What has isolation taught me?

This week is the turn of our second Quran-teen-Ambassador, Tegan.

Well, not to boast, but I think I have mastered some new skills. For one, I can now watch YouTube from a 180 degree angle, whilst…in downward dog! But, apart from filling my days with fun, mostly pointless activities, isolation has also taken me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, where I’ve come to some important realisations about myself.

In one day alone, I have felt overwhelming happiness, anxiety, anger, gratitude and loneliness. I have found it hard to get motivated, easy to eat chocolate and easier still to slump on the sofa and say ‘this is impossible‘.

Yet, I have also had days like today, writing this, in the sunshine, whilst wearing an outfit I love (no PJ`s in sight BTW!). So when I got stuck writing this blog, I turned to my friends. Pixelated as they may have been, they said, “come on, you can do this!” and, even better, through their cheesy smiles and fist pumps, they told me two very important things:

No. 1: I was not alone

No. 2: I could do this

As someone who is adopted, feeling isolated is not a new experience. Throughout my life, I have had times where I have felt very alone. I have felt left out of friendship groups, classrooms and even family gatherings. What someone else would think of as a simple question, like “how much did you weigh when you were born?” or “what colour are your dad’s eyes?” has had the ability to set me off into a spiral of disconnection, detachment and rejection of the people around me.

So many times, a voice in my head has perpetuated my isolation by telling me “you are not like everyone else here” and “you don’t belong”. This has often been paired with a deep seated feeling that if they actually cared or understood me, they would know not to ask such questions in the first place.

Before I knew it, the voices would multiply and overwhelm me, until I would be walking away from my friends as they laughed over baby photos, I would be refusing to help in school group-work or make rash decisions not to speak to a certain relative again because of what they just said. In a few seconds, I can convince myself that I am totally alone, even when I am surrounded by people who love and care about me. So you could say, I am a self-isolation expert!

However, like earlier today, my experiences have taught me that these feelings do pass and that by letting people in, even when I feel the loneliest and least understood, my friends and family will always be there for me. Even when it comes to things they don’t understand, they won’t hesitate to run after me when I leave, give me a hug or even just a smile.

Whether it`s zoom calling your grandparents, having film nights with family or baking your favourite cake with you siblings, making sure we stay in touch with the people we love is the best thing we can do right now. I hope you are all healthy and happy, and remember, ending a worldwide pandemic is tough, but together, we are tougher!

So yes, coronavirus might be making connecting to others harder, but for every one of us who has felt lonely before, we can look at isolation and think:  You know what, we have beaten this before, we got this!

If you or any other adopted teenager you know might be struggling right now, tell them about Teen Talk. Teen Talk is free online support service where adopted teens help other adopted teens make sense of their thoughts, feelings and worries, visit www.scottishadoption.org/teentalk for more information.

It’s Mel!

The first of our Teen Talk blogs come from our Children’s Worker Mel!

The office is closed, life feels very different, but its Wednesday, so the After Adoption Team at Scottish Adoption are together at their usual time for the weekly staff meeting. However, this week, we’re beaming-in for our first virtual video meet up. As I waited for the meeting to begin, I reflected on my own week. It’s been tough. I’ve felt a bit wobbly and am worried about what all of this situation and its current restrictions would mean for my ability to practice. That said, as each of the team’s familiar yet pixelated faces appeared and we shared, laughed and supported one another, I felt re-assured, more relaxed and ready to get back to working in supporting our families. Plans have been made to ensure that our Social Workers will continue to offer regular individual video/voice calls and that our therapists are creating innovative ways to offer Music, Art and Occupational Therapy. So basically: same, same; but different.

This week I experienced first hand that staying connected, no matter what form it takes, is incredibly important. Scottish Adoption is a community that supports one another and we want to continue to support you the same we always have. If you need any support for you or your family over this difficult time, for any reason, please get in touch. We’re in this together.

Mini Blog number 2 will from our Teen Ambassadors The ISOL8EENS

Family Christmas Celebration

I remember not being able to sleep the first Christmas Eve we had with our son…

Our Son’s first Christmas with us was an amazing bundle of emotions.  He was 2 and I definitely think my husband and I were more excited about it than he was.  Growing up Christmas was always a big thing for us so I was super excited.  I remember not being able to sleep the first Christmas Eve we had with our son, and we couldn’t wait for him to wake up on Christmas morning. We had to wait until 8am for him to wake up and it was torture ha ha!  He opened his stocking in our bedroom and his wee face when he saw it was a picture.  He took a present out of his stocking and opened it very carefully and sat on the bed and played with it, he loved it, me on the other hand, couldn’t wait for him to open the rest of them.  Did I mention I was super excited ha ha

After he had opened his stocking we went downstairs to see the presents that Santa had left him.  Coming down the stairs he saw all the presents in the mirror and all we heard was “wow wow wow”.  He was so careful unwrapping the presents until we said “It’s okay you can rip them open” then all hell broke loose but it was such an amazing day.

Now Christmas Day is absolute bedlam in our house with the addition of our second son.  It’s loud with excitement and laughter and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Their favourite thing to do on Christmas morning is to scoop up all the wrapping paper and put it all in a bin bag which they duly empties and starts all over again.  I loved Christmas growing up but I love it so much more with the boys.  It can get a bit overwhelming for them but we go at their pace and it has been known for all of us to be in our pj’s all day which is the best bit!

Jehovah Witnesses Family Celebrations

Jehovah Witness come from diverse backgrounds world wide and made up of many different people from different cultures and ethnicity!

Our Jehovah Witnesses families believe the important values associated with being Jehovah Witnesses is love, respect, peace, honesty, connection and acceptance and they abide by these values by promoting it in their daily actions. They do not believe in violence and as such abstain from participating in violent or aggressive actions including military service.

Jehovah Witnesses believes in equality. They see all races and ethnicity as equal. Jehovah Witnesses come from diverse backgrounds world wide and made up of many different people from different cultures and ethnicity.  Our Jehovah Witnesses families appreciate their religion encourages connections that transcends boundaries within families but also within their wider community.

One family told us that “Throughout the year there are many special days where we celebrate together as family and friends. We don’t celebrate Christmas or Birthdays by giving presents on these occasions but by spending quality time as a family and extended family to reconnect, but presents are given year round not just on Christmas or birthdays. This might be by going on holiday, having quiet family time at home or doing a fun child friendly activity. Doing this for them promotes unity as a family, fun and shared joy. This year we all had a wonderful day at our nieces wedding. our Son was so proud to be her page boy! We’ve also had some exciting family trips away to celebrate wedding anniversaries. We take these times to reconnect with family who live further away. We had a great time catching up with family in South Africa enjoying time together on Safari. Cherished times making lasting memories whilst enjoying some phenomenal cakes!

We always make sure that achievements are celebrated. When Fraser’s cousin graduated from nursery the kids all loved the cakes and presents. Then before Fraser started primary school he had a party for all his friends – the bouncy castle was a huge hit. We have so many times through the year where we celebrate both an individual achievements and special family occasions.”

Danish Golden Wedding Anniversary

“we wake up the couple with singing, often trumpet music or banging pots and pans – utter Danish madness”

In Denmark you celebrate your golden wedding anniversary probably like in most countries by having a party with all your nearest and dearest. The difference being that in Denmark local friends and neighbours meet up the night before the big day to create a wreath to hang round the main door of the couple’s house. It’s made by creating a long garland of pine branches with added flowers and fairy lights and then topped off with a heart shape sign with their names on which hangs above the door.

Once finished everyone is invited into the couples home for soup, cake and coffee. Everyone will then return very early the next morning to wake up the couple with singing, often trumpet music or banging pots and pans – utter Danish madness, I know! Once woken up the couple walks through the door with the wreath to greet their neighbour and friends once more. It’s a way of re-confirming their marriage as the same tradition/ritual happens at their wedding although people don’t show up in the morning thank goodness as you would be late for church!

The tradition is that you invite your friends and neighbours in again for breakfast and hopefully manage to ‘kick’ them out before the actual party starts later that day, it is certainly full on.

Theraplay

“Theraplay has been indescribably beneficial for our family, and I don’t like to think of where we would be without it”

Theraplay has been indescribably beneficial for our family, and I don’t like to think of where we would be without it. Prior to starting Theraplay, our eldest (aged 6 and with us for 18 months) was displaying a lot of distressed behaviour, including anger, violence, inability to self-regulate, spitting, and controlling behaviour. We were struggling to cope and were at a low point of exhaustion and worry.

Theraplay has provided a gentle, targeted way to start tackling the underlying issues that drive his distressed behaviours, tailored to his needs and his responses week on week. It has provided professional assessment of his particular developmental gaps, emotional age and needs, and deep seated-fears, and it has done so in a way that felt enjoyable to our son. He loves his Theraplay sessions: it is clear that they are giving him something he needs at a very primal level.

Theraplay has provided a safe space where he can show us his true responses and feelings with no judgement, and where I as primary care-giver get support from a professional on how best to respond and help him regulate. In parallel with the sessions we are receiving professional feedback on his progress and explanations of what we can understand from his behaviours, where he is developmentally, and what things to concentrate on next. Having someone else shoulder that weight, even if it is only a couple of hours a fortnight, has been immensely valuable for my own well-being.

We have also been able to use the sessions to develop tools for him and us to identify his emotions, and to help manage them, and to bring him back to his thinking brain when he dips into fight/flight.

We are so grateful for the progress this has helped our boy make. The frequency of his rages and anger are reducing, and on a good day he is more able/willing to let us help him re-regulate. Previously the only emotion he could allow himself was anger, but he is now able to express sadness and to seek comfort from us when sad.

There is no doubt in my mind that his recent progress in developing a stronger and more trusting attachment with us is due to Theraplay. Previously he was desperate to love and be loved, but due to his early years trauma and neglect, he just could not allow himself to risk it. Theraplay has provided him with some of the early-years bonding, nurture, shared joy and being cared for experiences that he missed out on, which in turn is letting him open himself up to trusting that we will look after him and keep him safe. For the first time our son is allowing himself to express his feelings of love for his family: they have come pouring out of him and he is delighting in the reciprocal feelings of loving and being loved.

As parents, we feel much more supported and hopeful for the future since starting Theraplay. The feedback and analysis we receive takes a huge weight off our shoulders and leaves us with more emotional energy to help him through his distressed behaviours.  Theraplay hasn’t just helped him to love us, but has created moments and bonds that have helped our love for him start to evolve from conscious and determined to natural. I cannot fully describe how much that means to me, or how important it is for him to be loved as he deserves to be.

In the 6 months since starting Theraplay our family has moved from crisis mode to a place that feels comfortable and hopeful. We are seeing more and more of the beautiful, engaging boy underneath the trauma, and we have hope for that boy having a happy life and a positive future.

We have a long way to go before many ‘normal’ childhood activities are comfortable for him. With ongoing Theraplay we hope to keep making progress.