Archive for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Attachment Tangle

Dear Parent,

From the beginning, my children rushed me at the door as I came home from work. Frequently overwhelmed, I had two wild-eyed kids, hungry cats, and excited dogs pawing at me before I sat my briefcase and groceries down. BC (before children), that iconic scene of parents coming through the door to a happy, bubbly, burst of children made me want a couple of them all the more. Everyone else is getting to have that experience, I thought; and there I was near 40 unable to hold a bun in the oven. That scene in movies and commercials was always bittersweet, never left me dry-eyed, and rarely failed to fill me with longing for the clamoring of little children.

I am not fond of the adage, Be careful what you wish for; however, Be careful what you wish for. Now, 18 years later, my adult children and innumerable dogs continue to paw me at the door. Usually, the kids reach for the grocery bags, and they are better able to step back for a minute when I say, Let me get in the door, honey. I say that sentence every day: Let me get in the door, honey.

My children reject most of my suggestions while hanging on the slightest hint of disapproval. Cursed with an expressive face, I try to keep my eyes and voice soft, but sometimes (like today) my tiredness from work and exasperation from the clamoring sneaks into the creases around my eyes and my tone. It happens in a flash before I am aware. At that moment my children are crestfallen and ashamed for nothing they have done except being highly entangled in their attachment to me. I fear I will always be powerful in their insecure right-brains, and powerless to influence their left-brains. Darn it.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Through love and acceptance, I continue to support the development of their secure attachment. I try to own my facial expressions out loud, so they can relax their hyper-vigilance. That doesn’t always work.

I desire internal peace for my children. I want external peace for myself. I call on faith that we will find this ever elusive secure attachment. I call on my faith in love.

Love matters,

Ce

picture of coverYou can find Ce’s book on Amazon.com or in The Attach Place Shop.  Don’t forget to leave a review.

To sign-up for free daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents blog, click here.  Follow on Twitter @lovingradkids and @Attachmenthelp or Facebook 

The next 8-hr. Attachment- and Trauma-informed Therapeutic Parenting Workshop is specially scheduled for one day–July 23rd–from 9am to 5pm. We usually hold the training on two days, but this is an exception for those who cannot find time on two consecutive Saturdays to attend a training.  To register, go to attachplace.com/shop.  Childcare provided for an additional fee. 

Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is free and open to everyone. Meets the second Wednesday of every month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free. Please sign up at www.attachplace.com/shop.

 

 

The Ugly Strings

Dear Parent,

Being of the bootstrap type, I am not one to wallow long in disappointments.  Brush off, jump back up: my motto.  Then, there are times when my relational failures with my children break my heart.  I am disappointed to the core that I cannot intervene in the whirlwind that is my child at this point in her young adult life.  And, I have to face the fact that it is not in my control.  She has her own trajectory.

For the last four months she was back home, I wondered when my feelings of hope and faith would run out.  How many times could I be manipulated, lied to, and used before I would wake up with nothing in my heart?  It turns out that love does matter, and it persists beyond reason.  I am disappointed to find that my ability to hang in here with hope and faith for a different outcome has pooped out.

Once again, I am the bitchy, bad mother; the adoptive mother who never had anything to offer except money and defective parenting.  Once again, I am rejected and cutoff for setting a boundary that I felt had to be set.  In the process I took the low road a couple of times. I am not proud. I am, however, continually humbled by the deep-seated effects of trauma and abandonment on the psyche of young children.

Eventually, down the road, my daughter will come back in need.  Her glasses will break; her ankle will twist; the system will be unfair; she will be hungry, homeless, helpless.  She will come back to my doorstep in tail-tucked, desperation, calling me Mommy.  I usually meet the need because she is my baby, my heart.  I love her dearly and it rarely goes well. She feels ashamed, a failure, beholden for needing me.  My expectations for her to use my help wisely scares and burdens her until she lashes out.  Heads or tails, I may or may not lash back; and around we go one more time. That is our well-worn dance.

I always want to take a different path with her, but it is tricky for me.  I am kind of twisted up.  My husband in frustration asks, What would you tell a parent in your office?  He thinks I have magic words there that I don’t apply to myself, but I don’t really.  I honestly cannot unravel enough to get a clear thought.  That is the way of attachment entanglements. For awhile, one cannot think.

I do, however, know the path; it is just freaking hard to walk it.  Here it is: only give love and other stuff freely, without strings of expectation for my daughter doing right by me.  My child does not have the personality structure to do right by me.  Why does she have to do right by me? That is my thinking that keeps the entangled dance going.  Those are the strings I attach to my love and my financial support.  If I cannot cut those strings, we marionettes will continue doing what we do.

My emotional work is right in my face.  I might need a chain saw to cut these strings. Come hell or high water (I have no idea what that actually means), I am going to get it done. Brush off, jump back up.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily emails of Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled for June 18th and 25th from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.

picture of cover

 

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go toAmazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

 

Lying Is What It Is

Dear Parent,

This is a usual occurrence at my house.  I send my son to his room to clean it up before his friend comes for an overnight, and twenty minutes later I ask through his closed bedroom door, Is your room clean?  He yells out, “Yes.”  Since I know this boy, I open the door to find him stretched out across his bed reading a comic book over crumbled Ritz crackers, a dirty plate with utensil stuck hard on it, two half-eaten bagels (Why two?), various candy wrappers, a zillion cords to electronics he doesn’t even have access to anymore, and a lot of maybe laundered, maybe not laundered, clothing. There were other things, but I will spare you the visual.

In the moment of seeing him there, I am instantly disgusted by the state of his room and slightly dysregulated that he felt the need to lie to me.  Nowadays, it doesn’t take long for me to de-personalize the situation and slide back into regulation enough to say, Hey Buddy, clean up your room.  Lying is not necessary, while quietly pivoting away.  Scorching the earth like a Mommy Dragon is not the way to go.  It would cause us both further dysregulation, the room would not get cleaned, and our relationship would be strained one more time.

Lying is a maladaptive coping mechanism to hide a number of things, which only sometimes is laziness. Often my son lies because he literally forgot by the time he trekked the hallway to his room why he was going there in the first place.  Or, he reflexively lies out of dysregulation trying to get out of trouble because he has poor executive function; and, he didn’t get the cause and effect of his actions. Sometimes, he gets overwhelmed by the the size of a task, cannot figure out how to get organized to start it, and  distracts reading a comic book. The lie is just a cover.

These are not excuses.  They are very real executive function deficits from cortisol (stress hormone) poisoning his brain for most of his life.  My son has a trauma brain, which looks like severe ADHD that can be only slightly mediated by medication.  The rest of the time he needs simple directions, hurdle help with organization of large tasks, reminders, lists, and help understanding what led him to tell a lie about his room being clean.  Applying negative consequences to a maladaptive coping skill is like punishing a baby for pulling your hair. It won’t stop it from happening again in a few minutes, but it will make the child and the baby fear you.

Yes, it is mind numbing to continually need to help a child, however grown up they are (19-years-old and counting now).  But, it is what it is.  My son needs my help still.  Your child probably needs yours, too.  It takes at least 400 repetitions to create one new neuropathway.  Repetition is the key to learning for most of our children.  Getting angry when you are only on the 200th repetition is futile.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily emails of Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled for June 18th and 25th from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.

picture of cover

 

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go toAmazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

Renaming Discipline

Dear Parent,

I wonder how I would view disciplining children if it were called shaping children or growing children or supporting children?  Would you see discipline differently if it were called something else?

I know the word discipline derives from the Greek word to follow or follower of a teacher (like Jesus). In the truest sense of the word, it follows that children are the disciples of parents (who often are not at all like Jesus); however, it does not follow that discipline means “to teach,” but rather it means “to learn.”  To teach is a misnomer.

In popular culture, discipline has come to mean something more authoritarian, power over, and punitive.  To discipline a child is to create learning through some form of pain–isolation from the family, restriction from play, loss of beloved things, slaps, spanks, verbal lashing, humiliation, and other unspeakable forms of torture in the name of discipline.  Pain of some kind is de rigueur,  as though pain infliction is the only way to get a child to learn.  Isn’t that odd?  Even a little counterintuitive from where I stand.

I wonder if I would have learned Spanish if every time I conjugated a verb incorrectly the teacher inflicted pain so I would learn.  I am actually having a hard time even imagining that scenario.  Of course, we all know pain is not necessary to learn Spanish or any other academic subject.  I think we all know that, except a lot of knock-down drag-out fights over homework might be evidence to the contrary.

Actually, to really learn Spanish (for native English speakers) there needs to be 1) a desire on the disciple’s part to learn, and 2) there may or may not be another reward involved, such as a passing grade, the ability to speak with someone in Spanish, the internal feeling of pride and accomplishment, or college entrance and employment advances.  Come to think of it: I’m pretty sure had pain been part of the equation, I would have elected not to learn Spanish.  I would have given up on my desire to learn it, and any of the possible rewards that would have accompanied acquiring Spanish speaking skills.  I never would have made it to college, because a language is required.  I would not have become a teacher or therapist.  Likely, I would not be able to afford the luxuries my professional career brings me.  I might have ended up living below the poverty line:  Perhaps even lose my will to accomplish anything in life at all.  I might have started hating Spanish, and learning, and teachers all together. I might have dropped out of school, given up on myself and my goals, and perhaps pursued a less than savory lifestyle to get by.

If I had to choose between painful success and painless survival, I’m not sure I would have had enough pre-frontal cortex developed in my high school years to make a decision that ultimately would have given me life advantages.  To clarify, the decision that would have given me life advantages would have been to continue on learning Spanish, while hating learning, hating teachers, and despite the pain inflicted when I made mistakes–despite the pain, not because of the pain.  (I thought about inserting an old Nun quip here, but I’m too serious about the topic to make it funny.)

What do you say we collectively stop painfully disciplining our children to teach them to learn and start supporting them, growing them, shaping them to learn instead?  Just a thought on this fabulous Friday.  Go have some fun with your precious traumatized, attachment challenged babies.  Playful engagement is the best teacher of children and it is  in their native language.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled in June 18th and 25th from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.

picture of cover

 

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go toAmazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

 

Neglect Damages A Baby’s Brain

Dear Parent,

All child abuse damages the brain of the child.  Let’s be 100% clear about that.  The research is in. It turns out that neglect in childhood actually impacts more of the developing brain than physical abuse.  Avoidant, dismissive, detached, absent, absent-minded, inconsistent, careless, disengaged, not-good-enough neglectful parenting prevents the regulatory, sensory, neurological, digestive, and sympathetic systems from wiring and firing properly from the git-go.

Damage from neglect lasts a lifetime and is often missed or misdiagnosed, so treatment is often non-existent or incorrect; that makes a sad situation worse.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled in June 18th and 25th from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.

picture of cover

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go toAmazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

What Is It About Me?

Dear Parents,

Today I received a text from one of my beautiful, not-adopted children.  It read, My friend, (girl I know from the group home), asked to move in with us. I told her no, there isn’t enough room.

Boy howdy, she got that right. There are so many toothbrushes around here I have taken to keeping mine in my bedroom. The daily chore list takes up two pages because there are so many people to make “chore annoyed” every day. The bright side is that I rarely have chores to do myself.  I can’t say they are always done well, but they are always attempted.  I’m usually okay with attempted chores.  There is something special about living with four people who have proprioception issues.  Almost nothing gets wiped down well.  Eh, I’m getting used to sticky everything.

One of my precious colleagues implies, nearly daily, that I have sucker stamped on me somewhere. I think the kids secretly take turns writing it on my back while I sleep. Seems I can’t see it.  Apparently cats and dogs know it’s there, too.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled in June (TBD) from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email Ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.

picture of cover

 

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go toAmazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

High Road Parenting

Dear Parents,

Dan Siegel, MD coined the term “high road parenting” in his book Parenting From the Inside Out–one of my favorites for helping parents understand their mission as parents and how to achieve it.  High road parenting isn’t any different from high road anything.

When one is cut off on the freeway, high road driving is called for–not the middle finger with a side of Mad Max road rage.  When one’s mother-in-law looks sideways at you while referring to today’s slackers, high road son-in-law behavior is ignoring the slight and offering her another piece of cherry pie.  When your partner, under stress, acts a tiny bit “hole-ish,” high road loving is to ask if you can do something to help–instead of “hole-ing” back an insult of greater proportion.  Where is the love, baby?

Taking the high road may seem like being a doormat, and I am not suggesting that at all. It is perfectly fine to kindly take care of yourself.  I am, however, saying that the world is a better place when people are attached to their own humanity and the humanity of others. Relationships are stronger when we treat them with love and respect in the face of adversity.  And parenting is healing when it is served up with a dose of kindness, empathy and sensitivity to the wounded hearts of our traumatized children.

The next time you get to a crossroads during a moment of heightened stress, take a moment; take a breath; and choose to take the higher road.  You and those around you will be grateful for your personal awareness and your dedication to being love in action.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled in June (TBD) from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email Ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.

picture of cover

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go toAmazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

Never Underestimate Dysregulation

Dear Parents,

I had a therapy session today with an eleven-year-old boy whose dysregulated state looked just like paranoid schizophrenia.  If his parents were not there to tell me he is not always that way, hands down, I would have misdiagnosed him.  He was dysregulated by my miscalculation about his tolerance for role play.  Instead of getting my point (which I genuinely thought he would), he became humiliated and interpreted me as simply mimicking him.  I didn’t mean to humiliate him though, and he couldn’t recover despite my apology.

That is a bad feeling.  I don’t usually use that method to break through a child’s defense and now I remember why.  It sometimes backfires in a big way.  I hope I can gain his trust back.

If you are a parent who is prone to sarcasm, you may have found yourself resorting to mimicry to get your point across to your attachment challenged child. Take a lesson from me, they have tender underbellies and little tolerance for the gut-stabbing feeling of humiliation. The wound can be deep and long lasting.

Make yourself as safe as you possibly can to the tender parts of your defense-protected child. Our children need to trust we will not hurt them.  I will be making great effort to get this young boy’s trust back.  If you have hurt your child, on purpose or by accident, work very hard to re-establish trust and safety by making a sincere apology and taking the high road every chance you get.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled in June (TBD) from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email Ce@attachplace.com and I will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.
picture of cover

Drowning with My Hair on Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents

 

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go to Amazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

This Really Is My Life

Dear Parents,

I took my 20-year-old daughter for a psychiatric evaluation today.  I have somehow escaped this for the last two years, since she became an adult.  I offered to pay for an eval outside the Medi-Cal system in order to get a legitimate diagnosis and medication that is not dependent on the amount of money one can pay.  So, today was the day.

In a very short period of time, the psychiatrist leveled one of the diagnoses I knew would be given–Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In that moment my heart cracked open and my mother blood leaked out onto the floor.  If you are not a therapist, this diagnosis may mean nothing to you. However, the diagnosis is often considered the bane of a therapist’s existence when a person labeled with it walks across the threshold.

I am breaking the therapist code of silence right now, because, as a therapist, I am not supposed to say any of this out loud.  As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure I will be stoned for daring to speak this. Most therapists (though not all) only take one or two people labeled “Borderline” into their practice at a time.  Why is that, you might wonder?  It is because they are so difficult to treat.  BPD person’s are predominantly female and well known for love you/hate you outbursts.  They often burst out of therapy the way attachment challenged children outburst over parenting.

My daughter had love you/hate you outbursts from the day I brought her home at three-years-old.  And, she still does.  Reactive Attachment Disorder grown-up without successful intervention is often called Borderline Personality Disorder in women and Narcissistic Personality Disorder in men.

I want you to know that early, effective intervention is possible.  Healing is possible. You can change the trajectory of your sweet, attachment challenged child.  How?  With consistent, trust-based, brain-based, therapeutic parenting.  That is how.

When my children were young, I wish I knew then what I know now.  I desperately wish this.  Right now, I am pleased my daughter lives with me and I have a chance to help her heal from the horrible wounds of attachment trauma in early childhood.  It is never too late.  Never.  I know this in my bones.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

To sign-up for daily Wisdom for Adoptive Parents, click here.

The next 8-hr. Trust-based Parent Training is scheduled for April 23rd and 30th from 12 noon to 4 pm.  $200 per two person couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up, email Jen@attachplace.com and she will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.
picture of cover

Drowning with My Hair on Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents

To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go to Amazon.com or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire.  Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.

Change Makers

Dear Parents,

Our children do not change easily, but we can.  I know it seems like it is hard to change.  As a matter of fact, I think people go to therapy to change and stay too long “trying.”  Trying to change is the problem.  One must simply do it.  Do the mindful trick of changing your mind.

I read a study once that said the degree of one’s denial is the best predictor of a long, happy marriage.  Basically, those who are happy for the longest time in attachment relationships are those who ignore the stuff they don’t like about their partners and who focus on what they love instead.  Really, this is actual research.

By experience, I find that research to be true.  For example, I can focus on my husband’s repetitious restacking of the dishwasher and find it irritating, annoying or even personalize it as a comment he is making on my competence to stack the dishwasher correctly.  On the other foot, I could notice my husband’s repetitious restacking of the dishwasher and find it meaningless, his deal, or even a cute little behavior of his.  Which version will be the most attachment promoting way of seeing my husband?  I personally find it cute; also, I never have to put dishes in the dishwasher. Works for us both and I can feel perfectly in love with him while we clean up the kitchen after dinner.

Look around at your life.  What triggered feelings are you focusing on, memorizing today that you will play tomorrow when you encounter that trigger again?  Right now the garbage is overflowing in my kitchen.  I can allow my thought, Someone who was supposed to take it out has disrespected me, to make me annoyed or angry; or I can take a moment, wonder why it didn’t get done, take it out myself, or put it on the chore list for tomorrow. Which version will be the most attachment promoting way of seeing my children?

Much to the chagrin of many friends and family members, I have a tendency to take my children’s repetitious behavior in stride.  It is the way they are.  I don’t love it, and it isn’t about me.  That is what I know.  If I were to think their behavior is about me, then I would be angry and our attachment relationship would be compromised.  I want to be happy, so I choose a form of denial about my children. They do their best.  It isn’t always that good.  And, that is not about me. That thought keeps me happy.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,

Ce

The next 8 hr. Trust Based Parent Training is scheduled for April 23rd and 30th from 12noon to 4pm.  $200 per couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day, second child $10 additional. To sign up email Jen@attachplace.com and she will register you.

TIME CHANGE: Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free.
To buy your very own copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT, go to Amazon or www.attachplace.com/drowing-hair-fire. Please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon.  Thank you.