I’d experienced my son’s meltdowns before, but this was by far the worst.
He had become violent after I hadn’t made the right breakfast for him, which is when he tried to strangle me and push me down the stairs.
Essentially, his favourite word had become ‘no’ and there was no rhyme or reason to it.
He would often say that he was really hungry, but when I gave him something to eat, he’d refuse it.
It truly felt like it was opposition for the sake of opposition; like everything I did was wrong.
But it hadn’t always been like this. When I met him for the first time in March 2014 at his foster parents’ house, he had been a sweet young boy.
The first thing he said to me, after I introduced myself, was ‘hello mummy!’.
We spent an hour together and it was really emotional because he had a pile of things he wanted to show me that he had collected especially for our meeting. One of them was a photo book his foster carer had created for him of his time with them.
Over the next 10 days, we got to know each other – from going to the park, to him sleeping over at my house.
Throughout this time, he had some minor tantrums, but I totally understood why: his world was about to change completely and he was moving to a different part of the country to live with a woman he’d only just met.
So when he came to live with me in April, I knew that more meltdowns could be on the table.
The first one happened three days in. I wanted us to go out and buy his school uniform, but he wasn’t having any of it.
I know this seems very early to be doing things, but he was an older child and the advice I’d had was to go out and do things. He was also starting school in a couple of weeks so we needed to get ready.
For three hours, he screamed and cried. While it seemed like it was about the clothes, I knew it was probably because of all the change. He had moved from a big city, was starting a new school, and was also dealing with all the trauma he had been through.
The one thing I regret is not opening up to friends and family about what was really going on
Knowing this didn’t make it easier though. Everything I was trying to do to calm him down seemed to just make things worse and I felt like a complete failure. It only ended when he had tired himself out.
Within two weeks of him moving in, the verbal abuse started.
He was too young to know how to swear, but when he got angry he would say that he hated me, he didn’t want to live with me and that I wasn’t his real mother.
I felt hurt, but it was more from the fact that the child I was trying to love and look after was shouting those things at me – than the actual words.
Then he started physically abusing me, first of all by kicking my shin in anger because I told him he couldn’t do something he wanted to.
It became a constant. Some days he’d flare up much faster because he was a bit tired or something unsettled him.
After he tried to strangle me, I ended up going out onto the driveway in tears because I felt like I couldn’t carry on.
By this point, I was black and blue, with bruises all over my body.
That was the day I called social services to ask for some help. They sent two social workers out to spend a few hours alone with him; they worked with him and tried to talk through some of the things he was feeling.
I think having to deal with social workers again scared him a little bit and things improved slightly. We also started therapy, which helped too. But I still felt like I didn’t have it completely under control.
Eventually, I was enrolled into a workshop on non-violent resistance, which is a way of parenting that is particularly designed for challenging behaviours.
That was when things changed completely because I learnt techniques on how to de-escalate difficult situations and how to show your child that you love them no matter what’s going on.
One thing that really works for us is humour. I’ll do or say something to make him laugh, like trying to do the latest TikTok dance.
Food is another thing that works wonders for my son.
But the biggest thing the workshop gave me was the confidence in myself to know that I could manage any situation. Unlocking this dispelled the doubt I often had in my mind about whether or not I was a good parent.
I know now that children with trauma don’t really know why they lash out and it’s often a flight or fight response.
It took me around nine months of implementing these changes to completely stop the violence, but it was really life-changing for us.
That was five years ago and we’ve had no situations like it since.
I think it’s so important for people to reach out to others when they’re in situations like I was. The one thing I regret is not opening up to friends and family about what was really going on because I was scared they’d judge me for not being able to parent my child properly.
But it was through reaching out and asking for help that I learnt the techniques I needed to get through it.
My son is now 13 years old and means the absolute world to me. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come together but I’m thankful for all of the support we’ve had along the way.
Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.
For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.
We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.
If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]
- Why we’re talking about adoption this month
- How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
- The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
- How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
- Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
- How to tell your child they are adopted
Visit our Adoption Month page for more.
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