Archive for Attachment Therapy for Children

Sensitivities

I have saved myself quite a bit of money over the years being sensitive to perfume. Yep, I can’t spend more than 15 minutes in Macy’s, Nordstroms, or any mall anywhere without getting sneezy, wheezy, and dizzy.  I am amazed by this fabulous built-in shopping deterrent.  
 
Just as I am sensitive to scents, my children and likely yours are sensitive to rejection and humiliation.  Their sensitivities make them prone to lying and reflexive arguing.  Hardwired into parental brains is a monumental dislike of a child’s back talk.  Our instant ire at compulsive lying goes without saying, right?
 
Attachment challenged, traumatized children cannot tolerate being wrong, bad, criticized, or humiliated (due to feeling damaged from abuse and abandonment before you), so they are on auto-lie and auto-defend most of the time. You can help them by being a safe person in their lives who does not over-react emotionally to their defend and deny survival instincts. 
 
When you detect an auto-lie, lovingly say, “I know you are scared right now.  You are not in trouble. Let’s talk when you fell less afraid to tell me.  Try again in a few minutes, okay honey?”  Follow this with a hug and, “I love you.”  Remember auto-lying is not about YOU, so you don’t have to take it personally.
 
When you get a rash of defensive denial, say something like, “I know you don’t want to be wrong, and you aren’t.  I only want you to hear what I am saying and to understand what you are saying.  That’s all honey.”   Follow this by a genuine loving smile and reassurance.  Remember they are sensitive to being wrong, which makes it hard for them to hear parents.  Tip: Ask yourself what makes it hard for YOU to hear children?  
 
You can decrease your child’s sensitivity to feeling bad or wrong by allowing room, little by little, to let learning be your goal and being in trouble to be obsolete.  Learning to be a healthy adult is the primary point of raising a healthy child.  Anger, shame, humiliation, exasperation, and rejection block all learning in everyone, especially your traumatized child.
 
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly, no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is October 14th at a NEW time–5:30 pm.Join us.  Online RSVP each month required when you need child care.
The Attach Place offers a 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course every other month.  Our next course dates are October 10th and 24th.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up by calling 916-403-0588 x1 or email attachplace@yahoo.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Learning only happens in a safe space.

Teenage Play Dates

I am a mother who had very few Mommy Moments in the raising of my children. You know, those sweet moments when a warm feeling blossoms up like a big Pink Peony in your chest? Pretty sure many Dads aren’t feeling the Pink Peony metaphor, so substitute here whatever the man equivalent of that is–Red Lamborghini Moment? Sometimes I like being completely sexist, so stop groaning. YOU may not be getting many of those sweet moments right now either if you are still in the daily trenches of humiliating Target meltdowns, broken dishes on the kitchen floor, spilled milk all over the restaurant, and bite marks on your forearms.
 
In the past, overnights and playdates just couldn’t happen without incidents of grand proportion, so they eventually got ruled out entirely.  I got tired of my kids losing already tentative friendships and trying to get into the good graces of parents who might give my kids another chance with their kids in the park or at the pool party or overnight in their living room (without locking up all the food, cell phones, wallets, and car keys.)
 
Now that I have six adult teens in my life (four of whom are previously diagnosed RAD kids),  I am getting an odd abundance of Pink Peony moments.  This weekend my house was taken over by boys eating, laughing, playing video games, going out for snack attacks, and coming home just to eat again. At the same time, one of the girls flew to and from L.A. by herself to visit family that previously refused to accept her into their home–even for a one hour visit.  She had a great, incident-free day. And yesterday, two others gushed over their beautiful, smiling daughter in pictures taken with the new iPhone I sent them in the mail last week–tag lines like I love you so much Mom and She is smiling because we are saying, ‘Smile for Grammy over and over.’
 
With attachment challenged, traumatized, and special needs children the Pink Peony moments may be delayed.  Wait for them.  I promise they arrive little by little over time until in young adulthood they have no trouble expressing how much YOU mean to them.  Wait for it.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly, no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is October 14th at a NEW time–5:30 pm.Join us.  Online RSVP each month required when you need child care.
The Attach Place offers a 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course every other month.  Our next course dates are October 10th and 24th.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up by calling 916-403-0588 x1 or email attachplace@yahoo.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Blue Carnation Moments? 

Evolution of a Disorder

Don’t forget to let your children emotionally evolve.  I wish there were a shorthand way of saying my formerly diagnosed reactive attachment disordered child (FDRAD has so many possibilities), so I can pay homage to the history without sticking my children firmly in the past.  
 
The history is important because there are residual effects of RAD long into adulthood.  Still, RAD is not the primary issue into adulthood.  The FDRAD issues usually revolve around attention, dysregulation, poor decision-making, lack of motivation, and delayed maturity.  While these are significant issues, they are not attachment issues, per se; they are executive function issues.   
 
Poor executive function is the result of regulation difficulties in early childhood due to attachment challenges and trauma on the brain. So, regulation is the ultimate goal of all treatment.  Be sure regulation is being addressed in your therapeutic model at every age.  
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly, no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is October 14th at a NEW time–5:30 pm.Join us.  Online RSVP each month required when you need child care.
The Attach Place offers a 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course every other month.  Our next course dates are October 10th and 24th.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up by calling 916-403-0588 x1 or email attachplace@yahoo.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Take a look at The Zone’s of Regulation curriculum if your therapist hasn’t already implemented it.  Turns out it is effective for teaching regulation to any age child or adult (including yourself.)

Split Off Parts

When children have been abandoned, neglected, abused or maltreated in early childhood, their brains physiologically hard wire their regulatory systems into fairly fixed and heightened states of neurochemical arousal. Essentially, they are perpetually geared-up and on their marks for a fight, a sprint, or an immediate shutdown in the face of real or even imagined hints of danger.  Not their fault.
 
Along with this biological imperative to survive at all cost, the child’s psyche is susceptible to shutting off parts of awareness in order to compartmentalize disturbing material into manageable emotional bodies we clinicians often refer to as “parts.”  When I talk about splitting off parts, I am talking about these emotional bodies of experience and reaction that can be in or out of a person’s conscious experience. Children usually have no awareness of these parts.  That is why they often don’t remember when they have done something awful to YOU or their sibling or their teacher.  It was a part of them, they do not yet know about, jumping into action, then just as quickly receding back into the psyche’s island of bad boys and girls until the next time.
 
I am not talking about complete splits, as in what we colloquially call multiple personalities with names and separate histories, though that is the result of similar severe circumstances.  I am talking about triggered moments of irrational meanness, viscousness, violence and vile verbal assaults.  I am talking about triggered moments of instant regression into a screaming 2-year-old, only the child is far from that actual age. I am talking about triggered impulsive acts of diving into pornographic darkness, sexual enactments, senseless stealing, attempts to kill an animal, or extreme expression of gory, bloody flashbacks.
 
These moments can scare us parents into survival modes of our own.  We become frightened of our children.  We start thinking in terms of good and evil. We pull back and self-protect. We start imagining the worst case scenarios and outcomes for the future. We lock our bedroom doors. We begin serious consideration of sending them to treatment.  Those are all normal responses to abnormal circumstances. 
 
While residential treatment may be necessary, it is not required to deal with most child “parts.” Trauma treatment is, however, necessary to help the child acknowledge and increase tolerance for the experience and intense emotions each part is literally holding for the child.  
 
In everyday life, we can begin to understand our children and become a trauma-informed parent.  We can begin to be therapeutic and healing with our children by being curious about what they thought happened just before they, for example, bit you, what they felt when biting you, and how they experienced the event afterward.  Identify their feelings to them if they cannot.  Ask them to feel their body sensations, so they can identify moments when they may be emotionally dysregulated.  Teach them about their own body responses and their actions.  Give them skills for managing these intense experiences. Be soothing, loving, empathic and informed about what is really going on and how YOU can be part of the solution.  Healing is possible.

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is August 12th at 6pm. Come join us.  Online RSVP each month required.   Child care provided.
The Attach Place offers a 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  every other month.  Our next course begins August 22nd and August 29th, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Don’t let fear get in the way of being therapeutic.

When YOU Are Abused

Traumatized children can be quite abusive to YOU and other children in your family.  This is one of the more disturbing realities of adopting children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned.  They often live on high alert in a dysregulated state, so it doesn’t take much for them to go from zero to 60.  If you are in the way, YOU will get hurt.
 
Prepare yourself for the truth that it requires a certain amount of emotional and physical engagement to raise a hurt child.  YOU will likely get punched, kicked, bitten, spat upon, and yelled at.  YOU may get this on a regular basis while you are trying to create a sense of felt safety for this very same child.  It will dysregulate you, scare you, and at some point it may cause you secondary trauma akin to posttraumatic stress.
 
It is up to YOU to decide when you cannot maintain a consistently safe home for your child. I know you are getting all the help that is available to you.  If you hit that wall, you do.  No shame.  There are limits to a parent’s ability to hold the stress, emotional duress, and physical insults of trauma re-enactment.  YOU decide when enough is enough.  It is not your therapist, your doctor, your mother or best friend’s decision.  It is solely up to you and it is okay to decide that your beautiful child needs a higher level of care than you can provide at home.
 
That decision will break your heart (I know all too well), but it may just save your relationship with your child (which I also know quite well).  That is the ultimate goal–get your child consistent, patient, informed, and safe treatment for the trauma that cannot be addressed at home.  That does not make you a bad parent.  It makes you a traumatized parent who needs help to help your child. Once again, no shame.  There are limits to everyone’s capacity.  If you hit yours, do yourself, your child and your family a favor and get a higher level of trauma intervention outside your home.
 
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is June 10th at 6pm. Come join us.  Online RSVP each month required.   Child care provided.
We had a fun first half of the 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  over the weekend.  Looking forward to Day 2 on Saturday.  Next course–July 25th and August 1st, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

There is a place for residential treatment 
in healing the wounds of childhood abuses.
YOU will not be “giving up”; you will be “giving in” to more help.
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Mother’s Day 2015

Hello Ce,

I am not particularly fond of just one day singled out to celebrate mothers (probably because of the massive messes I have cleaned up in the kitchen on Mother’s Day over the years), but I am a fan of yours.
 
               Happy Mother’s Day to all YOU Mom and Dad heros.
 
superhero parents
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is May 13th. Come join us.  Online RSVPeach month required.   Child care provided.
Next 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  is planned for May 16th and May 23th, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Behind every superhero is a superhero mom! 
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Spiky

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, and spiritual.  Spiky behavior is confusing to many people–therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, parents and extended family members.  
 
Some days my 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, zips, 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 16 years.  He isn’t being defiant, lazy, oppositional or deliberately anything.  He wants to please me and feel good about himself, but his behavior is spiky.  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 dog 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.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is May 13th. Come join us.  Online RSVPeach month required.   Child care provided.
Next 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  is planned for May 16th and May 23th, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Spiky is as spiky does.
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Strengths

We humans tend to like what we are good at.  Actually, we are more inclined to like things we excel at than we are to like things we simply enjoy.  When I was young, I was good at public speaking–go figure.  I spent a lot of time giving speeches about things I didn’t really care about because I was good at speechmaking.  As a young adult, I found myself in careers like teaching, lecturing, training.  I am generally considered a pretty good teacher and trainer.  It is my strength. 
 
About 5 years ago I had a minor epiphany.  I am shy (this is true, but hard to believe if you know me).  I don’t really enjoy public speaking. I am simply good at it.  Because I was channelled rather early to hone my speaking ability, I really didn’t do much of anything else for enjoyment.  I recall wanting to learn the piano, but I wasn’t good at it.  I wanted to try basketball, but I wasn’t athletic.  I wanted to train dogs, but I didn’t know how.  I was good at speeches and everyone around me reflected this strength to me.  I thought it was all I was good at, so it was all I did.
 
Our traumatized children have trouble accepting that they are good at anything.  Some of them are quite good at many things, while others are quite poor at many things.  Once in awhile our children will grab ahold of a strength and become extremely boastful about proficiency.  That is a desperate attempt to feel good inside.  
 
Why am I saying all of this?  Because children need to have all their strengths and all their interests reflected back to them so much that they actually begin to see themselves as “good, talented, interesting, joyful, strong, fun-loving, and capable.”  Emphasize enjoyment, fun, playing, trying new things, taking a chance.  
 
Our kids are embarrassment averse.  They are mortified by so many things, especially standing out in a negative (or even super positive) way.  If they try something and stand out, they may not try that again and maybe they will stop trying to avoid that horrible feeling.
 
Build your child in small ways by reflecting the small things.  This comes naturally to some parents, but may not be so for YOU.  Here are some ideas:
  • You set the table creatively tonight. How will you top this tomorrow?
  • You seem to enjoy singing.
  • I saw you laughing your head off when you played in the pool today.
  • How did you like strumming Dad’s guitar?
  • Let’s share your cookies with the neighbors.  You are a terrific cookie maker.
  • You take a lot of pride in decorating your room. That’s cool.
  • Nice outfit you put together.  You have quite an eye for style.
  • I sent a picture of you playing baseball today to Grandpa.  He will like seeing how you enjoy playing his favorite sport.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is May 13th. Come join us.  Online RSVPeach month required.   Child care provided.
Next 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  is planned for May 16th and May 23th, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
Next Hold Me Tight Couples Workshop by Robin Blair, LMFT at The Attach Place is planned for April 17th, 18th and 19th.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

I am sending my love to Nepal where so many are
suffering and so many have died in the earthquake.
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Bam Bam Bam

Bam, Bam, Bam…  That is the sound of me banging my head against the wall. No, not really. Sometimes I feel like I am though.  The amount of times I say the same things over and over are head bangers.  
 
Come on neuropathways.  Grow!  Grow!!  Grow!!!
 
I know YOU know what I mean.  Bless you for all that you do, over and over and over again.  
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is May 13th. Come join us.  Online RSVPeach month required.   Child care provided.
Next 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  is planned for May 16th and May 23th, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

Someone needs to invent an ice pack for the parenting mind.
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4:20 Day

I’ve been down for the count with a cold since Thursday evening.  As I age, my bounce back time increases.  Sad Face.  The Happy Face part?  Since Thursday, I taught myself how to use Photoshop (very complicated and not intuitive at all); I listened to a series on neurobiopsychological research presentations (so interesting); watched the entire Sanjay Gupta series on Marijuana (I might have to shift my position on this, but not for adolescents); read nothing; wrote nothing; ate nothing; and did nothing else.  I am a strangely productive sick person.
I say all that to say this:  Today is 420 Day.  If you don’t know what that is, then you probably need to raise up and smell the skunk weed in the air.  If you and your children have managed to remain completely sheltered from the world at large (bless you and your tenacity), then YOU do not need to know about this until your child(ren) enters the world unsupervised for the first time.
420 Day is the biggest pot smoking day of the year.  FYI:  420 (pronounce four twenty, not four hundred twenty) is slang for marijuana.  The origin is a ridiculous creation from the 70s though most people are mired in mythology about how it came to be.  Teens usually have no idea, except that 420 is shorthand for “Do you smoke pot, have pot, or can you get pot?”  With the marijuana laws changing all over the U.S. and the world, everyone is going to have to reexamine marijuana as a medicine and recreational drug. More research will be helpful I am sure.
Still, there is universal agreement that excessive 420 use before the brain has finished its initial development (around 26 years old) can interrupt the healthy unfolding of the brain’s Reward System. Not a good thing.  You can see how sugar interrupts Reward System development in teens because they are driven to eat excessive amounts of sugar, fat, and salt and will go to great lengths to get it. That is the Reward System in full swing.
Anyway, beware: unsheltered teens, young adults, and many old adults everywhere are trying to get high today.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Logo The Attach Place provides a monthly no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month.  Next group is May 13th. Come join us.  Online RSVPeach month required.   Child care provided.
Next 10-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course  is planned for May 16th and May 23th, 10am to 3pm each day.  Child care provided for an extra fee. Sign-up online at www.attachplace.com.
Next Hold Me Tight Couples Workshop by Robin Blair, LMFT at The Attach Place is planned for April 17th, 18th and 19th.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans.  Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
Feel free to send this link to friends or family members who you would like to receive Daily YOU Time: Wisdom for Adoptive Parents.

If your child smokes pot today (unless in recovery), it is a small problem, try to respond with a small and clear response.  Too much focus on what you don’t want, will get you more of the same–Attachment Challenge 101.
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