They Are Nothing If Not Spiky

Dear Parents:

Sometimes when I explain the effects of Complex Developmental Trauma on the brain and therefore on the behavior of a child to a parent, I get a quick push back.  It sounds something like this, “Okay, but she isn’t always like that. Sometimes she is perfectly fine.”   What the parents are telling me without knowing it is that their child is spiky.  That means there are skips and stops and gaps in development over several domains–cognitive, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual.  Spiky behavior is confusing to many people–therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, parents, and extended family members.

Some days my 20-year-old son remembers to do his chores completely and some days he doesn’t. Sometimes he follows all the rules and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes he brushes his teeth, zips his pants, and puts on deodorant, and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes he is completely chill and sometimes he is molten lava. He has been like this for 18 years.  He isn’t being defiant, lazy, oppositional, or deliberately anything.  He wants to please me and feels pretty good about himself, but his behavior is spiky.  He now knows this. If he slept poorly, ate poorly, felt bored, had a disagreement with a friend, didn’t do well at school, felt misunderstood, had a nightmare, broke a rule, ate all the donuts, had a great day, is planning a sleepover, went to a birthday party, got a gift, didn’t get a gift…he gets dysregulated. Life is dysregulating to him and sometimes it isn’t.  He is the poster child for spiky.

Just to be honest here, spiky makes me crazy.  I can’t depend on my son to consistently do anything.  I am worried he will forget something important if I don’t check up on him–like leaving the blender on, letting the dogs run out, getting really lost, getting stuck somewhere, forgetting his meds, letting the sink run over, coming home hours late, not calling when he said he would, not following instructions, misunderstanding directions, and the list goes on.

So, what is the solution for spiky?  You aren’t going to like this: acceptance, understanding, empathy, and patience–all YOURS.

I love my son. Today, he didn’t go to school and blamed it on his adult roommates who didn’t wake him up on time to get to his ride.  Remember, he’s twenty now and living away from home.

I texted him this: “You know the rap…you are responsible for yourself.  Try again tomorrow, sweetheart.  No allowance for today. You are responsible for yourself.  You are a terrific person.  Create the life you want for yourself.  I love you, Mom.”

He replied, “I know mom.  It wasn’t L.’s fault.  We worked it out like adults.  I will try again in the morning. Love ya.”

The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

I love this.  I have grown to see the joy in parenting a child (adult child) who needs a lot of support long into adulthood.   I have five children–two adopted from difficult beginnings, one foster child from difficult beginnings, and two step children (frankly, from difficult beginnings, too). All are adults now.  All have a need for a loving, patient, understanding parent.

Now that I am hovering around my 60’s, I am able to see the bigger picture.  Growing up is a process.  When there is trauma, the process is elongated.  That’s all.  Elongated, not impossible.

Love matters,


UPCOMING Sacramento/Local Area EVENTS:

2017 CAFA Conference
Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The goal of this conference is to give adoptive parents, foster/kinship
parents and professionals the opportunity to meet and learn from four
therapists who have worked successfully with adoptive families in the Sacramento area.

9:00 Ce Eshelman, LMFT – How parental attachment patterns impact
parenting challenging traumatized children
10:30 Kate Messina, PhD, LMFT – Identify and coach your child’s
temperament and “protest style”
12:30 Edye Swidler, LMFT – Social Media and your adopted child
2:00 Debra Wiegel, LMFT – The Hidden Disability: FASD and its effects
on the building blocks of relationships: empathy, conscience, and self-control
Location: River Oak for Children, 5445 Laurel Hills Dr. Sacramento
Time: 8:30-9:00 a.m. check-in 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Conference Cost: $25 a person, includes lunch
*No childcare available
To register: Go to and click “Training Conference.”
Or send check to 6875 Poca Montoya Dr. Granite Bay, CA 95746
Questions: (916) 834-3700
Capital Adoptive Families Alliance was formed by adoptive parents in the Sacramento area.

CAFA (Capital Adoptive Families Alliance) RESPITE DROP OFF DATE: September 10th, 2017-(Sunday). Time: 10am-3pm. Location: 5445 Laurel Hills Dr., Sacramento, CA.
or call 916.880.0234

Healing Difficult Beginnings — Trauma-Informed Parenting with Teri Gelgood, LMFT.
8 Saturdays: September 30 – November 18, 2017      9am-12pm      
493 Main Street, Suite D, Diamond Springs  (Gust Bros Building)
Cost:  $800 (second person caring for same child – free)        530-503-7040    

NEW:  THERAPEUTIC PARENTING WEBINAR with Ce Eshelman, LMFT: 6-Week Interactive Therapeutic Parenting Webinar, August 1 through September 7, 2017.  IN PROGRESS NOW.

UPCOMING THERAPEUTIC PARENTING CLASS with Ce Eshelman, LMFT: Sign up here for the next day long Therapeutic Parenting Class on September 9, 2017, from 9 am to 4 pm at The Attach Place, Sacramento, CA. Cost: $200 for two.  Childcare offered.

UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:  Join our monthly Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on September 13th, 2017! 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. Free child care provided.

TRY MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT: 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.

FOLLOW US:  Twitter @lovingradkids and @Attachmenthelp or Facebook.


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