‘That alcohol woman‘

This blog was written by an adopter. Her son was adopted aged 2. He is now 18.

That was how our son described his birth mother for a long time.

‘Some pregnancies are planned. Some are not. Most expectant mums want the best for their unborn child.

From very early on he had realised that there was something that wasn’t quite right with how his brain worked. 

We had noticed it even earlier when he just didn’t seem to be able to learn his colours. It was as if he couldn’t really see thedifference in colours and we thought he might be colour blind. Colours finally clicked but at a much older age than we would have expected.

He had come to us just under two years old so we don’t know what difficulties he may have had earlier than this. However we did know that he had stopped napping in the day at a very early age and his sleep was difficult. 

He struggled with learning to ride a bike. He could start with the pedalling motion for a few turns of the pedals but then he just stopped and couldn’t maintain the movement. It was as if the part of his brain that he needed to keep up a continuous movement just didn’t communicate with his body. We also saw that with his running. He could be speedy to start with but then just couldn’t keep going.

Every August the media shows us some high achieving, attractive young women. Comparing our children’s progress starts as soon as we’re pregnant. It’s probably better to just love our kids for who they are.

He did have outstanding hand-eye co-ordination though and was extremely accurate with his missiles. He managed to hit me on the head with his sippy cup from his bed through a very narrow door opening on several occasions.

We told our son very early on that his birth mother had drunk alcohol in pregnancy and that this was what had caused his difficulties. We had a lot of opposition and kick back from our family and friends for having done this. They thought he didn’t need to know or that he was too young to know.

However, he found it a relief to know why he found things so hard at times, even if it made him very angry for a long time.

‘My Mum chose drink and drugs over me. That’s why I know she didn’t love me. That’s what I know I’m unlovable’. This was the heartbreaking summary of a child we fostered.

We did talk to him about the difficulties his birth mother had and tried to explain addiction and why it had been so hard for her to stop drinking. 

He didn’t like us drinking any alcohol and in fact his reaction was so extreme if he saw us drinking anything that even resembled alcohol, or if he could smell any alcohol on us, that we stopped drinking for almost a decade. Even now I don’t find any real pleasure in an alcoholic drink given how hard our son has had to work to train his brain to overcome the alcohol damage.

In my culture, saying ‘no’ to a drink is often met with incredulity. I can’t help thinking that those communities and faiths where alcohol plays absolutely no role are pretty wise.

And now our son is old enough to drink alcohol legally. He has overcome his aversion to alcohol but so far will only drink when he is with someone he deems as safe. 

Everything has come to our son at a slightly later age than would be developmentally expected.

He is still learning and training his brain to make connections that are not easily made.

He is managing a college course and is finding new practical skills that he now has an aptitude for.

And this is the child who had such struggles with fine motor skills that he was only really able to use a knife and fork properly in his teens.

‘Our son is doing a college course,‘. It’s amazing what can be achieved with deep deep reserves of love, patience and resourcefulness.

‘That stupid woman. She needs training’

This is a guest blog written by an adopter friend. This blog explains her journey to getting a diagnosis for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder for her adopted son, and her struggle to get the necessary help.

If a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the unborn baby is impacted.
The impact can be physical and emotional. I got this image from the British Journal of Nursing. Only 10% of Children with FASD have these facial features. FASD is generally a hidden disability.

Our five year old son was sitting underneath a chair in the clinic room with his bourbon biscuits on the floor next to him whilst he vigorously pumped both his thumbs down in disgust. 

We had finally got to see an experienced Consultant Community Paediatrician to ask for help with his behaviour and his sleep.

He had recently been diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder from the Clinical Genetics Clinic.

People with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, hearing and ‘cause and effect’ understanding. It can disrupt sleep.

However, they only made the diagnosis, and could not offer anything further.

We had prepared a whole heap of information ahead of the appointment but were met with a brick wall. 

We were being lumped into the category of parents who can’t cope with their child’s behaviour.

Parents who have traumatised children often find themselves fighting on two fronts; parenting their child and convincing experts that they need help.

We are not people who give up easily, and managed to negotiate a trial of Melatonin.

We were all desperate for sleep, and we hoped this would help.

We were told that we could only have a month’s supply as our son did not have a disability and would not therefore be eligible for ongoing prescriptions.

Melatonin helps you sleep. Sleep is a great great healer for both child and parent. In the UK, melatonin is only available on prescription.

We came out of the room and our son uttered those now infamous words in our household.

‘That stupid woman, she needs training’.

I’d like to point out that I’m a highly trained, highly experienced medical professional.

I was not impressed with the way we had been treated but we had some Melatonin and we had some hope.

That night we gave our son the Melatonin crushed in his milk well before bedtime. We took him to bed at the normal time and two minutes after he put his head on the pillow he was asleep.

Sitting in my bean bag next to his bed I cried.

This was nothing short of a miracle.

It was the first time our son had shut his eyes to go to sleep. It was the first time he had gone to sleep in less than an hour. Most nights one of us sat in the dark next to his bed for about 2 hours hoping and wishing him to sleep. We were experts on his breathing patterns that might suggest he would soon drop off. 

And then he would be up again for some time in the night, most nights.

We were exhausted. 

And suddenly this miracle happened and he could sleep.

We slept too.

If not getting enough sleep were a competitive sport, the parents and carers of traumatised children would be World Champions, Olympic Champions and make Keith Richards look like an absolute amateur.

The Community Paediatrician did not seem to believe it had made that much of a difference.

She only agreed to prescribe another three months and then it would have to stop.

We sought a second opinion.

We did some research into the options for seeing another Community Paediatrician.

We found someone who listened and did prescribe the Melatonin as it was working so well for our son.

He now sleeps. We now sleep.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is still not taught on the medical curriculum and medical professionals have limited knowledge or experience of the disorder.

Teachers have no formal training about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

It is difficult to says how many people may be affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

The number of children with FASD who have been in care or are in care is likely to be considerably higher than the general population.

For further information go to https://nationalfasd.org.uk/

Other organisations are available.

Finding an anchor in the mayhem

This guest blog was written by a couple who adopted a toddler. Their son is now 18.

Every night, no matter what had happened in the day or what was still to come overnight, we came together in the big room for Song 2.

Two minutes of just pure fun and dancing which whilst it lasted was probably the only time in the day that we could all be together in the same room without chaos ensuing. The dogs came too and as our son was really little and was mostly being carried they also joined in by jumping up at him as part of the fun.

We all shouted out various versions of the lyrics once the initial whoohoo yell was done with. We had our heads shaved by a jumbo jet every night and it was the best time of the day. 

Otherwise our household had become a battleground as our son continued to live out his past trauma. He could hardly bear to have a mother as he had been given up too many times before. He couldn’t understand the reasons why he had been moved from what he saw as safety and security.

The last move from foster care had been particularly damaging to him. He had thought he was part of their family even though other children had come and gone.

‘The 1000 yard stare’ is a photo of an unknown marine taken by Don McCullin during the Vietnam War. Senses are overloaded by prolonged exposure to fear and trauma. A typical Tour of Duty in Vietnam lasted one year.

There is some video footage at that time where he is playing at sweeping the floor and then every 20 seconds or so he stops and looks lost for a few seconds and then starts again. Rinse and repeat.

Classic dissociation.

She’ll shock, PTSD, 1000 years stare…when dealing with children, it’s called ‘dissociation’ or ‘dead eyes’. The child simply goes ‘somewhere else’, because the here and now is just too awful.

I never saw it happening at the time until I watched the video and saw just how hard his life was, and how his mind was constantly working to give him an escape from what had been done to him and for him. It was all traumatic for him even if was supposedly in his best interests. No one likes being out of control, and for a toddler it’s truly terrifying.

But if we fast forward more than a decade our son is now at college and has friends, a girlfriend and is talking about what he can do as a job.

He even has a small starter job he can work at around his college days. I’m certain those two minutes a day kept us together as a family when it was all so hard. Even though he was very young our son has memories of those two minutes of Song 2 each day.

It was an anchor to hold onto in all the mayhem.

Anchors help ships survive storms. That’s the end of my nautical knowledge.

Everyone needs a Song 2 in their life every day. Those two minutes of fun a day can save a family.

It certainly saved ours.

Fostering and adoption are not the same

What happens to the kids you look after? Where do they go?

What’s fostering and what’s adoption?

The Magical Mystery Tour always goes up Penny Lane. It always goes past Strawberry Field. Strawberry Field operated as a children’s home for The Salvation Army between 1936 and 2005.

We live near Penny Lane in Liverpool.

Every day, at least twice, more in the summer tourist season, the Magical Mystery Tour Bus drives by our house.

Contrary to what you may believe, the Magical Mystery Tour Bus starts at exactly the same place, follows exactly the same rout, and ends up exactly where it started.

It’s fairly predictable, and you can more or less set you watch by it.

Fostering is not so predictable.

Whilst there’s a plan for every child in care, their future is often uncertain.

There’s always a plan for every child in care. For some children, who cannot return to birth family, adoption or permanent foster care will be the plan.

1. Of the children we have fostered, three have gone back to birth Mum.

Social workers visited the family home, wrote reports, considered the evidence, consulted senior social workers, got expert advice, and, after considering a bit more, decided it was safe and appropriate for the child to return home.

In fostering, we’d consider this a happy ending.

If possible, kids should be with their parents.

2. Of the children we have fostered, two have gone to live with other foster carers on a long term basis.

These arrangements could be considered permanent, but technically they’re not.

The children in question have the security of a permanent home, but legally they are still in the care of the state and still in foster care.

Day to day, or even month to month, the foster carer may well make most of the decisions, but ultimately The State has the final say.

Fostering is temporary even if a child is with you for years.

I’d love to be able to make a definitive statement about what happens to kids when they go into care but I can’t. Every child has their own past and their own future. Generalisations are almost impossible.

3. Of the children we have fostered, one became old enough to live semi independently.

She enrolled in university, got herself a job, got herself a flat (with some help) and has become an adult. She pops round occasionally.

4. Of the children we have fostered, one has been adopted.

Most children who get adopted are pretty young, and statistically unlikely to have started reception.

A child is put up for adoption when there is absolutely no chance of them returning to birth family. This decision is not made lightly and involves social workers, legal teams and is ultimately decided by a judge who is entirely independent of Children’s Services.

Foster carers who care for babies and toddlers are far more likely to experience transitioning a child to adoption. It’s beautiful to help build a new family, and also highly emotional for all concerned.

Adoption is typically described as finding a ‘forever home’ and is as permanent as having birth children.

An adopted child has the same legal status as a birth child.

Adopting parents have all the same responsibilities as a birth parent.

Two of these kids live with their birth parents. One of these kids has been adopted by that family. All the kids have the same rights. The parents have equal responsibility for all three children.

Adoption and fostering are not the same.

Foster carers have to do mandatory training and meet various standards. Foster Carers get paid. Foster carers do not have full responsibility for the children in their care.

Generally, adopters are looking for a child to complete their family.

Foster carers provide a safe, temporary home for a child who can’t live with their family.


‘You’re the best mother I’ve ever had‘

This is a guest blog written by an adoptive mother. I hardly know her family but can identify with everything she says.

That was the first time my son had really acknowledged that I am his mother and that finally he was happy about it.

A cup of tea, with a saucer, and biscuits, is a cause for celebration in itself.

I am his fourth mother. He had experience of other mothers, and he had really loved his foster mother, so I knew that he definitely meant what he said. He’s also brutally honest about things like that so I had a low key celebration. Probably another cup of tea as celebrations need to be muted in our household.

Mothers’ Day, birthdays, Christmas have been muted days for us for years and mostly we haven’t celebrated them.

Trauma doesn’t like change, trauma doesn’t like new, trauma doesn’t like excitement and trauma doesn’t like Christmas.

But there’s no real avoiding Christmas as the world in general, even our own families, don’t stop all the hype for these events. Our best Christmas ever was the one where our son had missed a couple of days on his Advent calendar and we didn’t correct him as he was young enough not to work it out. He didn’t realise when Christmas was coming up the next day. He slept well, we slept well and we had a lovely day. The year before he had been up at 2am and it had been a disaster.

And birthdays. Our son found Happy Birthday, the song, deeply traumatising. And at primary school they would sing Happy Birthday most assemblies as there was always a child with a birthday.

Each school day started with a traumatising event and we kept banging our heads against a brick wall trying to explain that to the teachers.

It also made birthday parties a complete nightmare.

Birthday parties in the 1970s were training grounds for polite society.
Sitting nicely, waiting your turn, saying your please and thank yous and other forms of social conformity were all taught and expected.

And Mothers’ Day. Well after years of avoiding even mentioning it, I have had a card for the last two years. The first one unsigned and last year he signed it and gave me a present his girlfriend’s mother gave him to give to me from her present cupboard!

This year we are going to the local pub for a drink and a meal on the Friday evening just to hang out together. I can’t think of a better Mothers’ Day gift.

The Weight of Adulthood

Thanks to Sean for writing this blog. Sean was adopted aged 22 months.

“When you’re a kid stuff affects you less”.

Stuff affects you most when you’re young.

Some call it blissful ignorance or innocence but they’re wrong.

It affects you most when you’re young.

When you’re older you’re just able to understand the trauma.

When you’re young the trauma digs deep and roots itself like a weed and presents itself in the form of coping mechanisms.

It’s hard. Really hard.

People in their fifties still struggle with childhood trauma whether it is from their parents or a major tragedy such as the twin towers falling.

‘Trauma’ is from the Greek word for ‘wound’ or ‘damage’.
The belief that children are resilient is a myth made up by the adults who have hurt them.

As adults we’re often pressured into being together and prepared and mentally stable but a lot of adults are still trying to cope with their childhood ‘stuff’; especially men who are told to “man up” and “don’t act like a girl”, which is sexist, acting like women are the weaker sex even though the strongest people I know are women.

The strongest people I know are women.
Thanks to Sonya Vine for this painting.

“Violence is trauma dressed up as anger”

This is a guest blog. It concerns child on adult violence.

I bloody love that dog. None of these dogs are the particular dog in question. He prefers to stay off Social Media.

‘I so intimidated’.

That came through as a text whilst I spoke with two burly police men in body armour.

This was from the child that had been dragging me around the house by my hair and had been so violent and aggressive that I had finally had to call the police. They wanted to talk with him and I had to go and get him from the corner of his room where he was cowering clutching a cuddly toy. He came out to speak with them still clutching his toy.

He was 10.

No one wants to call the police on their child. Many of us don’t like calling for any help at all.

That was the beginning of the end of the violence as it did make a big impression on him. He saw real evidence that someone else, not just me and his father, believed that his violence to me was wrong and unacceptable.

I had a victim support helpline that I used a few times and I think I was lucky that the police took it so seriously. Although they did say I couldn’t really call them again for a child being violent. So I just continued to call my husband and he kept coming home from work on the days when it was all too much.

Another step in the end to the hitting came when I had to take our son with me to the physio. He had hit me and shoved me so often that my back had finally gone. My physio was Irish and our son had decided that he had a lot of time for anyone Irish.

If you have any leverage with a kid, use it!

So he watched the physio take care of me for the half hour and show real concern for me. It made a small change in our son’s perspective of me and that others thought I was worth bothering about.

The real end to the violence came when our lovely Labrador had just had enough of watching me get hurt.

He put himself between me and our son and warned him off. He would have to get through the dog to get to me. I bloody love that dog. He saved me.

He saved our son too.

If our son had remained this violent I have no doubt he would be in prison. Or have become an abusive partner. And he is not.

He is becoming emotionally intelligent. He and his girlfriend are working on how to be emotionally available to each other.

It’s been a long journey but there is now more than light at the end of the tunnel, I think we may be through the tunnel.

“I think we may be through the tunnel”

Transitions are so very very hard, but not as hard as they once were.

There aren’t many things worse than leaving the beach.

Here are some people on the beach. They are not us.

You’ve had a lovely time but now it’s over.

You need to schlepp everything back to the car, if you remembered where you parked it.

Your whole party will be loaded down with buckets, spades, shoes, wet towels, an empty thermos and possibly a deflated inflatable. As you stagger across the sand and pebbles, you’ll be shedding socks whilst simultaneously scratching the sand that’s made its home in your nether regions. If you’re really really unlucky you’ll be carrying an irritable child on your sunburnt shoulders.

After one such lovely day, ourselves and some friends made it back to our Vauxhall Astra, the preferred car for the larger than average family.

The change in location and activity was initially going well, but as if simultaneously alerted by an inaudible signal, each child was triggered and began to deregulate.

Triggered: Something has happened to send a traumatised child back into survival mode. Deregulated: The traumatised child is in survival mode. Traditional parenting techniques need to be binned off as any sense of rationality has gone.

One child began to sprint back in the direction of the beach (Flight).

One child refused to get in the car, kicking, screaming, swearing, spitting (Fight).

One child stood, transfixed to the spot, starring into the middle distance (Freeze).

One child lay down, covered himself in his sodden towel and pretended he wasn’t present (Flop). This Flop response had the added complication of him lying in the middle of a zebra crossing. As the traffic backed up in both directions, I scooped him up, nodded apologetically in the direction of the cars, and nonchalantly popped him in the very back row of the car seats. I like to think I looked like I knew what I was doing.

No one likes leaving the beach, but leaving the beach with children who have suffered significant trauma, can bring a whole other level of excitement.

Kids who have suffered trauma generally cannot cope well with change.

The Berlin Wall coming down and the collapse of the Communist Block was generally viewed as a good thing. For many it was an exciting and positive change, for others it was a terrifying and unwanted journey into the ‘new’ and ‘unknown’.

In fostering and adoption, changing from one thing to another is called ‘transition’.

Change, or transition, is inevitable.

A transition can be an event of enormous significance. A child leaving one home and going to live in another home is an obvious example. Such transitions are managed as carefully and as thoughtfully as possible and may include strategy meetings involving a variety of social workers, school professionals, health professionals and other people whose roles are so complicated that just have initials (IRO).

Or, the transition can be as simple as leaving their bedroom and coming down for tea.

New schools, new teachers, new clothes, new updates to phones, new updates to computer games, new branding to our favourite sweets or toys and new packaging to our favourite noodles have all sent us into a tailspin.

I think foster and adoptive parents learn to scan the horizon for these transitions.

We have learnt to spot the triggers and recognise the deregulation.

As far as we can, we predict and manage the transition, reducing the ‘change’ to its bare minimum.

Poundland used to sell 5 packs of noodles for a pound. Changing this to ‘4 packs’ caused genuine consternation and anxiety in our house.

More importantly, and with a view to the future, we are also trying to help our Little Man manage transition himself.

Our strategy is simple.

Be here, be present, be predictable, teeter on being boring, be where you said you’d be at the time you said you’d be there. Even when your child’s deregulation sends your own adrenaline sky high, be a safe person for them.

Our Little Man has been with us for 9 years.

He’s been at the same school for 5 years.

He has the same van driver and the same van escort as last year.

He knew a new school term was approaching.

He began to self manage his own anxiety. He took control of what he could control, in order to ignore what he couldn’t.

He organised his ‘phone collection’.

Transition is still hard, but it’s not as hard as it has been.

The Little Man spent many hours deliberating over the details of this display. We know this because he filmed it and then uploaded the 2 hour video onto our Shared Family Photo Album.

Delayed Gratification…there are few more useful skills

Phones feature very heavily in our lives.

Our little man has had a fairly constant obsession with screens since he came to live with us some years back. Neither he, nor we, know why, although we have discussed the issue at some length.

He’s also an avid and discerning TV viewer, particularly if the show features any kind of family. The Simpsons, Modern Family, The Goldbergs and Shameless have all been consumed in their entirety.

‘I don’t know why I like phones so much. Maybe, before I can remember, it was all I had to play with. Or maybe, my Birth Mum was always on her phone and ignored me. We will never know. There’s no one to ask’. The Little Man’s theories were as good as anyone’s.

Derry Girls has also been a popular choice, and one I’d recommend. A group of girls, with a tag along Englishman, attempt to navigate life in the 90s. It is set in Derry, but you might have worked that out yourself. It’s a wonderful mix of hilarity and poignancy.

One of the girls also owns a Burger Phone (a cheeseburger phone if you want to be precise).

You don’t have to be a girl and be from Derry to be a Derry Girl.

Research on Amazon, Ebay (other online shopping options are available) revealed that Burger Phones are still available and generally retail at £14.99 or thereabouts. The Little Man wanted one more than ‘anything in the world’.

This gave us two problems.

1. The desperate need for a Burger Phone began on a Sunday. Pocket Money day was not until Friday.

2. Pocket Money was £10. Maths told us that he would be £5 short.

It was a dilemma!

Science has incontrovertibly proven that many of the world’s problems and frustrations are caused by Maths.

We came up with a solution and a strategy. It was crazy and it was wild and it had never ever worked before. We were going to experiment with Delayed Gratification.

If you’ve grown up with a degree of security, you can assume certain things.

Day will follow night. The weekend will come at the end of the week. Summer will follow winter. Your Mum or Dad, or at least someone you know, will be waiting to collect you from school. There will be milk in the fridge. There will be a fridge. There will be electricity which means the fridge will work.

For a kid whose formative years were spent with few if any certainties, waiting until Friday had always been beyond him. However, we thought we’d give it a go.

We drew up a contract promising the necessary additional funds (£5 if you’re struggling to work it out) to be paid on Friday (in 5 days time if you’re struggling to work it out).

Contracts are based on trust and a quid pro quo arrangement. “If you do this, I’ll do that”. If you’ve constantly been let down, you’re more likely to have developed ‘suspicion’, ‘indifference’ or ‘despair’.

1. Make your bed

2. Tidy your room

3. Get yourself ready for school

4. No, or at least minimal, use of the F-word, S-word and definitely no C-word.

We all signed and I have to admit, I didn’t think he’d manage it.

But he did.

Watching your order steadily approach your home is a popular activity in our house. It can fill a whole day and is viewed with the same excitement as a trip to the cinema or Disneyland Paris.

His obligations and duties duly completed, the order was placed, and the phone arrived.

The excitement in setting it up was palatable.

We were excited too. The Little Man had shown he was able to delay his gratification. He was learning to trust that Amazon, and his family, would deliver.

For the first time in years, we now have a Landline. The Little Man phones himself on it because no one else has the number. We assume he’ll soon start getting cold calls from Insurance Companies and nuisance calls from my Dad.

Anger – ‘but he’s good as gold at school’

My wife used to take it in turns to be the ‘welcoming committee’ when one of our Foster Kids got in from school. As well as being an equitable distribution of task, and an equitable approach to managing our own jobs, neither of us really enjoyed ‘the explosion’ as it was known.

There’s almost certainly a technical term, but ‘fizzy pop bottle’ best explains the lack of regulation we were witnessing and trying to manage.

This was a euphemism, but only just.

The first 45 minutes (it seemed a lot longer) of this kid arriving in the house were chaos.

Doors were banged, objects were hurled, Anglo Saxon expletives were tossed with extravagant abandon, and things were punched (rarely people! Hurrah for the smallest of mercies!).

Gordon Ramsey would blush at some of the language used in our house. If the celebrity chef really wanted to learn about swearing he should come for tea between 3.00-3.45pm on most weekdays.

What we were experiencing is not unusual in the world of fostering and adoption.

School reports were all fairly positive and we had never been told of similar behaviour in any other scenario.

The issue only happened at home and only happened with me and my wife present.

We chatted to his teachers.

“He’s good as gold…wouldn’t say boo to a goose….”

Whilst on the one hand reassuring, this was also troubling.

A little research and reflection gave us some clues to what was going on in his troubled mind and heart.

The good news was he felt safe at home. Only with us was he able to express the true level of the anger and fear that gripped his heart.

Fear masquerades as anger, and sometimes violence. The trick is to make a kid feel safe. This is a long long journey, with only the faintest hope of an ‘end’.

The less good news is that he was simply ‘masking’ in other situations. What looked like compliant, attentive behaviour was, in fact, freezing or flopping.

This kid had learnt that if you sit very still, and stare into the middle distance, people leave you alone. If you’re a teacher dealing with 30 kids, your focus is inevitably drawn to the disrupters and those wanting to go to the toilet.

This kid was exceptionally good at hiding in plain sight. We can only assume he’d learnt this survival technique somewhere along his journey. Perhaps trauma also played a part. You don’t have to have been a soldier in a combat zone to have a ‘1000 yard stare’.

We went to see the original of this photo at an Art Gallery. We are very highbrow. We then ‘went The Pound Bakery for two sausage rolls and a couple of dinkys’. You need to say this bit in Scouse.

We began to develop strategies.

You had to be ready at the door on his arrival. You had to cut a fine line between being welcoming and not giving eye contact. Under no circumstances should you engage in chit chat, unless you wanted a cocktail of saliva and swearing.

You had to have the full range of snacks and drinks laid out on the table. For us, this meant every flavour of Doritos.

The TV had to be on.

An iPad, in its full metal, protective jacket, had to be fully charged, along with headphones.

If it wasn’t pouring with rain, the back door could be left temptingly open. As we stayed indoors, our back garden would be left to weather the storm. Trees, fences and the spiny thing for drying clothes were punched, hit and smashed.

Like angry fizzy pop, we had to let the anger out.

This may sound terribly indulgent of a child’s tantrums but it worked for us. And I balk at the word ‘tantrum’.

And very gradually things got a little better.

The 45 minute explosion lasted only 30 minutes.

Spiny drying things in the garden had a survival expectation of months not weeks.

This is not our garden.

Outbursts still happened but they were short, sharp and generally less aggressive.

Loch Ness is massive. However, if you chucked stones it for years and years, eventually they would break the surface and you would see evidence of your endeavours.

I know we have learnt to take a pragmatic approach. If it works, we do it. We don’t care if it fits in with any preferred parenting style.

I’ve no idea if our approach will work for yours.

I know things improved to a point where neither us dreaded ‘coming home time’. That absence of anxiety was a beautiful beautiful feeling.

This little kid felt safe enough in our house to show his true emotions.

I think by offering consistency, stability and routine his fears began to dissipate.

He felt safe and he didn’t need to feel angry.

Well, not as angry.

He still kicks off, but not in a way that bothers us much.