Hi! My name is Craig and I wanted to make a personal blog for Adoption UK about the huge effects that coronavirus has had on the mental health of us as a family and our worries about the potential damage it may do further down the line. 

My husband and I adopted our little boy back in January 2019 and our adoption was finalised back in February of this year at our local family court. When our little guy moved in with us naturally there were some behaviours and worries that we were aware of, as with any other adopted child. I was the stay-at-home parent from the January until the September when I returned to work (working 11 shifts a month in children’s nursing), after I returned to work little man really struggled with the changes, he would refuse to listen to me and give me the cold shoulder. After talking through this with our support network and our psychologist, who we manged to get our social worker to fund for us through the ASF, we realised that he was having to adjust to another major change in his life. So, after much reassurance and spending time together on my days off we overcame this, it wasn’t easy for me but ensuring that he felt safe and loved was the most important thing that I could do. Over time things got better through this reassurance. 

Fast forward a few months to April 2020 and his life was turned upside down once again. Coronavirus had hit, lockdown was implemented and unfortunately Ray was placed on furlough. Added to this, we also took our little guy out of school since Ray was at home. Luckily neither me, Ray or our little guy came down with it, but COVID hit our family’s mental health hard. Because of the nature of my job, and that I travel into London for work either on the overground services or on the tube, the risk that I could come into contact with the virus was fairly high. This in turn caused Ray to have panic and asthma attacks and for the little man this was difficult. I also didn’t want Ray to have an attack when it was just him and our little guy at home, so we made the most difficult decision we could, which was to separate our family.

Ray and the little man moved in with Ray’s’ parents who thankfully live a short drive away whilst I stayed at home. To add more stress to this I was staying at home during a house renovation!! This was a really awful and difficult situation, when little man was getting into the car with Ray, I was struggling to fight back the tears, thoughts were running through my mind of how long would this be for? Is my job worth all this stress and upset that it is causing my family? I was seriously considering quitting my job; I always knew the nature of the work would affect me at times, but not the two most important guys in my life.

Thankfully the joys of technology meant I could keep some contact with my little guy. Previously, I had hated the way in which technology was a big factor in his life and to be completely honest I was not missing the “Dad / Daddy…… can I play a game on your phone?” lines, but technology proved to be a lifeline for us during this time.

With the separation, my mental health became very low. I knew little man was safe and had his Daddy with him as well as other close family members, but Facetime became difficult especially around bedtime to the point that I would have to Facetime before his bedtime routine as not to have him going to bed sobbing his heart out. I also started to send video messages for Ray to show him when I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to little man before his bedtime routine. The feelings of being a failure and the feelings of guilt were huge, I tried my hardest to not show this to little man, but I know he knew I was feeling sad as he would often tell me to cheer up. 

Happily I moved in with little man, Ray and his family at the end of June, things were great and little man was delighted, we did it as a surprise and didn’t tell him it would be happening until he saw me hiding behind his bed!!

About a couple of days after I moved back in Ray had some conference calls with his work about his return to work on an adhoc basis. We had to prep little man for yet another change. At first, he was upset but handled it super well. I was not working on Ray’s first shift back to work, so I was present for the school drop off and pickup. When I picked him up at the end of the day, his first question was “Where is daddy?”. I explained Daddy was at work, but this was met with the biggest emotional breakdown that I had seen in a long time, he fell to the floor on multiple occasions. Facetimed Ray in the hope that just seeing his Daddy’s face and hearing his voice would help settle him but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The screams were heart-breaking. I took him upstairs and laid him on top of my chest on the bed and just soothed him as much as I could before he just fell asleep for three hours. 

When Ray returned home from work, there was lots of cuddles and a huge sad face, we all sat down and talked through what we thought it was had had upset him, he eventually opened up and said that he thought Daddy wasn’t coming home. This broke our hearts to hear this, Ray later told me that our little guy was worried about me continuing to work during the lockdown because he thought that I would die from catching coronavirus. All of these worries on a little boy’s shoulders -it’s so very sad. He’s six years old and hearing him talk about death, a global health pandemic and the government is not something I thought I’d ever hear a six-year-old talking about (although I have to admit hearing him say “well Boris said….” Is quite amusing!).

The worry on how this will affect our little boy’s mental health in the future is quite heavy. Luckily for us we have an amazing support network and also have a fab psychologist funded through the ASF who is working closely with us during this time.

I think the take home message from this is to keep an eye out on how your child is - look for those tell-tale signs that they are not coping. You will be aware of when something is not quite right, trust your gut, seek help and advice if you feel you need it. There are a number of charities that have good advice or can point you in the direction of help if you need it. I thought I would list a few below that we have found super helpful. Always remember that you are doing an amazing job.

  1. Adoption UK
  2. Young Minds
  3. Barnardos
  4. Coram Adoption
  5. PAC-UK