Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Final Week....

A version of this appeared in last month's 'We Are Family' Magazine.

For most children the end of the school year can be an exciting time. The exams are over, usually by half term, and the final six weeks or so are focused on the ‘fun’ social aspect of schooling like sports days, the end of term concert and play within the classroom – dressing up days etc.

However, for some children, particularly for children with additional needs and for many adopted children, with the often overlooked additional need of attachment disorder, this period of term can also be a challenging one as the routines that they cling to in everyday life are suddenly removed.

Children who rely on routine can often become unsettled and this can lead to a disruption in their behaviour. The teacher can then be at a loss as to why the child is suddenly behaving like this, after all it’s supposed to be fun, right?

But for the child who has experienced a chaotic household in their early years routine offers a safety net and, in their eyes, ensures that the chaos they had experienced is in their past.

Our eldest son struggled terribly at the end of both the Summer and the Christmas Term. A normally well-behaved child suddenly became tearful or angry, or both, and I was constantly being called into school to comfort him or to take him home as he simply wasn’t coping. Of course, as we are same sex parents, the school were well aware that our sons are adopted and worked with us to try and ensure that the routine was kept as manageable as possible. Our son was given a list of things that would happen the next day on the day before as he left the classroom and we were then able to talk him through it. He held onto that piece of paper like Dumbo with his magic feather, even though he couldn’t possibly have read it as he suffers from severe dyslexia, which also makes his ability to remember what happens next in the day difficult as it is. If you then change that timetable after he has spent a term getting used to it, well, he simply went off the rails.

Eventually I sought help from the Post Adoption Centre, who were brilliant at helping me to deal with a number of the issues we were experiencing both at home and as school and I was surprised at how common the ‘End of Term Anxiety’, as they labeled, it was amongst adopted children.

And they highlighted a point, the idea of boundaries. If a child has experienced life without any clear boundaries and seen what that can cause, then that child comes to rely on those boundaries, as set by adoptive parents and the school, as a means of ensuring their own safety. We know that domestic abuse, alcohol and substance abuse all lead to children being ignored or left to parent themselves in a boundary free environment and, after adoption, we aim to create a safe environment with the necessary parental boundaries and once those carefully established boundaries are removed then the child goes into a state of fear – fear of not knowing what will happen next.

Family members are always amazed that even on holidays our children want to go to bed at a certain time, we’ve even been accused of being ‘too tough’ but I know that any deviation from our family routine can be problematic. Our younger son panics if his meals are any more than thirty minutes late – probably a throw back to times where he was left unfed for days and any deviance from our normal pattern can seriously effect him. However, we are lucky that his school understand that and never rush him at lunch time and on one occasion, even allowed him to eat his lunch with the kindergarten group so as not to upset his routine.

Hopefully, its something they will grow out of as they take more control of their own lives, hopefully!

Just because we think that coming off curriculum is fun we shouldn’t necessarily assume that it is the same for our children.


  1. I sympathise so much with this situation. My daughter has just finished her last term at pre-school. She loves pre-school, she looks forward to the special activities, but then she's frantic, stressed, and we have huge problems at home afterwards, because things were different. She's had five and a half terms of pre-school and the end of every term has been the same. In fairness, she's coped better this time than last, and that was better than the time before, but the loss of nursery is massive for her and the transition to school is hugely stressful already before we've even got into the summer holidays (even if it is only 50 feet away and she's been there loads), despite the fact she wants it and is in many ways very much ready. It's just tough. I want her to enjoy these special events that she looks forward to so much, without also being scared by them.

    I hope that the summer holidays brings some peace and reassurance for the boys.

    1. Thanks Wyxie - to be hnoest, my youngest came home in tears on the last day "I'll never see my friends again," he wailed.... then we went to the park and met them all there... sigh

  2. I enjoyed reading your post. Our children too struggle being out of their routine & to be honest I think I can often cope better with a structure to my days. I hope the holidays are going well for you.

    1. I try and keep some sort of routine going over the summer - which helps all of us! :> Have a great holiday!