maintaining routine

Xmas is typically a time of surprises and marked changes to our usual routines. The unknown and the unpredictable can be a source of significant fear and stress for many adopted children and young people. Surprises intended to be pleasant might well be experienced as anxiety-provoking shocks. While for some of us a strict adherence to routine might feel like a rut, for many adopted children and young people it is instrumental in their feeling a sense of safety, particularly when, all around them, there is palpable change in activity, emotion and even our home interiors. It is likely to be helpful all round to maintain your key daily routines, such as mealtimes, bedtimes and outdoor exercise as much as possible. It may be that your child is likely to benefit from a visual schedule that clearly depicts any changes to routine and ample opportunity to talk about what any changes might entail. This might include, for example, the fact that a friend or extended family member will be giving them a gift and how they might respond. Minimizing, or even avoiding, surprises might be the kindest option. Involving your child in structuring necessary changes to the norm is likely to help them feel a sense of control so, for example having them help you put up the decorations rather than surprising them by doing it while they are at school or in bed.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus evokes a range of thoughts and feelings in children. While for some he is the greatest delight, the epitome of kindness and generosity and someone they wish were a more frequent visitor…… for others he is a strange, unknown, heavily disguised man, who assumes a high level of familiarity. There may be a suggestion that he has, surreptitiously, been watching them all year to monitor their behaviour and judge whether, or not, they are worthy of the gifts he has at his disposal. Added to that, he finds his way into locked homes – possibly even into children’s bedrooms – in the middle of the night, without a soul noticing him and with the explicit acceptance of their parents. For some children whose early experiences have made them hypervigilant to threat, Santa Claus might actually generate more fear than joy – and might also raise painful issues around shame and self-worth. You might like to consider how, and to what degree, he features in your family’s Xmas.

Awareness of sensory triggers

Most of us will be able to identify specific sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Xmas that, for us, provoke a degree of nostalgia or a frisson of excitement. This might also be the case for your child. It is not uncommon, however, for children who have experienced early adversity to present with sensory integration difficulties. Particularly if/when they are stressed and operating in survival mode, they might be hypervigilant, super-alert to all incoming sensory information, and, subsequently, unable to filter out peripheral information. Hence, they might find themselves overwhelmed and stressed by high-sensory environments. Extraordinary bright and flashing lights; loud music, singing and bells ringing; powerful new aromas; and busy shops, cafes, restaurants or town centres might be uncomfortable or difficult to tolerate.

For some adopted children, there is also the possibility that some of the sounds, sights, or smells of Xmas might trigger sensory-somatic memories relating to frightening, stressful experiences from their early days – i.e. memories that they do not consciously recall but which overwhelm them with the emotions and sensations they felt at the time. Unfortunately, we know that the festive season often sees an increase in episodes of family discord and domestic violence. If this is likely to have been the case for your child, you might like to bear in mind the unconscious connotations that certain Xmas-specific sensory experiences might have for them. Children who have conscious memories of Xmases before they joined your family might find that this time of year triggers difficult, painful thoughts and feelings around their identity, their lovability, their self-worth, their sense of belonging and the losses they have experienced. Noticing emotional shifts and talking about their feelings, accepting and validating thoughts and feelings that might seem incongruent with the festive atmosphere, will help your child feel more secure despite their wobbles.

Managing anticipation

Xmas for most children is largely an exercise in anticipation and delaying gratification. The build-up to Xmas Day, filled with hopes and wishes, can seem eternal. It is worth bearing in mind that, for children who have historically struggled, consistently, to elicit basic care, such uncertainty and waiting might actually provoke unbearable anxiety. Maintaining a low-key approach to advent, Xmas lists and the anticipation of gifts might be markedly more comfortable for your child. You might find that a small number of gifts makes for a calmer, more relaxed Xmas than a huge pile of presents which overwhelms and discombobulates. You might like to spread the giving and opening of gifts throughout the day or even over a number of days.

Shaping Xmas for your family

Consider ahead of time the most important features of a successful Xmas for your family. Accept that these will differ from family to family and that prioritizing your child’s needs might entail your explaining to wider family and friends that you need to do things differently this year. Be very mindful of your own stress levels and construct a Xmas that allows you to relax, be playful and simply enjoy each other’s company – as well as enjoying some time to yourself.

In brief, we are all shaped by our experiences and, as such, though we might find ourselves in the same situation as another, will likely have distinct responses. Indeed, that which brings excitement and joy to one person might generate fear, anxiety and stress in another. For many adopted children and young people the greatest joy comes from the sense of security derived from sameness, consistency, predictability and support to manage emotional arousal, whatever the emotion involved.

This is certainly not to suggest you adopt a Scrooge-like approach to your child’s Xmas, but rather to be mindful of their current, individual, developmental profile so that you can shape your family’s Xmas accordingly.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, harmonious festive period!

Adopter Experiences:

Rhys – Adopter

The article has really helped us to reflect on what’s been happening recently with our son. He has been talking obsessively about the Elf on the shelf, and was showing signs of anxiety since his return this year. We have never referred to the elf reporting back to Santa or that he is keeping an eye on him. We recently discovered that school had introduced an elf, that was watching the children. This has spurred us to come clean with our son, that his Dadi has been moving the elf each night and the anxieties have now gone, and things have returned to a calmer state.

Daniel – Adopter

Recently, our son has been displaying signs of being dysregulated at school and at home. Routines have been changed due to practicing for Christmas concerts, a Santa parade with beavers and other things. We put our decorations up the last weekend of November, which on reflection was too soon for him. This story has reminded us that we need to remember that keeping things low-key and communicating with school more, on the run up to the big day is important to support him though the difficult build-up to Christmas.

Catrin – Adopter

My son always struggled with Christmas because there was so much focused on naughty and good, especially in school! He struggled with regulating his emotions, which came out in negative behaviour, and he always struggled with feelings of shame. He felt that he was naughty and because of this would think that he was automatically on the naughty list and Santa would not come. His anxieties always heightened around Christmas, but here are some of the things I did to ease his anxieties.

  1. We reinforced that Santa was coming to our house no matter what.
  2. Christmas Eve was a time of anxiety, as no matter what we said there was always that niggling feeling that Santa might not come. So, we found a Santa Tracker App where you can track the countries Santa is in so they can see where he is. We also introduced a Christmas Eve present of new pyjamas, slippers, and hot chocolate and new DVD (before streaming). Santa would include a letter which said, “enjoy your Christmas eve, I’ll be back later to drop off your main presents”. This worked a treat because he felt reassured that Santa was coming and also gave him some treats to enjoy on Christmas Eve.
  3. We never put up our Christmas decorations until about one to two weeks before Christmas. With so many changes in school and with extra parties to attend we kept home life as low key and normal for as long as we could.

12 days of Playfulness

Relationship Based Play (RBP) is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent/carer and child and is personal, physical, and fun!

These 12 days of Playfulness ideas are some activities that you can try and will enhance your approach of using RBP. If you do it wrong, it is just play which is great for your children! The activities need your imagination to add detail and are not competitive but playful and fun!

Enjoy!

Day 1 (13th December)

Snowball fight with scrunched up toilet paper or cotton wool.

Keep hold of the snowballs to use in other games we have planned in the coming days.

Day 2 (14th December)

Create your own elf to put up on the wall.

Get your child to lay still on a large sheet of paper (or multiple sheets stuck together). Draw an outline of our child and colour in together.

Don’t forget to leave room for your little elf’s hat and share your creations with us.

Day 3 (15th December)

Snowball cup game.

Simply place paper cups on the floor/table and take in turns to throw scrunched up toilet paper or cotton wool.

Day 4 (16th December)

Why not make a Christmas present out of your child, by wrapping their body in wrapping paper and getting them to break out – Don’t forget the bow on top.

Or alternatively turn them into a snowman by wrapping toilet roll around them and again getting them to break out.

Day 5 (17th December)

Sing a Christmas song as a family and including your child’s name in the song.

“(Child’s name) the snowman was a jolly happy soul,

With a corncob pipe and a button nose

And two eyes made out of coal.”

Day 6 (18th December)

Build a den/grotto.

Creating a space where your child/ren can feel safe, during the big build up a week before Christmas. Use the den as a good hiding place for hide and seek.

Day 7 (19th December)

Snowball Basketball

Make a hoop out of your arms and take it in turns to shoot some hoops with scrunched up toilet roll or cotton wool

Day 8 (20th December)

This little Reindeer.

Just like ‘This little piggy’ nursery rhyme, add a festive twist by incorporating Santa’s reindeer.

Day 9 (21st December)

Go on a festive scavenger hunt

How many of these decorations can you spot near your home?

Christmas Tree; Festive lights on a house; Snowman; Santa; Snowman; Reindeer

Day 10 (22nd December)

Santa Balloon tennis

Decorate a balloon as Father Christmas and/or Rudolph, and gently knock back and forth keeping the balloon from hitting the floor.

Day 11 (23rd December)

Snowball blow

Take it in turns to blow cotton wool, back and forth with your child. This is a great exercise for children to self-regulate.

Day 12 (24th December)

Measuring and feeding.

Why not use string fruit sweets to measure your child’s smile.

If adoption is something you have considered, but want to learn more, please contact us for an informal discussion. We’ll support you every step of the way and help to create your golden moments of becoming a family.

You can get in touch by phone 0300 30 32 505 or email adoptionenquiries@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

We are also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

What adoption meant for me! An adopted adult’s story.

As part of National Adoption Week, we spoke to Rebecca who is an adopted adult. Rebecca reflects on her life story, shares her feelings of adoption, and gives her views on some of the things prospective adopters need to know. Here’s what she had to say:

How old were you when you were adopted?

My parents adopted me from birth. They were working in Malaysia, and expressed an interest in adoption because they thought they could not have children. My birth mother had informed the hospital that she wished to relinquish me at birth and she left the hospital soon after giving birth to me. So I was placed with my parents when I was 2 days old.

When did you find out that you were adopted, and were your parents openly discussing adoption and sharing information with you?

I’m Chinese Malay and my parents are both Welsh, so I’ve always known that I was adopted. It was something that we always discussed, and it was never hidden from me. I know they didn’t have any choice but to tell me as I clearly didn’t look like their biological child. However, I think that always knowing was a positive thing. It meant that, it wasn’t a shock finding out, I grew up knowing that my parents chose me to be their child and because my parents always shared as much information as they could, I never felt that it was a taboo subject. I learnt that my birth father had passed away in a motorbike crash, but there was never much information about my birth mother. I know she was 16 having me, and I’d like to think, that her age led to her decision that she could not care for me.

What did it feel like as a child being adopted?

As I didn’t look like my adoptive parents, this inevitably marked me out as different. This was even more evident when my younger sister, who is their biological child was born two years later. However, they never made me feel that I was anything other than their first daughter because they treated me exactly the same as my sister in terms of love and telling me off!

Naturally and perhaps even more poignant for me because of my ethnicity, I went through the phase of wondering if I looked like my birth mother or father, whether I had any brothers and sisters or whether I was good at something because my mother or father were. However, wondering about these things didn’t mean I loved my adoptive parents any less or indeed that they were less important to me. I recognised as I was growing up and perhaps even more so as an adult that it is their love and commitment that has formed me into the adult that I am, given me the opportunity to formulate the principles that are important to me and given me the foundation and drive to pursue what I have achieved.

Was your experience of adoption positive?

Most definitely. I know it might sound strange but being adopted is something I’m very proud of. My parents gave me permanence, and whatever reasons my birth mother had for giving me up, I know that it has given me opportunities I would not have had if I had remained with her.

However, I appreciate that I have had a very positive experience and that is not the case for everyone. I have met other adoptees and their stories haven’t been as positive as mine and I know adoptive parents who have gone through difficult times with their adoptive child but to be honest I think that parenting is a difficult job whether you are the parent of an adopted or biological child. So  ultimately it boils down to, all you can do as a parent is to provide a positive, loving and healthy environment for your child to meet their potential and become whoever it is that they will be.

My parents did that for me and my childhood was full of rebelliousness (on my part) and arguments but a whole lot of laughter and much love too and for me the difficulties we faced have as much shaped my experience being a positive one as all the laughter and good times. As it was the process of working through the difficult times that sometimes proves to us as children, that despite us being difficult and annoying you still love us.

What are your greatest achievements?

I am proud of the achievements I have made in terms of my career, and that I had the opportunity to go to university, but for me my greatest achievement is my family.

My mum and dad provided us with amazing opportunities whilst we were growing up, my sister and I travelled around the world with them and we had some great experiences and some truly harrowing ones like being stuck out in the Iraq/Iran war and the Gulf War. Both my parents coming from Llandeilo meant that we settled back in Wales when I was in my early teens. My mum sadly passed away when I was in my 30’s but my father, who is nearly 80 has a really close relationship with my son and they are both football mad. My husband, being Welsh is more a rugby fan but seeing the three of them going off in the car on a weekend to watch my son play football really does give me the best feeling. When I have my sister, her husband, my two nephews and niece who I absolutely adore and their black Labrador and my dad come over on a weekend,  it’s a mad house but when we all get together, and I watch my family laughing around our table, clichéd as it sounds I know that this is my greatest achievement.

Have you had contact with any siblings/birth family?

As I was adopted abroad and in the 70’s it would not be as easy to get in touch with my birth family as it might be for children adopted more recently. However, I’ve never felt the need to go looking for my birth family. For me, it simply wasn’t something that I have had a strong urge to do. I thought this might change when I had my own child, but now I finally have someone in the world who looks like me I feel even less inclined to seek out my biological family.

I do sometimes wonder whether my mum thinks about me on my birthday, whether I have brothers or sisters and if I look like or have characteristics of either of my parents but I think this is something that all adoptive children will naturally consider at some point in their lives. Just as biological children often wonder if they look more like their father or their mother or have any of their attributes. However, having discussed it with some of my other friends who are adopted and have sought out their biological family, the need to find our biological families is individual and not necessarily a barometer of the how they feel about their adoptive family. I know my adoptive family would have been fully supportive if I wanted to explore this and the safety of knowing I would have their support and was able to do this with their blessing makes me love them even more.

As an adopted person yourself, what advice would you give to prospective adopters? What do you think they’d need to know, to support an adopted child?

Every child is different. However, I feel that it is important to be open and honest and to share their child’s life story with them. I don’t think adopters should worry about their child’s history, it’s a part of who they are, and they should share the information with them (in an age-appropriate way), when the time is right.

I was naturally curious about my birth family, and because my parents shared what they knew, which wasn’t very much, it’s something that I grew up knowing and it was not a shock or big secret. My parent’s openness helped me to understand my history and allowed me to accept why I was adopted. As a child I did not realise how distressing the experience was for them until recently, when my dad explained how scared they both were that up until the point the papers were signed and the adoption order was made, my mother could have asked for me back.

Talking about the fact that your child is adopted with them and showing them that you are comfortable answering questions about birth family or indeed any other queries they might have, will mean they feel they can be open with you. It will also reassure them that it is not a subject you do not want to discuss with them. Even if it is hard for you. I felt I could and wanted to discuss being adopted with my mum and dad because they were my safe place and it laid good foundations for us being able to work out lots of complicated and challenging issues that did not have anything to do with being adopted.

If Rebecca’s story has inspired you to consider adoption as a means of starting or expanding your family, then please contact us. https://adoptionmwwales.org.uk/contact-us/

We need adopters from a variety of backgrounds so we can place children with families and individuals who share their own culture, language, and religion, and many people now decide to start a family later in life.

We are interested in what you can bring to a child’s life. Ultimately it is your capacity to make a commitment to providing a loving and permanent home to a child which makes a difference.

There are many reasons why people think they are not eligible to adopt, but here are some of the myths that surround adoption. https://adoptionmwwales.org.uk/adoption-myths/

The school summer holidays have arrived, and as adopters, our children’s routines are thrown into disarray.

We spoke to Rhys an Adopter from Mid and West Wales, who has shared his experience of therapeutic parenting, and how he prepares his son for the loss of routine during the school holidays.

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us about what inspired you to adopt?

My name’s Rhys and I adopted with my husband. Being in a same-sex relationship, adoption was our preferred option to be able to have a family of our own. I was always worried about having children in a same-sex relationship, that they would be teased or bullied, but after getting married, I could see how much acceptance there was for me and my husband and we knew how much support we would get and could see that things were very different to what they used to be.

Can you tell us a bit about your adoption journey?

We approached Adoption Mid & West Wales in January 2017 and were on the preparation to adopt course by the March, before we met our amazing Social Worker who carried out our assessment. The assessment was very intrusive, and no stone was left unturned, but the process gave us the opportunity to reflect on our upbringings, our relationship and how we would be parenting our child. After Panel we had a match immediately and we got to meet our amazing son in May 2018.

What is the PACE parenting approach and how do you incorporate that way of parenting?

We learnt a lot about parenting in a therapeutic way during the process, through discussions with our Social Worker and on various training we attended. The PACE parenting approach is Playfulness, which we found to be the easiest to implement. As an example, one thing we’ve learnt, instead of saying “it’s bedtime, up you go”, which would lead to sulking and a mini tantrum, we turn it into a game, where I would say “When I fall asleep, I’ll wake up and you’ll be hiding upstairs”, works every time.

With the Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy elements of PACE, it took more to put these into practice. Our son was 4 when he became part of our family and understood more about what was happening in his life, so it was vitally important that we showed him that we accepted that it was difficult for him to process things, like moving from his foster carers, where he felt safe, and we showed empathy around it, whilst reassuring him that we are his Dadi’s, and it was our job to keep him safe now.

We’ve used the curiosity element a lot with school. If we can see, after school that he was struggling, and we were made aware of something that had happened that day, we would start wondering out loud, we don’t necessarily direct the questions at our son, but would have a discussion between ourselves, so that he could hear.

Why would you recommend PACE?

I have fallen into the trap of asking, “why are you doing that?” on a few occasions, which can lead to him feeling shame, when he is clearly struggling with some big feelings, and finding his past traumas difficult to process. PACE has helped steer our parenting in a more positive light.

By following the PACE parenting approach, we can calmly redirect, by introducing playfulness, but we always try to come back to the feelings by helping him to manage them, and showing that we accept he’s found it difficult, and show empathy.

We’ve heard that you are a very organised individual! What do you do to stay organised and why is it important to you?

A major lesson we learnt in the early days of the adoption was the importance of structure and routine. When our son first moved to live with us, we stuck to the same routine that the foster family used, as any major changes would have made him feel even more unsettled.

We introduced routine charts from the very first night, to help him visually see what his morning and bedtime routines looked like. Our son loved the visual aids and they helped him follow the structured routines.

We have used various charts over the past few years, including one highlighting when he was going to be in school, going to breakfast club/after school club and when PE was happening in school, etc.

When it came to the time for my husband to go back to working shifts, and for me to start shared parental leave, our son found it difficult, when he woke up or was going to bed and my husband wasn’t there, so we introduced a chart that showed when he was going to be home for the morning and bedtime routine, which appeased our son’s anxiety to the situation.

We’ve got to the stage, that each school holiday, our son announces that “it’s half term, we need a new chart to show what we’re going to do in the holidays!”

What tips do you have for adopters going away as a family for the first time?

For the school holidays, we’ve always created a chart that counted down the number of days until school started back, where he would put a sticker on each day. When we were going abroad for the first time, we used the same chart to put 2 aeroplane stickers on the day we were flying out and the day we were returning home.

We spoke a lot about going on a plane and showed him YouTube videos of planes taking off and landing (top tip – watch the videos yourselves before showing to your child/ren, as some are not appropriate). When discussing going on holiday, we always reassure him that we are coming back. We’d never been on a holiday before where the main point covered was returning home, but it was important for him to know that this is our home, and we would be returning to it.

And finally, what has adoption meant to you?

Adoption has changed our lives. Our little boy has filled our house with so many toys and so much joy. Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments like every family, but the positives far outweigh the negatives by a long shot. I am very close to my family, and to see the way he has fitted in with everyone has been amazing. A very important part of our son’s life was the time he spent with his foster carers, and we very much see them as part of our extended family.

If adoption is something you have considered, but want to learn more, please contact us for an informal discussion. We’ll support you every step of the way and help to create your golden moments of becoming a family.

You can get in touch by phone 0300 30 32 505 or email adoptionenquiries@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

We are also on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Dad speaks on Father’s Day about amazing experience of adopting

An adoptive dad of two has spoken of the privilege he feels watching his children bloom and grow.

Alex* has described becoming a father as a ‘totally new and amazing kind of joy’, and on Father’s Day is encouraging more men to consider adoption.

Through Adoption Mid and West Wales, Alex is telling his story in the hope that it will inspire.

The service supports families and individuals along every step of the adoption journey, matching children with people who can provide them with a loving, safe and stable family life.

For Alex and his wife, their decision to adopt came after unsuccessful fertility treatment which led them to reflect on their family plans.

Reaching out to their local authority adoption team, the couple were matched with a little boy just over a year from making their first enquiry.

“We had always talked about adoption as a possible route to starting a family,” he said. “We did try a round of IVF when it was clear we couldn’t conceive naturally, but after that was unsuccessful we took some time out to reflect.

“We started the process in January. We had a pretty normal year whilst going through the process – went to work as usual, went to festivals, on holiday, spent time with family and friends – and fitted meetings with social workers and courses in between.

“We did try to read up as much we could and attended extra courses and training outside of the ones organised by the local authority. We had the approval panel in December and after being successful there we didn’t have too long to wait before a match was found.

“We didn’t specify what gender we wanted our child to be, but the local authority did a very good job of finding a child that matched our lifestyle and profiles.

“We all have ways of finding our own joy, but becoming a father was a totally new and amazing kind of joy that I hadn’t experienced before.”

Such was their positive experience, that two years later Alex and his wife decided to adopt again.

“It was a more straightforward process second time around, as we knew what to expect,” he said. “We had a different social worker who hadn’t worked with second time adopters before, so she was a bit surprised at our level of confidence!”

Alex now confesses to be ‘the world’s biggest adoption bore’ and says adoption has been a positive experience with an amazing ending.

“Having spent many years without children in my life and finding joy in many other ways, I try hard not to make out that people without children are somehow inferior, but it is an utter privilege to be able to provide two children with a safe and secure environment to watch them blossom and grow as amazing human beings.

“To anyone considering adoption I would advise to go into it with your eyes open as there will be issues that will crop up that you may not have thought of, but stick with it – at the end of the day these are children we are talking about not bug-eyed monsters!

“There are lots of support groups for adoptive mums, but very little for dads, so if the opportunity comes up to go for a beer with an adoptive dad then take it – you will find out that adoption is way more normal and commonplace than you think! Oh, and if you have access to the Apple TV channel then watch ‘Trying’. A very funny and fairly accurate summing up of the whole process!”

This Father’s Day – weather permitting – Alex and his family are going camping.

“The relationship I had with my own father was a lot more traditional, so I am trying to be a lot more open and loving with my children. When I spend time with my friends who are also dads, I don’t feel any different to them – I love my children unconditionally and I’m extremely proud of them.”

Adoption Mid and West Wales is a dedicated service that supports adoptive families to come together.

The team recruits, trains and assesses prospective adopters to provide high-quality adoptive placements for local children and young people, enabling them to live with permanent new families.

There is no set criteria to becoming an adoptive parent – it doesn’t matter whether prospective adopters already have children, whether they’re single or a couple (straight or LGBT+), whether they’re married, unmarried or in a civil partnership.

Children are matched and placed with adoptive parents who are assessed as being able to provide a stable and nurturing environment and have the skills to meet the needs of the children.

Ongoing support is provided to adopters and their families throughout the adopted child’s life.

Locally,there is a need for adopters from a variety of backgrounds so children can be placed with families and individuals who share their own culture, language and religion.

Anyone interested in finding out more can visit adoptionmwwales.org.uk for advice and information.

An online information session is being held on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, at 6.30pm – register before Friday, July 16, 2021.

Enquiries can also be made with a member of the adoption team – email adoptionenquiries@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or call 0300 30 32 505.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the children