Collateral damage

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Clear and distinct in my mind. My social worker during prep phase sat on my brand new sofa and said “And what happens – what will you do – when ‘Plus 1′ takes a knife to this lovely new sofa, and cuts a little slit in it”. She acted it out, coolly and calmly, with her fingernail.

And that was that. In the ten months between my first call to the agency, and approval panel, this was the one and only mention of the havoc about to rain down, and the closest anyone ever came to preparing me for CPV.

One hypothetical reference to collateral damage, that over the last 11 years has become a reality of:

- an eight foot stretch of 150 year old T&G wood paneling now split, splintered and bowed out; her all time favourite self harm kicking place.

- six doors that no longer hang right, or close properly, and one with kick holes all across the bottom at different levels that represent the passing years like a height chart.

- the ‘road map’ of our walls, criss crossed with skid marks from things hurled and whipped against them,

- the beautiful handmade bread crock, broken and cracked with a chunk of the lid missing from being slammed one to many times in attempt to pull me into her rages.

- my christening bracelet, a part of me for 40 years, gone forever, without a trace.

- the oak kitchen table that survived our family for three generations, scarred with dozens of deep, double pointed dents from a claw hammer attack.

- the bruises on my body that come, turn to rainbows, and then go.

- the toilet seat that like its predecessors, is cracked through repeated, angry slamming.

- the long series of phones, laptops, controllers, a hairdryer and a tv, all smashed to smithereens. With implements, and sometimes with her bare hands or feet; stamping or smacking them repeatedly until cuts bleed from the sharp edges.

- the bite scars on my arms, and the deep raised one on my thigh.

- the canine tooth missing from my beautiful dog’s mouth, broken by the rock hurled at her during an angry summer’s day walk.

- boxfuls of household necessities and equipment that go missing, thrown out in secret when she gets obsessed with me having ‘too much stuff’; tools, climbing gear, coats, tape cassettes, camping kit, cameras, kitchen utensils.

- the regular scratch marks to my face, arms, back, legs, belly from the times I misjudge how close I can get to calm her while she tries to smash her head against the wall.

- the dashboard of my land rover cracked and hanging off on the passenger side from full power kicks over the flavor of a packet of crisps.

- the burns from where she threw dinners or hot drinks over me.

- the two lonely bowls left intact from a full dinner set, and the cracks in the tiles where the missing ones landed.

- the stains on the oak floors that I’ve tried to sand off (because, you know, pee).

- the five sash window panes either cracked or studded with bullet style impact holes.

- the banisters that creak and wobble a third of the way down where I crashed into them when she pushed me down the stairs.

- the blinds from her room currently ‘hidden’ in a bin bag; stashed in the airing cupboard where she thinks I won’t notice, cut into pieces…

I’m not sure where to stop. These – and many more like them – are ‘peak events’. The visible and tangible expressions of trauma. They come as part of the wider package of less story worthy hours of this screaming, rejecting, unsoothable, unstoppable, fear based, self preservational trauma that rampages through our home on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

Looking at this list I feel almost nothing except love for her, and empathy for this raging battle she wages with herself every day. Extraordinary as it may seem, this list has become just another part of my life; normal. This list is an ongoing, central part of who we are as a family. Though i may get ‘lost’ in the heat of it all, or give in to my own feelings of hurt, I know this is the part of her that needs me most. That needs me to be so much stronger than i ever thought i could be.

Should I post this? Probably not; i’m fearful of making her pain so visible. But I will, because hearing the real stories of others helps me, so I know other people need to hear mine.

First, the other adopters: so they know they are not alone.

Second, the prospectives: so they know to access realistic training long before it is needed.

Third, the lobbyists and change makers: so they can push harder for adequate and practical adoption support.

And fourth, the professionals: so they know this is a day in, day out 24/7 reality in adoptive homes. So they know the stories we tell them are just snapshots in the barrage of a bigger picture that requires us to figure out, contain and guide the most vulnerable of lives in our care, all by our untrained, under supported and often compassion fatigued selves. 

So they know we need more help.

 

NB: click here for the new report on Impact of Child on Parent Violence from Thorley and Coates (2017)

 

All about Love

CHT often says, “Love isn’t all about Love”.

And I’ve come to recognise she is absolutely right. Love is a doing word, a verb, over and above that most primal of feelings. Love is the unabashed truth that conquers fear and bathes us in understanding and acceptance.

Love is about opening up to our vulnerabilities, about loving the ‘warts’ because without them there would be no ‘all’.

The love of something can make us fearful: of “the sword hidden amongst his pinions”, and of the penetrating light it pours into our darkest parts, throwing them up for all to see. Love gives us the choice to turn and cover our eyes, or to stare back at ourselves with deeper acceptance of our intricacies and foibles.

Taking my place in an adoptive family has taught me much about Love. There is no question that Love can leave us fractured and vulnerable; our children show us that every day. What I am suggesting is that Love is an invitation to open ourselves up to that vulnerability, and to see it differently: as the vital essence that makes each of us uniquely and gloriously – us.

Growth – building resilience – does not mean fixing our cracks; or even healing them. It means learning how to carry them, to scaffold and protect them; to stride out and embrace the world all the better because of them. The more I take my focus away from ‘fixing’ and move into ‘accepting’, the stronger we both become. I ‘adopted’ an ‘adoptee’, with all the nooks and crannies that trauma and attachment brings – no ‘fixing’ required. In my acceptance of the whole of her, she sees the open door to accept herself.

We should embrace our vulnerabilities – all of them. Love ourselves all the more for them.  Look at them with open, unjudgemental eyes, and see the truth they hold in how much bigger and better a person they make us. And in accepting ourselves, give others the permission to so the same.

That is when Love becomes … Agape.

Holes

Days in the Mumdrah house are riddled with holes.

The Sea of Holes – from The Yellow Submarine

CHT describes her hole as big, and red, and inside her; part of her physical anatomy. As she talks of it she grasps at her chest around her heart, and claws at her stomach.  Her hole is empty.  Needy and greedy; it drains her of all security, whilst also being the portal through which the deep fear and shame enter her and expose her to a life that no child should have to bear.  Sometimes frightening – monster shaped and angry, sometimes stupefied – ice like and cold.  And sometimes (but possibly always) mummy shaped.  She has said that nothing fits or fills it; not love, or home, or sweets or presents, not understanding nor acceptance.  And if ever something good finds its way inside, it never lasts long, because it always falls back out.

But I am telling her story, one she must give in her own words.  Until that day can come, this post tells my own tale, and my holes come in two forms; both black and deep, and outside of me.

The first is huge, and elephant shaped. 

It spans the physical space between Mumdrah and CHT at all times.  I go about the day-to-day tasks of my motherhood skirting this crater, in constant risk of slipping.  If I look down, my toes overlap the cliff-like edge.  I scramble to keep on solid ground, dislodging stones that topple and fall in warning of things to come. Every decision and action I take comes with a chance of maintaining or losing my footing, to be swallowed whole into its depths.   One unknowing false move, an ill timed step, a lapse in concentration, the fuzz of tiredness, or an emotional landmine unwittingly stepped on – and I’m in.

Tumbling down, the trust and the bonds I work so hard to build are tested as they stretch and fray and tear.  Inside that hole, every tool, skill and ounce of patience is stripped from me; all lost in the confusion of an emotional world that is wholly not my own, not fully understood.

Nothing good comes of that hole while we are in it, but as I scrabble back out into the sunlight – bruised and a little guilty at my failure to stay clear – I’ve come to recognize the learning and growth it brings.  Repeated over and over, this hole helps more than hinder me.  Look closely at the hole that lies before you: are its edges as steep as when you first fell in?  Mine seems less treacherous, and has slowly become less of something to fear or resist, and more of a place to respect and acknowledge, as I build and develop as a parent.  My acceptance makes it an ally, rather than a foe.

The second is folded and tiny, tucked away in my pocket. 

I take it out in the haze of mental exhaustion.  I enter it willingly, and hide my heart in its depths to find relief from the tensions of adoptive family life.  But staying too long within its sanctuary comes at a price: detachment.  For within this void – just as it offers a break from the emotional torrent – it also numbs the rest of me; cutting off the love and the playful, curious joy that keeps us safe and tight together.  Severed too is the lifeline connection to the uplifting understanding of the adopters and adoptees around me – The People Who Know.

This hole is sticky, and harder to leave.  As much as I need it, I am wary of it and heartless trap that lies within.

Mumdrah has been quiet for too long, stuck in her sea of holes.  It’s good to be back; we have much to tell. 

Close encounters of the contact kind

My post today forms part of the Weekly Adoption Shout Out theme – contact.

Direct contact – close encounters of the third kind.

I make no bones of using this opportunity to plant a few thoughts.

However your family is made, imagine for a moment being together.  There will be love and laughter, conflicts and hopes, truth and denial, loss and increase; celebration and heartache – all in one room.  If we had to give that melting pot of experience a name, it would be something deeply evocative emotive; overflowing with depth and timbre.

In our adoptive families, they would have us believe the name of that gathering is ‘contact’.

Contact: a junction of surfaces, mutual tangency of the limbs of two celestial bodies, the junction of two electrical conductors, an association or relationship [Mirriam Webster].

Contact: an authority centric, institution focused, top down term that sanitises basic human bonds and strips them of all their wonder and emotion [Mumdrah]

Contact: a euphemism that tastes bitter on the tongue; tinny, awkward, hollow, municipal.

Contact: an instruction that communicates duty; an obligation to be endured.

Contact: a scene coloured with the grey of secrets, suspicion and partition.

Contact: a concept that turns a family encounter into nothing more than a meeting.

Contact: a word that transforms a family into alien nations struggling to overcome translation.

Words are powerful; metaphors for our cognitive framework. They inform our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.  This policy wonk terminology of adoption sculpts the lives of everyone and anyone who enters. Unaware, we inherit this pervasive language and it shapes our families to its own design.  Our use of it builds a restrictive cage around us, and perpetuates the trauma and isolation of adoption. It divides us and separates us, and upholds a system that is way off course.

These sterile words keep us all from a different way of thinking and understanding; one that could feed and nourish the road to healing and wholeness.  By using them, we collude and ally ourselves with their negative values. The mindset these words creates seems to undermine and fracture the families they describe.

Indirect contact.  Direct contact: all I can think of are those five iconic musical notes.

Think now how differently it would feel if instead of ‘contact’ we:

Gather. Visit. Party. Flock. Swarm. Throng. Huddle. Rally.  Assemble. Powwow. Get together.

I work hard not to be infected by this terminology of adoption, and I reject their words #bethechange

 

Fish fingers

We rally round our kitchen table as a centre point of family life.

Magic moments adoption: you never know when they will strike.

It is always covered in crumbs, glitter, coins, bottle tops, and all those things that make the world go round. It is a big old wooden affair.  Scuffed, scratched, and full of a history that unfolds stronger with every day; a good metaphor for our lives.

This table provides the rooftop to CHT’s most traumatised overspills, and the work space for our most adventurous creations.  It is the centre-point of celebrations, the boardroom to our most vital family decisions, and the
 bastion of calm to my white knuckles during those moments when the challenges of parenting a traumatised child prove too great. But best of all, it is the place she and I first laughed together; really laughed.

It was about the sixth or seventh day we had met.  We were making dinner – fish fingers. Adoptee children all too often find food and eating complicated.  They can have complex compulsions to hoard or steal and do strange things with it.  They often arrive with limited experience of food, and the foods they do know don’t ‘match’ the foods you produce (think – the difference between your shepherd’s pie and mine; unrecognisable). And fourthly (though I bet there is a fifth and sixth), food can be one of the areas where the control issues associated with attachment will flare.

So there we were, skating on thin ice while going through each stage of cooking.  We had pinnies and music, filled three little bowls with egg, flour and breadcrumbs, and cut some gorgeous plump pieces of haddock.  She was so serious and reluctant, but followed along once she was sure there was no pressure, experimenting with feeling and dipping into the ingredients.  Experiencing perhaps for the first time the great commensal art that is food. Absorbed, she coated the fish, her fingers, and our grand old table.

On finishing the last piece, she looked up triumphant and announced: “now we make a box and put them in the freezer”.

I don’t know why but the laughter just started; infectious and magical and real and honest.  It grew, and it hit our bellies; and we both stood there laughing the tears right out of our eyes.  Making wiggly clawing motions with our breadcrumbed fingers till our sides ached and our lungs were gasping for air.

Looking back, I see how that laughter shattered the heavy tension that hangs over the first days of an adoption.  It offered a brief respite from the intensity, and flooded us both with a dawning hope that there may be some interlude to the hurt and loss and fear that had come crashing its way into our lives.  It brought us stumbling to our first sunlit patch of common ground, the crazy overlap between our two worlds: here – the place where fish fingers are made, and there – where fish fingers come out of a box from the freezer.

But eclipsing all the analysis and hindsight was that pure and extraordinary magic moment, when the simple transformative power of our shared laughter 
opened the door to something deep between us; and our hearts beat as one for the very first time.

In that very instant, stood around our table, we were no longer strangers.

 

This post is written as part of The Oliver’s Madhouse “Magic Moment Mondays”.


Bricks in the wall

The building blocks of every school are made of more than bricks and mortar.  Their high walls are made strong by the stark white building block institutions of policy, protocol, tradition, the three R’s, discipline, order, and consistency; cemented by staff experience.

I feel small writing this, staring up at that ivory tower that overlooks our invisible domain of adoption and FASD.

So I lay siege to their walls, chip chip chipping away with new research and guidance and diagnosis for insight; scratching at the deep foundations and pushing hard against their mighty pillars for some sign of recognition or give; beseeching them for the help and understanding we so desperately need.  Painstakingly trying to tear down their simplistic but impenetrable algorithms that sort all behaviour into either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Slowly, slowly I breakthrough.  In every meeting, it starts with a distant rumble until sure enough – one by one – the bricks start to shake and fall until those walls of stone come falling down toppled by an undeniable truth.  With a flash of understanding I can see my words penetrate their solid beliefs and replace them with compassion.

But somewhere between each meeting room and the classroom, my spell is broken. With every step along those hallowed corridors, every fallen brick moves effortlessly back to its place in the wall and piece by piece the insight and the empathy is blocked out once again.   As the teacher reaches the blackboard, the establishment is restored once again.

I appreciate their time and their ears, I really do.  But it is not listening we need; its doing. It is not me that needs their attention, it is CHT.  And it is not a meeting or a report that changes things, but action.

Because every day this continues, barriers of a different kind are going up.  Cold, misshapen walls loom, and silently trap CHT ever more tightly behind each negative experience. Their punishments, their rebuffs, their knock backs, their league tables, their prejudice undermine her strength and her astonishing will to do well; replacing her goals and her braveheart determination to achieve brick by brick with a reluctance to participate, a fear of trying, and a strong resentment for the education system that is letting her down.

It chills me to my very core as I watch seemingly powerless while they crush her and let her slip through their net.

FASD and adoption are the statistical shanty towns of the school room; loco parentis does not apply here and every child does not matter.

Further reading:

Adoption UK Publication – Education Now

Other adoption/education blogs from The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Mother’s day toolbox

If you have read my blog post on our mother’s day experiences in adoption, you may be wondering how we navigate through the supercharged emotions – or more to the point how you are going to handle it!

Here is an insight into Mumdrah and CHT’s ‘tools for Mother’s Day’; we hope they help spark some ideas of your own.

The Preparation:

Step 1:  once I see the cards and the flowers and the adverts appear, I mentally prepare myself for a rough patch, and check myself over for any hidden expectations.  I am lucky that Mother’s Day does not hold much meaning for me, but it is still wise to remind myself that the root of mother’s day is about not in truth about mothers, but children; and I am likely not to be the ‘mother’ she is thinking about right now.

Step 2:  as the ‘sea of yellow’ approaches fever pitch in the stores, I warn her it is coming, and ask what she wants to talk about.  We then plot out the emotional landscape together. We i) come up with ideas on what she may or may want to do about the day, ii) explore what to do when people are unawares, forget or don’t understand how hard and different it is for her, iii) think of ways we might help people understand better in advance, and iv) identify her toolbox for coping.  We also remind ourselves that it is ok to v) feel conflicting emotions about people: I love you but I am angry too.

Step 3:  we make a plan for the inevitable situation that school will not give her enough time to make more than one card if she wants to so (i.e. buying another or making others at home).  This removes some pressure and anxiety.

The card/gifts:  she makes cards for who ever she wants to.   There are three main protagonists here – her Mother, her Foster Mum, and me – so be prepared for similar.

Making an active connection:   once we have the cards and/or gifts, we are not always allowed (or she may not actually want) to send them.  So we think of other ways to make a positive and active connection.   Sometimes we burn letters to send them up the chimney; just like we do for Santa.  We have also posted them with no address.  We sometimes light a candle.  She has a candleholder with ‘Mum’ written on it that she often uses to ‘feel close’ or even talk to her Mum.

Symbolic acts count emotionally, we find.   She always has lots of great ideas about these little rituals.

Be flexible:  what she wants can change minute by minute.  I respond to her ebb and flow and changes of heart and mood and scrap plans for new ones.  But there are times when she baulks last minute at doing anything, because her fear of opening herself to these hard emotions creates a barrier to doing what she really wants.  If it feels appropriate, I may gently take the lead here, by asking if she minds me going into another room with a candle to think about her Mum by myself.  Sometimes starting something this way helps her overcome whatever worries she had; she will usually join me and then I back off again.

Be Brave:  yes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that this is one of the hardest days on the Adoption Calendar.  I find – for us – hiding from it has a worse impact than facing it.  It seems so important that she learns that whatever she is feeling is natural, and that I am always there and happy to help her navigate through.  We always seem to come out the other side frazzled, but a little stronger.

If you have any more suggestions and ideas – please share!

Mother’s Day

Hold fast; Mother’s Day is coming.

Mother’s Day – a sea of yellow

Every high street, every store, every advert and bar of chocolate is awash in a sea of yellow; our entire world is rebranded to portray the simple gentleness and love of a mother.   Schoolrooms are filled with glue, glitter and ribbon for making tributes, and talk naturally turns to family.

CHT makes her card, but there is a troubled reluctance in her eyes; sure signs of the first wave of inner turmoil as she fights to decide just who she should be making it for.

As she gives up and just makes it anyway, a second wave tumbles her into a seething mass of rapids as she tries but fails to share in the easy, familial chatter of her peers.

The current has her now, and there is no escaping the third wave as it swamps her in a tempest of boiling resentment against a life story that does not fit their mould nor their expectation.  The fourth then sweeps over her; like a tidal wave crashing through every defense releasing the power of her anguish out into the open for all to see.

Then the fifth and final wave – like a rip tide – claims her; drawing her back into thick primal fathoms that shut out all else but the crushing pain, and she is lost in the deeps once again.

These days plunge her headlong into unmapped depths of pain and murky uncertainty; force her back into those dreaded layers of endless salted questions that make her raw wounds sting and bleed once again.   Drowning, not waving, her struggles go unnoticed.  Worse still, the guidance and empathy she needs to help her through is missing; replaced with the censure of a teacher.

There is a heaviness in my heart as she comes home and retells the story of yet another day cast on the rocks of misunderstanding.  The endless inner wrestling on these troubled oceans is hard enough without this battery that threatens and erodes our progress from the outside.

CHT’s life is what it is, and we cannot and should not protect her from the reality of its story.  We can only work steadily on together, help her find some shelter from the onslaught long enough to make sense of it, to find some peace within it, and seek the patches of calm that show her it is possible to sometimes simply set it aside.

So for now we are bobbing in the shallows, waiting with lifelines; ready for the next typhoon to lash down as she bravely steps out through the yellow shoals of her mother’s day.

For further reading: see our Mother’s day Toolkit.

Adoption: Loss and change

What has she lost in the short course of her life?

- Her people:

Severed not simply from family and close ones, but from the connections she had to the web of her whole community.  Vaporized in a heartbeat, leaving a bottomless and profound grief that sits alongside the acid sting of whole-scale rejection.   Forsaken and discarded by the people she loved:  ”I’m rubbish.” she says.

- Her things:

Torn from all that was familiar and reassuring.  Her favourite armchair, the mints in the dish, the hiding place in the garden, the hum of the boiler, the crack on the ceiling, her most precious teddy.  Every aspect of the personal landscape that etches into a child’s mind, wrenched away like a thief in the night: “I don’t care anyway.” she says.

- Her culture, her sense of belonging.

Cut off from everything that reflected a sense of place back to her. Her accent, her habits, her mores, her customs her traditions, the taste of a shepherd’s pie, all came suddenly to an end, leaving her an outsider to her own life: “I don’t know what you mean.” she says.

- Her means to share experiences.

Cut off from all her stories and every event that ever happened, she found herself pushed into isolation.  With no common ground, no memory lane, she became a mystery to herself, with no one to answer questions about: how she got her name, her first word, what happened the day she was born, her close encounter with a hedgehog: “You just don’t get it.” she says.

- Her willingness to trust.

As we dare to pick apart the loss, we uncover a shame that infiltrates her very sense of self.  In doubting her own self worth, she also questions the legitimacy of anyone to care for her. Fear thwarts the intimacy that trust demands, and mistakes it for control and blame: “I am just a bad baby.” she says.

- Her openness to love and be loved

Every meaningful intimate relationship and connection she ever made resulted in neglect, abuse, and – eventually – abandonment.  Her willingness to trust, to be cared for and helped, was decimated; replaced with a pain that keeps her pushing hard at arms length from the very love and security that would help her move forward. “I don’t need you.” she says.

And then – as if this isn’t enough – comes the final blow; a total lack of understanding from a society that celebrates adoption with a blindness that negates and opens old wounds time and time again: “You are lucky Mumdrah chose you”, society says.

At the moment she joined me, she lost Everything.

CHT’s adoption song of loss and trust

Letterbox: a guide to indirect contact

What is letterbox, or indirect contact?  This is simply a means to keep in contact with family members and/or foster carers through letters and correspondence.

How will we know what to do?  An agreement will be made before placement.  It is clear and prescriptive about who you are being asked to write to, when, how often, and what to include.

Who decides this, and when?  Each party should feed into the Contact Plan before placement as part of the matching panel, so make your voice is heard.  Remember, you are making decisions for a child; the detail of the plan should be in their interests.

And the legal lowdown?  Some are informal, and some part of the Placement and/or Adoption Order so legal requirements may vary.  It is, however, expected that you follow the recommendations.

Is it safe?   Protocol removes the exchange of addresses; letters are sent securely via a third party letterbox (hence ‘indirect contact’), and content is checked and then forwarded on.  But mistakes are made.  I’ll be blogging about this elsewhere, as well as the impact the letters have on us.

What do you put into the letters?  We begin by writing updates about the tapestry of life: my hair is long, I like spagetti, I won the football, I stayed in a caravan, I got a new tooth.  As she gets older, we also add in more of her burning questions, opinions, and whatever she wants to get off her chest.

How do you go about writing them?  I always work alongside CHT.  First, I grab her short attention span and note down her swift monologue.   Next I type up and ‘extend’ her words into letter form.  I then read it back, and add or remove as she sees fit.  I adapt the letter for each person we write to (sister, parents, foster carer), and then she signs it off and sometimes adds a message.  The whole process usually takes a few days so she can deal with it in small emotional chunks.

What about the photos?  CHT chooses her favourite photos of the year and we make up a collage and print them off on lovely quality photo paper.  We do take care not to choose any photos that identify or place us – like school uniform or landmarks.  Not because of ‘cloak and dagger secrecy’, but because we believe contact of all kinds should be a planned choice on both sides.

Should we include anything else?  CHT often does a drawing – usually just one – which we copy and put into each envelope.

What about the letters we receive?  You may, or may not, get replies.  Family are often not told the same protocol as you are (crazy I know), so may not be sure what they are supposed to do.  Our experience is that if we do get a letter, it usually comes as a reply in response to ours.  The letterbox checking system isn’t fail safe, so I usually do a quick once over of the letters first; this also helps me prepare for what support CHT might need.  The time delay also means that Christmas/Birthday cards for CHT never arrive on time.

What if the letters have difficult or inappropriate content?  From our experience it is pretty evident that no one gets any support or guidance in how to write these letters.  People can easily make mistakes through just not thinking things through.  If there is a clear problem or issue, then communicate this to your letterbox contact person and ask for your needs to be asserted.

Any other Mumdrah tips?

Send from the heart: I always support CHT to create something that reflects what she feels; it helps to imagine what we would want to receive. I don’t just mean the content, I mean the care and consideration put into them.  For us the letters are like lifelines.

Go easy: When we receive letters, sometimes we read them straight away, sometimes CHT wants to wait a while.  Once we’ve read them and poured over any photos that arrived, I copy them and store the originals – along with the accompanying letter from SS -and CHT keeps the copy to look at at her leisure.  This means that we can always make a copy when I find them tearstained under her pillow, forgotten under her bed, ripped up and thrown from the window, defaced and ruined, or screwed up in the bin.

Remember whose letters they are: I have never for one moment considered archiving her letters ’till she is older’.  They are her letters, and it is not my right to withhold them. That would be my general advice, but of course that would change if the content was threatening (but then i think SS would be dealing with that for you).

Continue the connection: If the letters mention a song or similar, we often go and listen to it afterwards.  I try and find any way to strengthen the connection and bridge the divide through the events and the news that are shared in the letters.

Keep everything that comes through letterbox.

See what BAAF has to say about indirect contact.

Letterbox contact – not as daunting as it feels.