So, I will speak of a personal experience we have had with ‘L’ over Christmas and still currently having.
As you know already, she has lived with us for 1 year and 4 months. At the beginning of December in a meeting, we reflected on her progress and realised just how far she had come. Her diet had improved over the year and she was eating everything healthy without question. She still likes her sweet stuff and would not recognise when she is full but overall no complaints in the eating department,
Her speech and language has come along, her fitness, strength, communication, we have had less tantrums, less anger and a lot more happy vibes.
As she is under a special guardianship the court ordered that she must see her birth parents once every 2 months. At time of contact, Ls behaviour always changes after. She is happy in contact, albeit she does not bond that much with them. We think she is more happy to have a burger and chips and a balloon than she is seeing her parents. Although we know she misses something she wants but has never got. Following contact can come terrible anger, a vile tongue with hurtful words to all of us in the family, there will be no playing nicely, no sharing, smashing doors until they break etc etc. Anything. An start these tantrums or maybe nothing at all. It’s sitting on the surface waiting for someone to take the anger from her.
As 2017 passed, the temper tantrums became less and less. After contact she would still have these issues but they wouldn’t last as long as they used to. They could last a week but by the beginning of December they would last maybe 2/3 days. Each daily tantrum used to last roughly between 3-6 hours, but by the end of the year maybe only 1-2 hours.
Contact every 2 months, so that is 6 in a year. Birth mother has attended all of them (except for one we arranged where no one turned up but I rescheduled). Birth father has attended maybe 3 of them.
I arranged for one in December. It was due around the end of the month but I didn’t want it to coincide with Christmas and school holidays, so I arranged it for the week before the kids broke up from school. This way, she is still in her usual routine, which keeps her happy and feeling secure and after the Sunday she would be back at school and forgetting quite quickly about the contact until the next one.
In the contract regarding contact it has been asked that birth parents do not turn up with presents as this causes issues. She becomes extremely overprotective and will not allow anyone to touch anything that she has been given. Obviously, for Christmas, we agree to take one or two, but not to be opened at contact. I will take it home and she can open it on Christmas Day.
We turn up to contact, both parents are there, along with 2 very big black industrial bin liners absolutely full of presents. In fact it was so big it wouldn’t fit in my car. Some of these presents are from last Christmas, most of it is tit tat and some stuff is even from her old room back when she was 4 or younger that has now been wrapped and given back to her. We have to vet cards to make sure they do not say anything unacceptable in them before she sees it, we even have to do this with presents.
I told the birth parents that I would take one bag, which is a lot more than 2 presents but I would anyway. (I had no idea they were turning up with these). I told them I would not take the bigger bag, firstly I have other children and it would be incredibly unfair to let L have bags and bags of presents whilst everyone else has far less. Secondly I couldn’t fit them in my car, thirdly it would cause a lot more anger when it comes to her and my other girl playing as she would be pushed away and not allowed to touch anything, fourthly it is in the contract which they refuse to stick to.
The birth father took the bigger back and walked back to the car to put the other bag in. This is in the car park where we all stood. There hasn’t been a cuddle with L yet. We went inside to order food and waited for father to return, only he didn’t.
He got in his car and drove off. The birth mother still attended however she was left to walk back after as it’s the father that drives. Following this contact, we have seen the worst behaviours from L, and it’s still going.
She refuses to eat anything healthy at all, she is angry, she has smashed the doors, broken other peoples Christmas presents, pulled her own eyelashes out, snapped her hair bands, and flung herself to the floor hurting herself.
We have a battle with food. It’s Wednesday, she hasn’t eaten since Monday. We have told her she needs to eat her healthy food first before getting anything else, she refuses. She says she is a baby and wants to be spoon fed. We refuse. It’s a long battle and it hurts to see her hungry, but the fruit etc she is being given she likes, she has eaten it for a whole year with no issues. Her speech is worse, her anger and temper is hot and it’s even worse as she is in the state of survival as she is so hungry.
We are giving her food, but she refuses to eat it. We feel contact really does have a devastating affect on L. It’s not just her, it’s everyone else in the family. The father driving off has affected her severely. She is trying to abandon us because she feels abandoned.
I fear we face a long battle ahead but we must persist in order to get her back to where she was. Sometimes trauma can cause you to reverse your age. We hope this stage will not last very long.