When our children first came to us, we found certain elements of parenting incredibly stressful. This was actually compounded by the people who claimed to be there to help us.
As I said in my previous post, I don’t think that our eldest child really went through the ‘terrible twos’ in the way that our youngest is. He had a few minor temper tantrums and the odd stomped foot, but there was never really a battle of wills between him and us. Except about one thing: Food.
For one reason or another while our children were placed with, but not yet adopted by, us we got a monthly home visit by a Health Visitor. They know some basic history of the children that was passed to them from the local authority that are still partly responsible for the children at that stage, so they knew that both our children were not in the “recommended centile zone” on the weight/age graph.
Our youngest was very high, and our eldest was fairly low, so we had some work to do to stabilise their weights in the zone that wouldn’t cause the Health Visitor to give lectures about proper nourishment and nutrition.
Couple this with a child who then refuses to eat anything at all that you put in front of them and multiple visits from multiple social workers who are keeping an eye on how the children are getting on and you get:
- A child that is not putting on weight or even loses weight between Health Visitor visits if he had a bad cold (which happened).
- A Health Visitor who is allegedly there to support the parents regularly lecturing about the importance of proper nourishment, making the parents feel like they are failing.
- Parents who get very stressed at every single meal time and have no idea how they’re meant to deal with it because a lot of the ways you would usually deal a child not eating their food would go against all of the rules you’ve been told about regarding adopted children.
- Unhappy parents that fear and resent mealtimes, get anxious about the Health Visitor visits, and are obsessed with weighing their children just to make sure they’ve put on a few grams since yesterday.
None of which is particularly ideal when you have a social worker asking you how things are going once every 2 weeks, and you’re having to put on a brave face because you are still fearful that there has been some sort of mistake and you should never have been allowed to become parents in the first place.
We muddled through though. We tried numerous things within our ‘rules of engagement’, none of which worked, and in the end we threw away the rule book on what we shouldn’t do to an adopted child like ours and just went with what worked. Yes, we had a few more tantrums, lots of food refusals, a few utterances (and following through) of “maybe you’re not ready to have breakfast yet and need to go back to bed”, and many early nights with no bath or stories due to “running out of time”, but we came out the other side.
Throughout our most stressful time we had two people who were our lights in the dark: My Mum whose simple phrase of “while he’s got plenty of energy and is very active, don’t worry if he’s not eating” almost made us totally forget about the Health Visitor’s stern lectures. The other being our foster carer who supported and encouraged us on our tactics for getting our son to eat some food, which made us feel better about doing things which would have inevitably caused the social workers to put on their sour and stern faces.
We are now starting to see the same behaviour with our youngest, but this time we aren’t as stressed. This is partly because we have a proper plan in place to deal with it (assuming the same tactics work!), but mostly because we don’t have a monthly Health Visitor offering us advice which we already know but doesn’t work, and we have no social workers visiting us to, what seemed to us at the time, make sure we haven’t failed yet.
I have complained about the Health Visitor a lot I know, and I know she really is there to support us if we need it and they do do an important job, but sometimes their helpful advice can just add to the frustrations and stress that we face. Especially when it is compounded by an overseeing social worker who you’re really not sure about the motives of.
This post came to mind because we have a visit from the Health Visitor coming up, the first in a number of months and a standard one that all children would get in our area at the age our youngest son is. We aren’t stressed or worried because as of today both children are smack bang in the middle of the weight “recommended centile zone” for their age, so we* must be doing something right!
*We – mostly my OH as he is generally the one who feeds our children.