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Angry, insecure child - first post, advice needed

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Hi, I am a mum to two wonderful boys, one a birth child (my eldest) and one an adopted son (3,5years younger). I love them both as if they were both birth children but my adopted son has many more behavioural issues. It has been a rocky road with AS and he has some real anger issues. He has been with us for 6,5 years now and it has got a bit better but he is now 9, and still has major meltdowns over seemingly minor things. It is so that it is actually affecting our family as a whole. His behaviour is affecting his brothers attitude towards him (not wanting to play with him) and our relationship with him (we feel we are constantly having to discipline him). AS has a tendency to hit if things are not going his way. When he is punished for this (i.e. Tablet etc taken off him), he goes into a complete meltdown. Screaming for his tablet, saying everyone hates him, it's always him that gets into trouble, everyone else is perfect etc etc. He struggles to calm down and this can go on for well over an hour, sometimes 2. He also cries at anything little thing, normally 3-4 times a day. We try and sympathise and if he's hurt then of course it's ok to cry, but it's also if ive said no to a biscuit if dinner is nearly ready etc. Like younger kids do. He is very insecure also. He constantly copies his older brother with literally everything (much to the annoyance of my BS) with picking clothes, toys at the shop, what they are drawing, list to Santa, food. We try and help him and steer him gently in a different direction. I've explained him to that I don't want two BS's. I want a BS and an AS because I love AS very much. I want to help him develop his own identity (for his own sake as well as his brothers). He is also often either being too obedient (I love you mummy, you are the best mummy in the world about 20 times a day) or being disobedient and angry and feeling the world is against him. There is no happy medium and I'm not sure how else to help him at the moment. He really struggles also to amuse himself and hovers constantly with either his brother or me. I have special AS time where we play games, read books etc, but when I'm cooking etc I sometimes ask him to go into his room to play just until dinner is ready. He often gets upset at this and feels hard done by but I can't be round him 24/7. He constantly interrupts all conversations with everyone but particularly if I am chatting to my BS. AS loves his big brother (I think) but also very jealous at the same time. AS has lots of hobbies (athletics, horse riding, football) and is only really happy when he has constant attention and company. He seeks attention when BS has friends round - he shows off then gets up upset when they don't want to play with him anymore as he is showing off too much. He is also a very bright little boy, but can say the silliest, most nonsense things, particularly when he is nervous, which even his own friends laugh at. I'm desperate to help him become more secure in himself and to stop being so angry with everyone. We shower them both with love but unfortunately he does get told off more as his misbehaves more. Any advice welcome. Apologies for the long post.


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Sorry to hear you / your son are finding things tough. Wondering if you have sought any support for this? Sounds like your AS could benefit from some therapy to help him process his feelings. Ideally involving you, so you also find better ways to respond to his needs - that's not a criticism, just that someone objective can often have insights that you don't see when you're emotionally involved. We had therapy with one of ours at a well-known adoption agency and it was very helpful.


You know, a lot of what you say about your AS is familiar to me as an adoptive parent of 2 and I'm sure it will be for others too. Punishment can often be detrimental, especially when it's a case of "can't behave" rather than "won't". Here we ignore a lot of relatively minor stuff and only use sanctions if we know they work and only for the bigger things that really matter. It's better to work on your relationship rather than behaviours. For behaviours less easy to ignore, it's more a case of using distraction or working out why something happened and then trying to avoid the trigger in future. (Example dd2 kicked off recently at bedtime. Reason was we hadn't specified her actual bedtime that evening since its school holidays and I interupted her in playing a video game - so my fault really and the next day we planned it much better.)


One last point - he's probably never going to be the mature, well adjusted character your birth son is and you need to manage your expectations around that. I suggest making a list of key issues - write down why you think they might occur and see if you can find some solutions. Eg when his brother has playmates round, either invite someone for him or arrange for him to be elsewhere. (We had to do this for a few years as one always interfered with her sister's friends and caused trouble. It meant her sister had fewer playdates than she might have done as our other child wasn't as good at peer relationships, so we had to wait until we could organise something for the latter.)


Best wishes


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Hi Milly, thank you so much for taking the time to reply. We did consult CAMHS a few years ago but AS was still quite young at the time so the meetings were more based around me and my husband and how we could manage AS's meltdowns rather than helping AS himself to process his emotions/feelings. The meltdowns are definitely less frequent as a result but as he is getting older, he still finds it very difficult to control his emotions and he is much more vocal now about his hate for everyone (including us) when he's angry. I think he himself needs support now. The meltdowns can still be as intense now as a few years ago and I think as he can be quite physical still and he is getting bigger and stronger, I think I am going to contact CAMHS again in the new year. I am desperate to help him, and hate to think of him feeling insecure and angry all the time. I'm always tell him I love him when he's misbehaved so he knows that won't change whatever his behaviour. We do try and pick our battles and let the small things go, just sometimes easier said than done, especially when he's having a few days where it is constant and everything results in a meltdown. It's exhausting and maybe by day 3 we don't always react as well as we could. It's also a very difficult balance when BS would get told off for something (because he does know better and is older) but AS doesn't for the same thing due to us trying not to constantly punish him, this can cause friction with my eldest. We've tried to explain to him why, but he is still just a child as well. I like your phrase of working on our relationship rather than behaviour. I think that is key here and I think our whole family would benefit from working on our relationships with AS. He can be the most loving and happy of boys at times and it's so lovely to see when he's like that. I just wish for his sake that we could see that side of him a bit more often. I will definitely make a list of key issues and hopefully with some further support this will help my son. Thanks again. I really appreciate your advice and it's comforting to know there are others out there going through similar things.


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Our AS is 9, but we don't have the experience of another child but he also has difficulty ending time on the computer, so time is limited and we try to give plenty of warning for coming off. He also asks for food just before dinner and I have learnt that to persist with saying he has to wait creates a meltdown, so tend to have things like a few raisins, orange, grapes etc. to keep him going until dinner time. He also has difficulty amusing himself and needs more attention than many children. Your description of feeling that the world is against him is familiar particularly at anxious times, as is the anger. Milly has given you some good advice and I am sure others will have too. We found some support from PAS was a help with training and some therapy, but there will probably always be some behaviours to work around. One book that was helpful to us was 'Why Can't my Child behave?' by Amber Elliott.


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I know this is one detail in your post but I wonder if the fact that you are making a point about him being adopted is missing the mark with him. If we take as a given that he is insecure, how much does having a sibling who is not adopted adding to that?


You may not feel any different towards your sons, but maybe he does. I have only the one child, he has no one to compete with, but we still have many conversations where he says I just wish I born with you mum. I acknowledge that, I wish he had been too. But he wasnt, and the yearning doesn't go away. Maybe he needs to hear you say, yes I wish you were born to me, its rotton, miserable, sad that you weren't, but at least we have each other now.


A lot of what you describe is probably quite normal with siblings with that age gap, as the elder is becoming more independent and doesnt want a little boy hanging around. My son had a very intense, bordering on obsessive friendship with the children next door, a similar 3 year age gap, its fallen away naturally since my son started secondary school. Not so easy to manage when its a sibling moving away.

I think I would try and separate out the normal sibling issues from the other stuff, and then look at what he needs to support him.

We have had a year of life story therapy, its was hard, brutal at times, but he has come out of it a much more mature young man and we are a stronger family unit.


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I assumed she was referring to him as AS to replace his name, rather than as literally her adopted son? "I want a Kevin and a Bobby" rather than "I want a birth son and an adopted son"? Could be wrong but that's how I read it.


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Thanks Serrakunda. We have always been very open with AS about him being adopted and he is always quite proud of the fact that he was 'chosen'. He says 'you picked me out of all the other children because I'm special (this is what we told him) so I don't think he feels less secure as a result of being adopted or this is certainly not something he has ever voiced when we talk about it. I never tell people he is adopted unless it comes up for a specific reason. I just say i have 2 sons. I do find it hard to know what is 'normal' sibling rivalry and what isn't. I am definitely going to look into therapy for us. What is life story therapy?


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Hi chicken legs. Yes I only referred to him here as AS to make it clear which son I was talking about. I don't want to use their real names so it was easier this way. I never call AS my adopted son, ever! He is my son! I indeed meant I want a Kevin and a Bobby rather than 2 Kevin's. It's a compliment to my AS, not meant as a distinction that he is adopted.


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Sorry I misunderstood Edinburgh. I think the point might be worth a thought though. My son is immensely proud of being adopted, he is fascinated by how I came to choose him. Its still a sadness to him that he wasn't born to me, and along with confusing and competing feelings about why he had to be adopted drove his behaviour for a long time


my son is 13, he came to me at 8. He was 10, nearly 11, when I started looking for life story therapy ( it took a while to get !) because his behaviour was deteriorating, a lot. My son has always had a good grasp of the facts, but not why he had to find a new family, ie the difference between mum and dad couldnt look after me because they drank, took drugs and thumped each other, and why did they take drugs etc. It was very painful but he now has a very deep understanding of how he got to be where he is today. He is much more secure, he knows where he wants to be and why he got here, and its improved our relationship a lot.

They do have to be ready for it though. Something for you to think about, other therapies may be more appropriate at the moment. Im guessing from your user name that you are north of the border, so I don't know how you get assessments/funding


p


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Edinburgh1975, I totally empathise with what you are going through as it sounds just like our AD when she was 9 and her feelings towards her halfsibling who was 6 years younger. She used to follow us around as well!


Your son could have attachment issues and clear consistent routines are important, it provides them to manage expectations with a sense of control.


Worth a read,


https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/attachment-issues-an...


It is important to look after yourself and don't get too stressed, as your son's hypervigilence (a survival technique) will pick up on your anxiety and concerns over his behaviour; so please relax and enjoy your time with him.


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Hi. I think you definitely need some specialist input with your adopted son and your birth son and your partner. I happen to know several Barnardos projects and NCH action might look to offer you help but there’s also specialist agencies like chrysalis associates in Sheffield, family futures in London, stepping stones in Cardiff and catchpoint in Bristol. These are just some examples. They cost £ and you could try to get ASF through post adoption in England or try through the Buttle trust.

In the meantime you might try some sensory things. It’s stuff you can use with both children.

Stuff like lights low and you wearing obsession perfume (vanilla and cedarwood scents help apparently) those soothing smell plug ins etc. I have ac and bc I found the ‘what every parent needs to know’ bk a big help as it’s got ‘normal’ parenting & development, next to parenting a traumatised child. I found the very encouraging and eye opening ‘the boy who was raised as a dog’ the best books to help me out with my little lot.


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Hi Edinburgh, well done for recognising that maybe your AS needs additional support from outside the family, to help him process his story and his feelings. A lot of what you write is very familiar to me, and for too many years I treated my AD's behaviour as simply challenging behaviour which I needed to manage, rather than understanding what was driving it and some of the deeper issues which we needed to help her tackle. I was a good parent to two high-achieving BS's so I was confident that traditional parenting (sanctions & bags of positive time and attention etc) would do the trick eventually.... I was so wrong. I would add that the therapeutic input we have since received, over the past three years (AD is now 14), has wrought far more obvious changes in us, and the way we parent her, than in our daughter. But this in itself has made a significant difference to the tenor of our family life, meltdowns still happen, but they don't escalate as far or as often and we are much better at preventing them happening in the first place. We have had to radically adapt our parenting, and this has been challenging for our younger BS, in particular, to accept. But accept it he has, especially as she gets older and the scale of her difficulties becomes more apparent - and as he gets older and a little bit more mature and appreciative of all he has and is. For us, family therapy sessions with a DDP-trained clinical psychologist, involving me, DH & AD together, have been the most helpful form of support we have accessed. Various kinds of counselling for AD alone have been next to useless, as she is able to present the best version of herself, and avoid anything which actually challenges her in any meaningful way. The DDP has been funded by the Adoption Support Fund after a family assessment by our local post-adoption social workers, who have been incredibly helpful. All our local CAMHS want to do is offer her medication, which has so far proved totally ineffective, so unless your local CAMHS is more helpful, I would be tempted to advise you to pursue the PASW route rather than CAMHS in seeking support. Our family life is still extremely challenging, and a long way from the family I thought we would be, but we are still together, and I think the DDP is largely responsible for this, I honestly think we would not have got this far without it.


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Things like trampoline, dancing and other activities like gym and athletics can give your child a release and help with calming brain and body. If you can get your older son some respite from your younger son, great. Take him to the cinema, bowling, out to costa or even order a pizza in when your younger son is out. Make time every week, just you together.


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Thank you all for your messages. I'm not sure of the support offered here in Scotland but I'm going to contact my adoption agency in the New Year and start looking into options for therapy. And I will google the books everyone has recommended. AS does a lot of sport as I agree it helps him to deal with his frustrations. He finds individual sports easier as can struggle with concentration in a team environment from time to time (although he does go to football) but loves athletics and swimming. Thanks again, and I'll write in with an update at some point. Wishing you all a happy new year.


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Sadly if you are in Scotland support is very limited and a postcode lottery. There is no Adoption Support Fund and the underlying attitude in many LAs is still that love is enough and if there are problems, the parents are to blame. However I know of at least on parent who has excellent support from one of the Edinburgh LAs, but I am also aware of the opposite.


Good specialist support can be found via Adapt (led by Christine Gordon), Scottish Adoption (run by Barnardos) and Helen Minnis at Notre Dame in Glasgow. You should be able to google them.


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Thank you very much Bop. I'll look them up. Fingers crossed.


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A couple of other useful organisations are:

Scottish Child Law Centre - offer legal advice on issues related to children including adoption issues such as assessment of need

Enquire - specialists in advice about getting support in school for children with additional support needs (frequently an issue for adoptees and with no Pupil Premium as in England, funding is often an issue)


Also take a look at the Adoption UK Fair Deal campaign https://www.adoptionuk.org/scotland/fair-deal-families


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Thank you.


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