• Another sort of self care

    Self care is a topic that’s often dismissed - whether it’s gently mocked as ‘ladies who lunch’, all about getting massages and painting your nails, or whether it’s a simple belief that “I don’t have time for that”. I used to be one of those people - I thought self care was a nice idea, but I couldn’t see how I could fit it in to my life. I’ve written about self care quite extensively in my book, as learning to look after myself as well as Tickle was the single biggest thing that turned our adoption around from being on the verge of disruption to the relatively ’normal’ family life that we have today.

  • Birthdays

    Tickle understands birthdays much more than he used to. We met him for the first time on my birthday; we'd brought cake, and we shared it, and he sang Happy Birthday to me. That's what birthdays were: cake and singing. Tickle moved in with us about a week before his sixth birthday. I still remember we had to practically drag him in to the toy shop to choose a present, and he literally pointed at the thing right in front of him. (He wasn't that interested in the presents on the day itself, but he did sing to his cake quite a lot.)

    It's my birthday tomorrow. Tickle is quite excited about that, because he knows there will be cake. I'm working early tomorrow, so as there won't be time for presents in the morning we decided to do them this evening instead. Tickle was *extremely* excited about this, so much so that the excitement tipped right over in to getting really cross that he wasn't allowed to open anything, and WHY NOT I GOT ANY PRESENTS??

  • Grief

    Two sleeping catsWe had to have our cat put down yesterday. She was only two years old, so it came as a huge shock to all of us. We are all coping with it in our own ways; Fairy is distracting herself with books and writing stories, I am crying buckets and welded to my duvet, Husband is musing about getting a memorial wind chime for our apple tree. Tickle, however, has been the biggest surprise. Tickle, is demonstrably and unashamedly sad.

    Tickle doesn't spend much time interacting with the cats, but I know he does love them, and considers them part of the family - whenever we go on holiday he tells me he misses them, and he's still not quite sure why they don't come with us. But that's not why I am surprised by his grief. I'm surprised because it's a really big emotion, and he is allowing it to exist in his body without feeling the need to block it out or run away.

  • Introducing The Monster

    I've written a book. 

    "Me, the boy, and 'The Monster" is a book about what it's like to parent a traumatised child. It's a raw, honest account, and it's borne out of my own experiences as an adoptive mum. Living with trauma is HARD. It's hard for the kids, and it's hard for the parents. I'd like to stand by your side, and tell you that you are not alone, that there are things that can help make things better.

  • Reigning in the emotional brain

    This morning, as usual, I was woken up by Tickle shouting at Husband. When I heard Husband start to shout back, I thought I'd better get out of bed. Tickle had thrown a toy at Husband's face (again) - though thankfully this time it was only a small one and didn't do any actual damage.

    Tickle came to sit with me in bed for a bit. He didn't like this much, which he chose to communicate to me by throwing his glasses on the floor, and then shouting at me because he couldn't see. I got back in to bed and ignored him until he'd calmed down a bit.

    We had a chat. We talked about what was worrying him - school, as it turned out, or more specifically, one boy at school who he is worried about. This particular boy actually left school at the end of the summer term, and I've spent the last few months trying to help Tickle understand that he isn't coming back 'for ever and ever'. However, it seems like it hasn't quite gone in yet, and he's still pretty anxious about whether this boy will hurt him.

    This flowed naturally in to a repeat of the conversation we usually have following an incident like this: "It's OK to be worried, but it's not OK to hurt people."

  • Teaching children about emotions: one small change that makes a big difference

    Today I want to talk about a thing called affect matching. It’s a really useful tool when it comes to helping children to regulate their emotions; it’s something we do instinctively with young babies, although it seems to drift away as our children get older. Learning about affect matching (pronounced with the stress on the ‘a’) has completely changed how I interact with Tickle, and his emotional literacy has come on in leaps and bounds. I’ve written about affect matching before, both on this blog and in my book, but today I want to break it down a bit to help you understand the science behind it, and how to put it in to practice.

    So what is ‘affect’?

    That’s a good question. Affect refers to the external presentation of an emotional state. It can encompass facial expression, body language, and tone of voice, all in one word. It’s also a way of talking about how someone is acting, without making assumptions on what they might be feeling, for example ‘he has a negative affect’ means ‘his body language and facial expression are quite negative’. Usually you would expect affect to be consistent with an internal emotional state, but that isn’t always the case.

  • The Christmas Ratio

    The lake at Blenheim PalaceOver the Christmas holidays so far, I reckon our 'nice bits' to 'hard bits' ratio is probably about 70:30. Possibly slightly better, if you take in to account the fact that the hard bits are no where near as hard as they used to be. Last year's Christmas ratio was about 20:80 at best I reckon, and looking back at the blog from this time last year it seems T was going through a bitey phase as well. The worst we've had this holiday is hitting, and even then I think it's only been once or twice.

    Gosh, it's so weird writing that, when I think back to posts I've written in the past describing the CPV that was happening multiple times per DAY, for anything up to a couple of hours at a time.

    Some of this change can probably be put down to the simple passing of time, but there are a few quite clear things I can pick out that we have done, or are doing differently.

  • The downside of having one’s husband finally read one’s book

    As you may know, if you’ve been knocking around this website a bit, I have a book coming out next month. The book has actually been written, and ready for about a year, and in that time I must have asked my husband about 200 times when he is going to read it. I mean, it’s about our family! It contains all the research and learning I have done on how to be the best parent I can for our son, all packaged up in one easy-to-read, not-even-that-long book! However, for one reason or another, Husband has been fairly resistant to the idea. Perhaps he feels like he already hears enough of my voice, I don’t know.

    Anyway, when the paperback proofs came through, I put my foot down. Not quite you-will-read-my-damn-book-or-I-will-divorce-you but not all that far off. I laid it on pretty thick. It is my life’s work, after all.

    Suffice it to say, he did start reading, and is currently about half way through. Whether he’ll ever finish it... well, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess. However, I have very quickly become aware of a downside of this new enlightened-version-of-Husband.

  • Triggers

    The subject of ‘triggers’ has been on my mind a lot today. We all have triggers, things that just ‘push our buttons’, or ‘set us off’. I spend quite a lot of time trying to work out what has triggered certain behaviours in Tickle or Fairy, but unusually for me today, it’s not triggers for my children’s behaviour that I have been thinking about - it’s my own.

    When you’re a parent to a traumatised child, day to day life can be somewhat emotionally fraught. Some days I’m quite good at riding the wave, but other days less so and on those days there are a couple of things that will instantly flip my switch. Borrowing my husband for an example, one of his main triggers is when Tickle goes a bit loopy and starts to chase the cat.

© 2019 Cat McGill