Imagine you’re on a plane, and the safety demonstration comes on. Your eyes have probably already glazed over.

But listen, because when they talk about cabin pressure and oxygen masks, they give you a piece of advice that you will probably never hear anywhere else:

‘Please make sure your own mask is secure before helping your children.’

But that’s so counter intuitive!

Where else in life do parents get this advice? Help yourself? Before your child? Surely a good mum or dad should always put their kids first?

So why do they ask you to do this? It is not because they think adults matter more than children, or because grownups need oxygen quicker, or even because they want you to be selfish.

They ask you to do it for one reason: if you cannot breathe, you will not be able to help your children. And that is no good for anyone.

Now imagine trying to parent a child who had arrived in your home after years in the care system.

  • They will have suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of their birth parents.
  • Their early experiences will have left them with social and behavioural problems, which you will have to deal with on a daily basis.
  • They will need to be looked after, desperately.

But if you do not look after yourself, you will not be capable of looking after them.

The one rule

Most adoptive parents are caring for children who suffered abuse or neglect in their early lives. Trainer Coordinator Bob Barnes trains these parents for Adoption UK.

“In training sessions, we try never to impose any rules. But the one rule that we have is: make time for yourself. We ask parents to talk about what they have been doing that’s just for them. They tell us about every imaginable thing, and it’s different for everyone. But the important thing is that they have something.”

Time together

If you have a partner, it is also important to make time for your relationship. When all of your energy is being sucked into caring for a hurt child, it is easy to take out your frustration on the people who love you the most.

Sandra, an adoptive parent says: “I go to dinner with my partner at least once a month, and we’re only allowed to talk about the children for the first five minutes. It’s quite a discipline!”

How you make time for yourself is up to you. But the main thing is to give yourself space, to get help when you need it, and to never feel selfish for taking a little time for you.

Take a breath, and you will be able to help them to breathe.

Why not visit our Forums and see what other adoptive parents recommend: Forum