This article is the second from Sarah Almond, sharing some of the highs and lows of her family’s adoption journey, and what inspired her to create Almond Blossom Nature Connections. You can read Sarah’s first article here which shares how her and her husband met their boys.
What’s been the hardest part of your adoption journey?
Waiting. Waiting for a match; waiting for social workers to complete paperwork; waiting for social workers to send life story books; waiting for an adoption order; waiting for social workers to complete tasks they’ve promised were done already but never materialise. Our experience with local authorities has confirmed that Coram was the right choice for us as they’ve been able to step in and provide support
It was also very hard to witness the grief our youngest experienced at leaving friends and foster carer. We were expecting it and had prepared ourselves with lots of reading and learning. But it’s still heart breaking to watch your child so upset.
The best parts?
There are so many amazing things about having these two beautiful souls in our family. Regularly being woken up with Lego balanced on my nose to the words ‘Mummy look what I made’. Little notes and paper aeroplanes found around the house with declarations of love for Mummy and Daddy.
Morning huggies. Us all being dragged to look out of the window at the ‘pinky sky’ every time there’s a pretty sunrise or sunset. Friday film and pizza nights. Our youngest copying the words I tell them every night and telling my Nana she is ‘surrounded by love’ after my Grandpa died.
Witnessing the pride they have in their achievements. Hearing giggles of delight from upstairs when they are playing together. Deep philosophical discussions with our eldest. Dancing and singing with our youngest.
What advice would you give yourself knowing what you do now, if you were just starting your adoption journey?
Don’t take anything the kids say personally. None of it is really about you.
Stop caring what other people think about your parenting.
Keep being reflective but don’t overthink absolutely everything. There isn’t always a deeper meaning.
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to set it up
I used to be a teacher and then trained as a forest school leader. Since then, I’ve learned more and more about the impact of being outdoors on our mental health and wellbeing.
Before adopting the second time, I was running intervention and nurture groups for children outdoors following the forest school ethos, but adding extra wellbeing and connection activities. The change in many of the children’s behaviours was startling. The relationships the children built with each other were more robust. We had the time and space to listen to each other and they had a lot more freedom of expression.
Children who joined the group very reluctant to speak or share any of their work, were able to lead games and storytelling sessions by the time I left. Those in the intervention group were recognisably calmer and more able to regulate themselves outside.
I decided I wanted to learn more about this and how to improve my practice. I started a course with The Therapeutic Forest and began to follow the research of Professor Miles Richardson on Nature Connection. He said “Our latest research has revealed there is a need to go beyond activities that simply engage people with nature through knowledge and identification, to pathways that develop a more meaningful and emotional relationship with nature.”
This led me to training as a nature guide and learning about Natural Mindfulness with Ian Banyard. Throughout my learning, I’ve truly experienced the nurturing effect of spending time in nature. But, more importantly, connecting with it more deeply by accessing the ‘Five pathways ‘ formulated by Professor Richardson.
Through his research and work with the Wildlife Trust, he found these pathways to nature connection have the greatest outcomes in terms of improvement in wellbeing.
The act of engaging with nature through the senses for pleasure e.g. listening to birdsong, smelling wild flowers, watching the sunset.
Engagement with the aesthetic qualities of nature, e.g. appreciating natural scenery or engaging with nature through the arts.
Using nature or natural symbolism (e.g. language and metaphors) to represent an idea, thinking about the meaning of nature and signs of nature, e.g. the first swallow of summer.
An emotional bond with, and love for nature e.g. talking about, and reflecting on your feelings about nature.
Extending the self to include nature, leading to a moral and ethical concern for nature e.g. making ethical product choices, being concerned with animal welfare. (findingnature)
During the pandemic, it became clear to me that adults, and particularly parents, were just as much in need of experiencing these pathways as children. In fact, if the parents experienced them and felt the benefits, they were more likely to encourage their children to connect with nature in this way.
We all know we’re better parents if we look after our own wellbeing. But sometimes life gets in the way and it seems easier or even necessary to just focus on the children and the never ending to do list. It can seem unattainable to find time to do something we know will help us in the long run but doesn’t necessarily have an immediate effect or tick anything off our list.
Nature connection has been found to reduce blood pressure, muscle tension and stress. Research shows that people who have a connection with nature are more likely to describe themselves as thriving and have the ability to regulate and balance their emotions more easily.
Our connection with nature and relationship with a place becomes deeper and more meaningful if we visit and connect regularly. It allows us to notice the little changes from month to month, season to season and year to year. We become experts in our special space and feel the symbiotic relationship more intensely. You can experience positive feelings from just one interaction with nature. But to feel the long lasting rewards of nature connection, it needs to be part of your ongoing routine.
I was inspired to start because I knew I needed someone to tell me to look after myself and keep on track of my self-care. And to actually utilise all the strategies and techniques I knew about instead of just collapsing in front of rubbish TV at the end of each day to have ‘me time’ before dragging myself upstairs an hour or so later.
I also decided to focus on adopters and prospective adopters because I know I would have loved being part of a community like this. One which is mainly focused on the parents. And on doing an enjoyable activity together where I didn’t need to worry about any potentially awkward conversations.
Almond Blossom Nature Connections will help adopters and prospective adopters step off the hamster wheel of life. It provides a safe space to use the five pathways to connect to our greater place in nature, each other and themselves allowing them to be free to be the best parent they want to be. I also provide gentle accountability to make it easier to prioritise self-care instead of making excuses for ignoring it.
My website launched on 24th February with a 20% discount on all memberships for the first 20 people who signed up. There are three levels of membership to help adopters connect with nature as part of their self-care routine.
1 self care gift per quarter
Weekly self care and nature connection challenge with support
Weekly activity suggestion for connecting to nature with kids
Nature Journaling prompts
Monthly Nature photography competition
Access to the online community in our forum
10% discount on booking one off retreats
All the benefits of Ash Membership
4 in person nature connection retreats per year
20% discount on any extra retreats
All the benefits of Ash Membership
10 in person nature connection retreats per year.
30% discount on any extra retreats
There’s also an option to purchase gift memberships.
Click here to find out about other adoption resources