Firstly, a big apology for our radio silence during January on here. If you follow us over on social media, you may know we were burgled at Christmas. And we're not talking about a modern, 'somebody nipped in and nicked our car keys and iPad' style burglary you hear about nowadays. Nope, we were invaded in a proper 1980s-style ransack.
While we were out with Lyall and Rich, an organised team of burglars* (*arsehole scumbags - sorry Grandma) broke in through an impossibly tiny window and took everything... our tellies, games consoles, passports, credit cards, the boys' Christmas presents and their money boxes. Every drawer and cupboard had been emptied onto the floor. Even our rubbish old phones and cameras that we kept in a drawer of junk were taken. They even stole cutlery from our kitchen. And, worst of all, they crammed everything into my beloved little car and took that, too. The house was completely upside-down.
As we've discussed before here on the blog, adopted kids like Lyall and Rich are vulnerable and traumatic events like burglary can trigger regression and trauma. So, we had to put our own shock to one side and carefully consider how we would sensitively explain what's happened and involve the children in the process of fixing everything.
Our ultimate aim was to ensure the boys felt safe and secure.
The pragmatic steps we took to involve the boys in a positive way have really helped, not only Lyall and Rich but the whole family move forward with confidence. So, putting on a brave, confident facade, here are the steps we took:
1. Remove the children from the initial shock
When we discovered we'd been burgled, the house was a huge horrible mess. So, I took Lyall and Rich to the barbers in town - somewhere familiar they'd enjoy for a couple of hours. This allowed Tom some time to survey the house and contact the police and insurers.
2. Keep the children informed, sensitively
On the way to the barbers, I explained to the boys we'd been broken into (avoiding the word 'burglary' as much as possible) and that our local police officers were going to look after everything. The boys surprised me with how inquisitive and brave their reactions were. Richard was most concerned about his WWE wrestling figures, which thankfully were fine and present.
3. Depend on extended family
We weren't able to touch any of the doors, windows or damaged furniture until the forensic police had visited us the following day, so I asked my sister (the boys' Aunty Emily) to collect the boys for a sleepover at her house. During the night, Emily noticed the boys were nervous about noises outside but she was able to reassure them (with the help of a hot chocolate and a cuddle).
4. Clear up the debris
While the boys were being treated to hot chocolates and movies with Aunty Emily, we were able to tidy up the debris at home. We gave the boys' bedrooms a deep clean and tidy. Fresh bedding, toys arranged, carpets cleaned. Besides a few missing bits and bobs, the boys' rooms looked as good as new. This was very important to ensure Lyall and Rich would feel safe when they came home.
5. Allow the children to 'assist' the investigation
Lyall and Rich (particularly Lyall) are fascinated with police, Mi5 and crime investigations. Lyall wants to be a forensic inspector when he's older (or a footballer, or a model, or secret agent, soldier or a 'chocolate taster' - don't ask!) so we arranged for Emily to drop the boys home just before the forensic team arrived.
Arriving in a really sporty looking police car (very exciting, both boys clapping hands), the forensic officer allowed Lyall and Rich to 'assist' him with the fingerprint powder and swabs (for lack of the actual word - Lyall would know) and had a very open chat with the four of us about improvements to our home security.
6. Involve the children in security upgrades
The locksmith had replaced all the locks and broken doors, but we were very aware about our lack of home security. To restore the boys' sense of security at home, we decided to involve them in selecting and installing a new alarm and CCTV system. But before we'd even mentioned alarms or cameras, inspired by Kevin on Home Alone, we asked the boys to produce a floorplan of the house and assign 'anti-theft' devices where they felt they were most needed.
Lyall suggested trap doors beneath the floor and a giant boot device to 'kick the burglars' bums' and Rich wanted laser beams all around the house. Unfortunately, the lasers would potentially slice Daddy into pieces like a giant egg-slicer on his way to the loo in the night so that wouldn't work.
We decided on a market-leading wireless alarm system and CCTV with cloud storage (not quite as exciting as lasers, admittedly). When it all arrived, Lyall helped Tom by suggesting locations for the new sensors and cameras. He held the ladder, did a lot of pointing and felt very proud of himself when the job was finished. Tom's ability with a drill and a tape measure never fail to impress! Richard helped me chose a snazzy new doorbell with a video camera built into it from the local electronics place.
Once everything had been installed, we had a quick family meeting to work out what we'd actually do if the alarms ever went off. Then, we had a drill with a test alarm, evacuation and we met up in our muster area (currently the upstairs hall) for a group hug.
The feeling of invasion
If you've ever been a victim of a burglary yourself, you'll know first-hand the awful feeling of invasion. The physical items we lost were just material - replaceable. But it's the insidious, horrible feeling that strangers (and probably quite nasty ones) have been lurking inside your home that prevails.
We hope the rational approach we took in the first hours and days after our burglary may have saved our boys from any lasting trauma. With our new alarm system, locks, CCTV and our new family protocol we actually feel safer than before. Not to mention, the forensic police officer reassured us that homes with robust security systems are far less likely to be targeted (or worse - targeted for a second time) by burglars. A month on and we all feel much better.
Our advice to you? Talk to your family about your security at home and make some improvements. However safe you think your neighbourhood is, nobody's immune from burglary.