Archive for parenting

No Fear

Dear Parents,

My traumatized children never seemed to express fear in the early years after coming home with me.  They took big physical and relational risks, broke all rules, and seemed to be unmoved by my ire.  I came to know this as traumatic dissociation because the longer I lived with them the more I saw that they were afraid of almost everything.

Eventually, the feelings of fear must be uncovered to engage life with appropriate amounts of risk-taking and caution. My children have work to do in this arena.  When my daughter calls in tears about how scared she is to be on her own, I soothe her.  My son still glazes over to avoid his fears.  There is more processing to be done for them to emerge feeling safe inside themselves and in the world.

The upshot is this: Felt safety needs to be our parenting goal for our children, so they can face forward without fear and with love in their own lives. No easy task.  No fear.

Love Matters,


The Attach Place/Local Community Upcoming Events Calendar…

Join the Love Matters Parenting Society Membership…
Love Matters Parenting Society for a THRIVING Life with Children from Difficult Beginnings. Check it out.  You are going to love it, I promise.

While the Love Matters Parenting Society membership is closed to new members right now, you can join the free public Love Matters Parenting Group on Facebook until March 2020 when the membership opens again.  

HIATUS: NO SUPPORT GROUP until further notice. ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP is taking some time off.  NO SUPPORT GROUP until further notice. If you would like ongoing support, you might be interested in Love Matters Parenting Society above.  Those who are doing it are really getting what they came for.  Check it out.

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public. Every third Monday from 5:30 to 7pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to so we get enough snacks. This is a  monthly social group for the youth; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. There will also be occasional fun field trips, like bowling, ice skating, roller skating, etc. A donation of $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.

GIVE A BOOK OF SUPPORT TO A FELLOW PARENT ON THE ADOPTION JOURNEY: 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.  Buy from Amazon or order a discounted copy here.




Blessings Come In Strange Ways

I have been keeping a little (read: BIG) secret from YOU, because I learned real quick from family and friends that I was, perhaps, a little out of mind.  Then I realized that YOU already know I am a little out of my mind, so why hide from YOU, right?
Okay, as you might recall I tried to move my 18-year-old attachment challenged son out of the house into a sheltered living environment nearby, but caved after his very genuine hiccuping sobs streamed rivers down his face. He clearly wasn’t ready to leave Mom, just because Mom was ready for him to leave.  
Fast forward six months and here I am moving my son’s 19 year old girlfriend into our extra bedroom.  Stop gasping.  I know. Trust me, I know because my husband hasn’t stopped rolling his eyes into the back of his head since I mentioned it to him.  As a matter of fact, I am sure they are permanently stuck that way.  He looks very silly.
Here’s the thing:  She is a severely attachment challenged teen who aged out of a group home straight into a homeless shelter. How is that possible?  Of course I have heard of these things happening, but I have never been as close to it as this.  She and my son are like mirror images of each other–two peas in a pod, as it were.  I just had to open our home.  I had to.
I don’t talk a lot about blessings because I am not really that kind of person.  However, this decision is a true blessing to me.  When I adopted little children, it was not a bit altruistic.  It was purely selfish, because I wanted children and couldn’t have them myself. When my kids turned out to feel less than thrilled to have me as their mother, I slowly evolved to the place I probably should have been in the first place–raising children for the love of the children, rather than to meet my need to be a mother. On the flip side, having my son and his girlfriend in the house brings laughter, sweet silliness, quiet sitting, walking the dog, and lively hikes to the gelato store.  I feel like I have died and been reborn into a family. Even if the honeymoon only lasts a week or two, I will remember this feeling forever.  
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
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.

Blessings coming in strange ways.
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Up And Down Whiplash

Our kids are in survival mode much of the time.  Sometimes they seem so “normal” and even recovering nicely. Then, BOOM!  A bomb drops and we are reminded that our children’s brains are different.  Their stability is tentative.  Our job is to stay steady, stay the course.  It is our stability that saves the day and facilitates our children forward on the path to healing.

I call this the “UP and DOWN Whiplash.”  My emotions are in a perpetual “rear-ender.”  The whiplash is profound.  Put your neck brace on and steady on.

I am a grounded, loving person and my children struggle.  That is a fact.

I put my oxygen mask on before assisting others.  I have to.  How about YOU?

The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT


Favorite Sentence

One of my favorite parenting sentences (I think I stole from PCIT, but who can remember such details at my age?) to get the kids moving.  I don’t know why this works so frequently, but it does.  It’s sharing power, so it makes sense that it works, now that I think about it.

Okay, time to go to bed.
Noooooooo!!! I’m not done!
How much more time do you think you need? [That was the favorite sentence, though I see now that it is really a question, my favorite parenting question.]
10 minutes.
Let’s compromise–5 more minutes.
Awwwa, okay.
Two minutes later, he is done and down the hall to the bedroom.

I know you don’t believe me, so start small and build up to bedtime.

cartoon momMy son has been home “sick” in bed for two days.
I asked him, How much more time do you think you need?
Uhh, I’m pretty sick.  My stomach really has been hurting.  Uh, a week?
Let’s compromise–you’re getting your butt to school to-mor-row.
It was worth a try, Mom.
We giggled.  He’s going to school tomorrow.

Wow, crazy as it seems, I have raised a seriously reasonable kid.  I worried that would never happen.  I often had so little faith in the face of so much fear.

Good thing I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Just like YOU.

Keep the faith. Keep walking forward.
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Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT 

  • Count down to the next Trust-based Relational Parent TrainingMay 10th and 17th.  Very excited. Really enjoy being with parents for these extended time periods.  Love it.
  • Next Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend Workshop for Therapists and Their Partners presented by Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Ce Eshelman, LMFT is scheduled for June 20, 21, 22, 2014.  If you are a therapist and interested in attending, sign up here.
  • The Attach Place is embarking on our second round of scholarships for families with adopted children who need services but have no funding to get them. We used up the last of our scholarship money last summer and are ready to start fundraising again. This time we have a pie-in-the-sky, big, hairy, audacious goal of $25,000. If you have a dollar you can afford to contribute, that is how we will pave the way–one dollar at a time. Go to: Love Matters Scholarship Fund.

Accept and Love Grows

Acceptance is like miracle salve for love wounds.  No kidding. Acceptance is the key to nearly all relationship conflicts–parent/child, spouse/spouse, boss/employee, extended family and friends.
My husband has a tiny bit of anxiety, which he quells by a tiny bit of what could be called NAGGING. I don’t see nagging.  I see him as loving and engaged in taking care of many things for our family.  I feel loved when he is attending, ever so minutely, to things I might forget to think about.
My son has very serious ADHD, amongst other things.  No matter what I ask him to do, he complies with a buckshot approach, rarely doing all of anything requested.  This could be seen as defiance, laziness, lack of care, and after 15 years it is certainly annoying.  I do get annoyed, but I see the desire he has to please me and accept that as a job well done.  
Personally, I have lost a good deal of my memory capacity since cancer treatment and getting older.  I make a lot of minor mistakes now. When this first started, I felt awful and experienced a drop in my self-confidence.  My husband, children, and colleagues accepted my mistakes and stepped right in to help me.  Their love and acceptance are helping me accept myself and adjust to this life change.  
We can struggle every day against things we cannot change, or we can embrace life with acceptance and love.  The choice is ours to make.
What do YOU need to accept in your child, your partner, others in your life to change conflict into love?
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Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
The Attach Place is embarking on our second round of scholarships for families with adopted children who need services but have no funding to get them. We used up the last of our scholarship money last summer and are ready to start fundraising again. This time we have a pie-in-the-sky, big, hairy, audacious goal of $25,000. If you have a dollar you can afford to contribute, that is how we will pave the way–one dollar at a time. Go to: Love Matters Scholarship Fund.
Next Trust-based Relational Parent Training is scheduled for May 10th and 17th.  It is close to full already, so go to register soon to reserve your space.  
Check out our three blogs:
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State Dependent Learning

State-dependent memory, or state-dependent learning is the biological process through which memory retrieval is heightened and most efficient when an individual is in the same state of being (consciousness, mood, emotion) as they were when the memory was formed.  Context-dependent learning is the process through which memory retrieval is heightened when an individual is in the same place or environment as they were when the memory was formed.
When your child is ALWAYS reactive in specific places or ALWAYS reactive when hungry, then your are likely dealing with a combination of things, and state-dependent learning and context-dependent learning may be at work.  
Well, this means you have some additional ways of helping your child recall what they have learned previously about managing their emotions, such as using their words or taking a breath.
Example for hunger reactive child: Proactively give healthy snacks at two hour intervals to prevent the internal state of hunger which triggers reactivity.
Example for a school reactive child:  Play some happy music at home while teaching your child to deep breathe.  Then, on the way to school in the car play the same happy music and practice deep breathing.
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Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 

Thoughts on When Love Is Not Enough

I received an email today from another therapist and adoptive mother asking me to clarify some things, and I thought it would be helpful to put some thoughts down for all of YOU at the same time.

Many of you are using the techniques of Nancy Thomas from her book entitled, When Love Is Not Enough. What I am about to write is not criticism of your choice to do so; however, I have some observations and experience about the methods I want to share.

When I write about how I deal with my kids, you may hear things that are Nancy Thomas-like. In my opinion some of the methods are helpful with very disorganized attachment challenged children. These are the most severely impacted children with the most disturbed attachment reactions–the ones that would be given a Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis. One of my children is clearly diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and continues to behave in adulthood the way she did in childhood–reactively. My other child is anxiously attached with PTSD, pervasive developmental delay, severe ADHD and learning disabilities. Together these two were tornados in our home.

At the time, the only attachment help I could find was based on Nancy Thomas’ work that involved holding children against their will, in effect, forcing them to submit to parental authority with physical restraint. I did that to them. I thought I had to. They were so incredibly self-destructive and reactive. I was desperate to gain control and Nancy Thomas’ approach gave me direction on how to do that. The only attachment therapist I could find back then followed the Thomas methods. So, I held my children against their will for hours on end, day after day, for several years when they were between 2-years-old and 5-years-old. I shut them down, powered over them, and used techniques that were somewhat humiliating and definitely emotionally confusing to them. I was not safe. They did not feel good about themselves or safe around me.

That somewhat stopped their intense, self-destructive behavior (until the teen years when it all resurfaced X10); however, that also caused them both to have posttraumatic stress from the trauma that forcefully holding them caused. They learned to fear me and when upset they would cower or rage at me. Since that time, 15 years ago, so much research, training, and information has surfaced about a better way, a loving way of creating attachment bonds that does not include authoritarian, physically abusive methods that create more trauma. I have read everything available on attachment and I have attended hundreds of hours of training over the years. I have made myself into an attachment therapist for others, so people can find help that is truly helpful and not abusive.

handsIf I had it to do all over again, I would NOT hold my children except for safety. I would do therapeutic, attachment parenting. I would up the sensory stimulation. I would focus on their felt safety and our relationship. I would play more, control less. I would smile and give up the mommy stink-eye. I would coach instead of lecture. I would never use coercive, degrading interventions like forced sit-ups and hard labor. Most importantly, I would get help for myself to regulate and deal with my own childhood trauma. I wish I had known what I know now.

I truly believe that much of what my children dished out in their teen years was a direct result of what I did to them in their early years. I was ill-informed and poorly supported by therapists then. I have had to forgive myself. I have had to ask my children for their forgiveness, but the damage to our relationship was honed in their early years. I have been trying to undo those early interventions for the last 10 years.

I know YOU wonder sometimes…if Ce has so much difficulty with her own children, then why would what she says be helpful to me and my children? The answer is that I did not do trust-based relational parenting early enough, and what I did do caused more harm. Ultimately, that is the sole reason why I have decided to devote my career to helping attachment challenged children and their parents. I am trying to give to YOU what I couldn’t get when I needed it most.

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Surprise and Novelty Increase Learning

To drive a point home and increase the likelihood of learning, surprise your child with a happy voice when usually there would be stern tones. On a particularly difficult afternoon, break the rules and get out the frozen yogurt for a pre-dinner treat and a little delicious conversation. Mix it up. You might have become boring.
Wah wa Wah.charlie brown

Surprise and novelty register differently in the brain. It’s more fun for YOU, too.

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Still Struggling

The last text my 18.5 year-old daughter sent me said, “Okay, CE, I will be fine without you.” The meaning of her reference to my given name is clear—she no longer considers me to be her mother. This is not the first time for sure, but it may be the last.

Where to draw the line in the sand has been my constant dilemma since she was 3 years-old, running away 6 blocks to strangers she thought would be better parents. I was calling the police at the same time the kind strangers were calling them. I picked her up and drove her home in tears—I was in tears; she actually wasn’t. This or similar scenarios occurred countless times over the last 15 years.

My partner draws his line “here,” my therapist colleagues draw it “near” there, but YOU, you might feel the same as me—stumped to find a way to help my emotionally disabled daughter without enabling her to continue making poor choices that she doesn’t consider poor or that she sees as necessary given her situation.

My sweet friend, Grish, is the mother of a 26 year-old Autism Spectrum adult child and she completely understands why I keep throwing money, support and resources in my daughter’s direction. She instantly said, “It’s not codependence. It’s being a mother!” I love non-husband, non-therapist friends. ☺ I love the other’s too, but they don’t say what I want. My love is conditional. Ha.

Push Me Pull YouNow isn’t that an interesting thing out of the mouth of a non-therapist mother? Is mother synonymous with enabler? I am sure that book has been written, but I know I am in line if it hasn’t been. Many of you are in this situation because I have previously counseled you, or heard from you in regard to other emails I have written that describe this excruciating Push-me Pull-you. When in doubt, reference Dr. Doolittle, right?

My childless friends are very clear. By helping my daughter regularly get out of messy situations of her own making, I am enabling her to continue making poor decisions and, therefore, I should stop it. Just do it! They must have gone to Nike Business School–Just do it! My mother friends are very clearly empathetic and sorely lacking (thank goodness) black and white solutions. Life is grey. Take the middle road. Don’t be severe. She is young. YOU are her mother. Of course you want to continue to help her.

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

“Okay, CE, I will be fine without YOU,” sticks in my gut like a jagged knife. It is a familiar feeling I’ve had over the years. Cliches always come to mind in times like these, “If you love her, let her go.” The letting go probably never feels good.

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Narcissistic Wounding

I don’t want to go all Freudian on you, but that rage that you encounter in your children (and sometimes inside yourself); the kind where you want to scream something that will cut your partner, child, best friend to the core over some little slight; the one that overtakes your children and turns them into flailing, spewing, rage machines; that kind of rage; it is called narcissistic rage from narcissistic wounding in the early developmental years when there was a parenting failure of some kind and the child, at the time, is left feeling both wrathfully bad about him or herself and concomitantly angry at the person who failed him/her.

Our children often have this kind of rage because most of them were failed in the early developmental years. YOU may also have it because YOU were failed in your early Hot Tamalesdevelopmental years. That combo plate makes for a home like a hot tamale, where children feel hatefully bad about themselves and, simultaneously, overwhelming anger at their parents, and YOU experience the same thing in return.
If your home is a hot tamale, get some help for your family. Seriously, YOU cannot resolve things on your own. Trust me on this. YOU need your own heart repaired before you can revive the heart of your child. It’s the old oxygen mask analogy: in case the airplane cabin looses oxygen, put your mask on before placing one on your child.

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Next Trust-based Relational Parent Training is scheduled for May 10th and 17th. It is close to full already, so go to to register soon to reserve your space. Each group has only 16 spaces. Ready, set, go.

Get more information and reserve your spot here for our upcoming Hold Me Tight Couples Workshop for Parents of Adopted, Attachment Challenged, and/or Special Needs Children in Sacramento, CA on April 25th, 26th and 27th.

Check out our three blogs: