Archive for Back to School for Traumatized Children

Recognizing and Addressing Separation Anxiety in Your Child

Recognizing and Addressing Separation Anxiety in Your Child

Being a parent is an incredibly rewarding, challenging, bewildering part of life. And you wouldn’t have it any other way. Even so, the first time you leave your child with a friend or drop him off at pre-school can be heart-wrenching. You’ve been together every single day and night since he was born and let’s face it; many parents are just as broken up as their three-year-old.

However, when a child exhibits more than the “normal” level of angst, there could be a concerning separation anxiety issue in the works. Let’s look closer at this common component of childhood and how to best address it in your family.

Separation Anxiety Explained

While it is quite normal for toddler-age children to be anxious when separated from their parents, if the behavior persists into school-age years the child has most likely developed separation anxiety disorder (SAD). Typical worries about being apart from their parents cling to the child long after the separation.

For example, many children develop fears that some kind of harm will come to their family; perhaps a car accident or a terrible injury. The child may think she will be hurt or if her parents are late picking her up, she could have a very real belief in her mind that they abandoned her.

Anxious children with cell phone access can make the situation far worse by calling or texting their parents multiple times a day just to receive that short moment of reunion, even if it is only through a device.

SAD Has Its Place in Childhood Development, if it stays in Place

Although it is very difficult to handle in the moment, separation anxiety is normal in traditional stages of development and it is not a bad, terrible thing that must be eliminated at all costs. A very young child has no idea how to navigate the great big world around them, much less understand and accept being parted from the people who have always been there, taking care of them.

As children grow and develop mentally, it ideally gets easier to handle these new situations. But for children with persistent anxiety challenges, it simply doesn’t get easier and invades many parts of their lives.

An especially difficult time saying goodbye at the bus stop might evolve into full-on panic attacks. Or, if a child manages to get through the initial physical separation, mental distress kicks in and presents a significant barrier to participating in everyday activities. The child might be petrified about starting school and being “alone” with all those other kids or if he crosses the threshold to school, he might shy away from traditional learning activities, playing sports, or even attending a classmate’s birthday party. 

Separation Anxiety in the Home

Of additional concern is the element of separation anxiety not being limited to outside locations. Anxiety and over attachment can also be present at home, where some children follow one or both parents everywhere they go in the house or are very afraid to be left alone in their rooms at night.

They have a hard time sleeping and often sneak into their parents’ bed because it is a comfortable and safe place. When visitors stop by, anxious children will often cling to a parent like a shield, hiding behind familiar safety, or they might flee and hide in another room altogether until the distress of being parted from their parents becomes too great.

How to Recognize Separation Anxiety

Several common behaviors are typically present in children with SAD and recognizing the signs as a parent is tremendously helpful in managing the issue.

  1. Consistently asking to be picked up from school instead of riding the bus. Skipping out on school or social activities.
  2. Difficulty falling asleep, afraid to sleep alone, or can’t sleep without a parent nearby.
  3. Struggles with goodbyes.
  4. Complains of health issues like headaches or stomachaches.

How to Handle It

With some determination and care, there are proven steps to take to ease separation anxiety and help your child gain confidence, including:

  • Practice separation in small doses.
  • Develop and practice brevity with goodbyes
  • Set up a routine and use it daily.
  • Praise your child regularly as she improves with separation.
  • Don’t stall during goodbyes. Keep it short and sweet.
  • Don’t give in with scenarios such as sleeping in your bed.
  • Try to make new surroundings familiar.

For more information on separation anxiety or to discuss your options, contact The Attach Place today at (916) 403-0588.

Fully Immersed in Back to School–Fear for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Dear Parents,

Back to school is back to fear.  The everyday excitement of putting on the new shoes, tees, and backpacks is met with the normal fear of new classrooms, new teachers, new students, new expectations, new routines, new systems, and new things to learn.  Then, BOOM, Dysregulation Nation!  I never heard that on Schoolhouse Rock when I was growing up, but I experienced it every school year with my own kids like a Big Hair Metal Band, huge and hovering right over my house. I have no idea what my children were hearing, but whatever it was it was plain scary for all involved.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

These thoughts regularly ran through my mind: Will he make it through the day?  Will she steal other kids’ lunch?  Will he bite someone, or run off the playground?  Will they get kicked out of the afterschool program? Will I have to leave work?  Who can I get to pick them up?  Is that call from the school?  Will my daycare quit? What am I going to do? 

Yep, I was completely self-absorbed in my own survival brain.   It took a few years before I woke up to the real need–creating a safe world for my children.  Doh! Once I realized how I could positively impact the back to school Dysregulation Nation, I felt empowered to actually help my children in their daily lives.  Little by little, the Big Hair Band faded back into the 80’s where it belonged.

Here are a few back-to-school tips:

  1. Be your child’s advocate at school.  S/he needs you to do that so the behavior the teacher and principal are staring down every day is seen as fearfulness, not badness. Trauma is a thing.  If your school staff think trauma in the past is past, then get them a book to read on how early childhood trauma of attachment breach and abuse changes the actual DNA of a child.  That’s a fact.
  2. Be a compassionate transition maker.  Transitions flip the brain into survival mode.  If it isn’t predictable, then it’s scary.  Even if routines are predictable, there is a hidden fear that it will become unstable, unpredictable, and, therefore, life-threatening–scary.
  3. Your relationship with your child is more important than homework–my little pet peeve.  If there were one thing I could eliminate from your child’s daily life, it would be homework.  Since I can’t, how about you do it?  If your child’s lid flips over homework every day, ask him/her to sit down for 5 minutes after snack and work on it.  Then be done.  If it doesn’t get done, oh well.  Get it accommodated right out via a 504 Plan or IEP.  Relationship over compliance is a pretty good mantra.
  4. Empower your child with regulating resources at home, before school, in the classroom, after school, and at bedtime.  The best resource is a regulated you.  Do your own self-care.  Seriously. Be mindful that your approach to everything related to your child impacts your child’s brain.
  5. Have fun every day with your child.  Play, play, play.  Regulation is a side-effect of play. Why does back to school have to be all about work?  Children will work the rest of their lives when they get out of school.  For these years, let their memories be of fun with their family.  Growing up isn’t only about lessons–school lessons, piano lessons, tutoring lessons, soccer lessons, life lessons, etc.  Growing up is about experiences.  Go play.  You will be so very glad you did because you will be able to maintain your influence when you need it as your children grow older and life does dish up some hard lessons.

Hope that helps.  Steady on, dear parents, the race to the end of the year is on.  Remember, it was the tortoise, not the hare that won.

Love matters,


Upcoming Sacramento Adoption Community Events

Capital Adoptive Families Alliance 2018 CAFA Conference

Saturday September 8, 2018 

9:30-11:15 Understanding Your Child’s IEP. How to advocate before, during and after the meeting. Attorney CHRISTIAN M. KNOX of Ruderman & Knox Law firm brings over 20 years of experience working with and advocating for special needs children, including as a legal representative for Sacramento County foster children. She has also served as a Special Education Hearing Officer and as an attorney representing children and families in Special Education hearings throughout the state of California.

11:30-12:30 Legal Services of Northern California Liza Thantranon, Managing Attorney and Regional Counsel for Health, will present how to access mental health services including how to overcome common barriers and how Legal Services of Northern California can help.

12:30-1:15 Lunch provided

1:15-2:45 Stories from the Trenches–Adoptive Parents share their stories and answer questions about Transracial adoption, dealing with challenging behaviors, WRAP, challenging the school district, and more. Laura Stillmunkes, Kori Tomlin, and Abby Johnson

Location: River Oak for Children, 5445 Laurel Hills Dr. Sacramento Time: 9:00-9:30 a.m. check-in 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. conference
Cost: $25 a person includes lunch No childcare available
To register: Questions: (916) 834-3700

Capital Adoptive Families Alliance was formed by adoptive parents in the Sacramento area to support one another through the challenges of childrearing, educate ourselves about the issues our children face, and advocate for them in finding needed services.

Working with Kids with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders And Other Neuro-Based Challenges: A training for caregivers, child welfare professionals, mental health providers, and school and community personnel

FASD is underdiagnosed and many adoptive parents have no idea their child may have it as other diagnoses have overlapping characteristics.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Registration 8:30
Training 9:00-12:00
Presented by Barb Clark, Master Trainer

Location: Sierra Forever Families
8928 Volunteer Lane, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95826
Phone: 916-368-5114

Hosted by Sacramento County Community Champions Network and the North American Council on Adoptable Children

The Attach Place Upcoming Events Calendar (Click Here)

Trust-based Therapeutic Parenting Class for Parents of Children from Difficult Beginnings by Ce Eshelman, LMFT will be held on September 15th, 2018 from 10 am to 4 pm.  Childcare provided for an additional fee. CALVCB will reimburse this training. Register here or on our website!

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public. September 21st, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to so we get enough snacks, right? This is a  monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

Our 5-Week FRIENDSHIP SOCIAL SKILLS IMPROV GROUPS FOR CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA–5-7 yrs and 8-10 yrs. groups. The 5-wk group will be $125 total, CALVCB payment eligible, structured, and fun, too.  The new groups are in full swing  Click here for more information.

UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:  Click Here to join our monthly  Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on September 12th, 2018! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827.

GIVE MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT TO A FELLOW ADOPTION ADVENTURER: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  At Amazon or get a discounted copy here.