"Are they settled in yet?": Zara's adoption story

Wednesday 21 October 2020
Toddler sitting on a blanket playing with wooden toys

Imagine having to leave everything you know behind. Family, friends, pets, home - all in one go. It's what adopted children go through. In this blog, Zara shares how she's helped her adopted children "settle in"

“Are they settled in yet?”

As an adoptive parent, that question used to bug me. I guess we all have a different view about what 'settled in' really means.

We are six years into our adoption journey together as a family of four.

When we adopted, the first few weeks were spent, hour after hour, gently and playfully trying to convince our newly placed four-year-old twins to trust me enough to let me change their nappies. Nearly every single night after tuck-ins: “She’s a rubbish mummy. Right, brother let’s go to a new family”.

One time I was listening on the landing and I overheard this quiet response to his brother’s nightly routine: “I like this mummy. Let’s use her up then go to a new mummy”. Because that is what their early life experience taught my children. That mothers let you down, so you need to grab what love and attention you can before it inevitably runs out. 

Small children playing in the snow

Ten months into our journey my boys started reception.

Our day would begin at 5,30am so that we could have plenty of baby play and cuddles before heading to school. At pick up time one of my sons would come out scowling, exclaiming loudly that I was a rubbish mummy.

My other son emerged from school completely bewildered and not quite occupying his body physically. I would get us all home as quickly as possible so that we could re-connect in our safe nest.

It was exhausting for them to try and behave like 'big boys' all day, working hard to meet the social expectations of their teachers and peers at school. Baby bottle and baby play together after school was essential for us.

That is what their early life experience taught my children. That mothers let you down, so you need to grab what love and attention you can before it inevitably runs out


We've come a long way since those exhausting first 12 months. One day last year I noticed my son rummaging in my coat pocket before we left for school one morning. When I checked my pocket after the school run I discovered a note addressed to me:

“You are the Best Adult EVER”

We had had a tough few days. I knew my son was feeling anxious because his behaviour had become increasingly controlling. In response, I had made the unpopular decision to reduce his screen time, increase my parental presence and strengthen a few boundaries to help him feel safe again.

That note now belongs inside my little box of treasures. I look at it and pause for reflection when I need it on the more challenging days. That note means my son thinks I am the safest adult he has ever met.

I'm pretty sure he felt that way about me for some time before actually writing it down. But I am grateful that I have it in black and white.

Close up of crayons with child in background

Helping an adopted child “settle in” takes time, patience and understanding. There will be highs and lows along the way. Good and bad days as you get to know each other.

Remember: there is no set timeline. Continue seeking advice from your social worker and other adopters. And make sure to look after yourself.

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