This is a tricky area for many adoptive parents who, after going through a long and difficult process to adopt a child, find they are struggling and may not be able to cope.

Asking for help is not easy. Go into any bookshop and you will see the size of the 'self help' section – an entire industry that has grown up out of our desire to help ourselves without having recourse to others.

This has developed out of our wish to be self-sufficient – and the fear of being seen as weak, needy or incompetent.

Feeling like a failure

For adoptive parents this can be particularly pertinent. They may have gone through a long and difficult process before finally being matched with their child. After that struggle, admitting they need help can feel like a huge failure.

Or they may fear that they will be blamed for being the cause of the situation.

What is more likely is that their child's early trauma and difficult start to life are to blame – things that happened long before the child joined their adoptive family.

More than practical help

Writing on our forums, adoptive parent Cavalier said:

'None of us are any help to anyone if we ourselves are going under due to the pressures we all have to cope with.'

'It is such a shame that we find it hard to ask for help. Doing this does not mean we are failing in any way, it means we are intelligent and sensible enough to acknowledge that although we are doing all we can we need input from others who have the knowledge to give us the advice we need or the help and support that is necessary.

'It is a strange fact that we seem to have no problem asking for help to cope with physical issues, but when it comes to mental or emotional ones we seem to feel we should just be able to do everything and have all the knowledge and ability that is needed.'

Perceived fears

Not asking for help can turn a small problem into a crisis – and this applies not only to family life, but to troubles at work, getting in to debt and all manner of other areas.
Another fear about asking for help is that you will be giving up all control of your situation. For adoptive parents this can be the fear that their children will be taken away, or just that professionals will take control over their lives.

Bumbling Banjo's story

Bumbling Banjo, one of our online community members, had been struggling with her middle daughter. As she put it, she had been 'ploughing on and on and didn't realise the damage [being] done to my physical and mental health, constantly worrying all the time, trying to do everything to fix her and help her and feeling a failure because nothing I am doing is helping.'

'I never connected the following at all with being stressed/worn out/anxious to be honest and I felt I was just under the weather but even then I've been fooling myself - I ended up in hospital last week a couple of times and they wanted me to stay in but I came home - it was a severe viral flu, blood infection and reactive arthritis in my shoulder.

'I had a brilliant nurse and doctor and they were asking me loads of questions etc because this all came on suddenly.

'The nurse asked me whether I was worried about anything at home and I just collapsed and broke down in a mess out of the blue, I was a complete wreck. It all just came flooding out.

They have said that my illness has been brought on by stress/being completely run down and exhausted both mentally and physically and they told me I've got to speak to someone, rest and try to take care of myself. It gave me a fright

'When I came home I phoned my social worker straight away and she came round and I verbally admitted for the first time to her (which was so hard as I feel like such a failure) that I couldn't cope anymore. She's been amazing and got the wheels in motion straight away. She has arranged a counsellor for me to help me cope with things - and we have an attachment disorder specialist coming to start working with middly and us as a family. I'm feeling so relieved - I already feel a weight off my shoulders.
I think I'm trying to say to others, don't make the same mistake as me, don't try and do it all yourself, don't try and be super human - don't be scared to say you need help, and please look after yourself and not let it have an affect like it has on me - please take care of yourself first.

As my social worker says, I can be no help to middly unless I'm OK myself - which is so true - if I'm a wreck I'm doing her and her sisters no good. I now realise I can't fix things and I have to stop trying, so I'm handing it over to the professionals now, and am hoping against all hope we can find strategies/solutions etc. to help her because my biggest frustration and hurt comes from the fact I can't do anything to stop her hurting and it breaks my heart to the core.

Please please please look after yourself first and don't ignore what your body and mind is telling you.

Where to go for help