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 firstname.lastname@example.org