Being an adopter during lockdown
Stefano and his partner Mark adopted three siblings with Action for Children. Stefano tells us how their family had to adapt during lockdown
“Lockdown for our family started a week early. At 6:45pm on the 16th of March, we received a text from the school and nursery to say that school was closed with immediate effect. 'But both of us are working all day tomorrow!' Grandparents to the rescue.
“The first week of lockdown was the week I left my job. Employers often find it difficult to understand an adopter’s journey. Mine could not understand why I wouldn’t send my children back to school.
"I told them that sending three traumatised children back to school with three new teachers (as their regular teachers were shielding) was just not possible. We do introductions to new adopter parents for three weeks, so to just ‘throw’ my children in to school with new teachers wasn't in their best interest.
Employers often find it difficult to understand an adopter’s journey. Mine could not understand why I wouldn’t send my children back to school.
“Our daughter finds it hard to cope at the best of times when she knows the children and teachers. Our eldest son can run under the tables at school when there is someone new. And our youngest has undiagnosed asthma so we didn't want to put him at risk.
“I felt I could perform most of my duties from home and therefore left in a matter of two days which left question marks in our heads re: income, work and support... why didn't my employer understand when the environment I worked in was very similar?
“We turned our dining room into a mini classroom, dug out an old iPad and started working out how we could do some school learning. The school and nursery have been amazing, dropping off school work and resources.
“Finding apps that would work for our three children was challenging. Our daughter is learning to read and needs apps that talk to her. Our son, who is one year older, can read, which gives him more options of reading books or instructions on worksheets, etc.
“Our youngest son is too young to do much on his own and he is still developing his fine motor skills. We spend time doing activities that strengthen his hands, such as using pegs on paper, threading, using pincers, threading beads on to shoe laces etc. We have also found time to teach the children Italian as one of us is of Italian heritage. At the end of the day, we find time for films, stories and outdoor play in our garden.
“Simple things like grandparents and aunts/uncles offering support over FaceTime, even for five minutes, can make a huge difference. Traumatised adopted children can find it harder to be on their own. They want to follow you everywhere and ask you loads of questions for their own reassurance. Having five minutes on the sofa or putting clothes away can feel like gold!
“We have received amazing support from Action for Children and attended a few online courses. It’s really given us additional skills for supporting the children. We recently attended an Adopter’s Group session focusing on secondary trauma by Joy Hasler which we highly recommend to all adopters.
"With the children at home all the time and us not going out much, we find that the trauma is more 'in your face' compared to normal times. We would normally get a break: us by going off to work and the children to school or nursery. Or we would call on family to look after the children to give us a date night and give us that space.
With the children at home all the time and us not going out much, we find that the trauma is more 'in your face' compared to normal times.
“During lockdown we have had to dig deep to 'have a break from it all' and reflect. This can often be watching a series or film until late at night just to 'disappear' from it all for some time.
“We now move in to a new stage where we have chosen to not send the children back as we feel it is too soon given their medical needs. We hope that after the summer we may be able to send them back to school depending on where we are with this virus.”
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