Archive for Regulation Activities

Sick Days Have Silver Linings

Today was a sick day for me–migraine from jackhammer.com. I don’t know about you, but my sick days have silver linings.  Both of my children are angelic when I am sick.  They are helpful, loving, concerned, and attentive.  It is down right weird.  Makes me think I don’t ask for help often enough.  Apparently, I am too capable. Only under the anvil of a migraine (and cancer treatment) do I become a bed-bound-blob.  I think it scares the heck out of my kids, but it shapes them up in a heartbeat and they were trained by the best on how to care for people–me.
 
I think I did a pretty good job of modeling caregiving, because they are good at it.  Makes me think about staying in bed all day just for fun once in a while–not really.  It sure is nice to see their soft eyes looking in on me, their sweet tones of voice asking me if I need anything, and their persistent checking back.  I love that.  I love that they both have this wired into them.  
 
Modeling love (even when you don’t feel terribly inspired in the moment) matters–we reap what we sow.  
I read that somewhere.winkwink 2
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 April 8th. Come join us.  Online RSVP each 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.

Look for the silver linings.  
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Practice Regulation

Attachment breach and abuse in the first two years of life almost always instills an inability to self-regulate emotions in a child. Providing emotion regulation is one of the fundamental functions of a mother or caregiver for a newborn baby.  That looks like consistent caregiving in the form of meeting a baby’s survival needs to be soothed, dry, full, and safe.  Separation from a birth mother or abuse by a mother or other person in this formative time prevents the child’s emotion regulatory system from developing properly, which can cause regulation problems for a lifetime.
 
As adoptive parents or parents of children from difficult beginnings, our job is to understand, teach and practice emotion regulation with our children.  When we do this, we help develop parts of the brain that are underdeveloped.  We can literally create new neuro-pathways in the brains of our children.  Cool, right?
 
So, resist the urge (and the headache) to keep your child calm “all the time.”  Instead, at regular intervals (practice every day), purposely get your child excited with sensory stimulation, then help your child calm down. That is what is needed. Being calm all the time will not teach your child to self-soothe.  In a playful manner, amping up and calming down, over and over, is the way.
 
Ready, set, go play.  Fall down, calm down, and start again.
The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships


Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Practice makes perfect neuro-pathways.

NOTE: If you are planning to sign up, please go ahead and do it because I think the space will end up being limited this time around. The next REVISED Trust-based Parent Training Course in Sacramento, CA is scheduled for January 24th and January 31st. Register here.  If you have been through this course in the past, you will be getting significantly more hands on experience than ever before.
 
Please share freely.  Your community of support can sign-up for their own Daily YOU Time email by clicking here.

Daily YOU Time
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Love Matters
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Good Morning Fellow Parent,

I reply to many email questions daily from parents with parenting questions.  I welcome questions in email, so families can get support between sessions.  Turns out, I don’t always understand the questions and offer less than what is expected; however, sometimes the replies have a universal quality.  This is a response to a recent email I thought might be helpful to share with you.

I wanted to follow up about that “glee” you experience in your (child) when he is blowing out.
That is a chemical reaction.  When he is blowing out, his brain is flooded with cortisol (stress hormone taking his prefrontal
cortex–judgement, caring, ability to respond appropriately–off line), his adrenaline pumps through his body (giving him the feeling of superman like physical power), and endorphins are released because of the over-arousal (giving him a burst of relief and, dare I say it, exuberant satisfaction) which makes him seem to ENJOY a good blow out while it is happening.
What you interpret as “enjoying the negative escalation” is really “enjoying the chemical process” of the blow-out, not the defiant behavior directed at you. To top it all off, this chemical alchemy is ADDICTIVE, so the blow outs become habituated because unconsciously he is seeking that intense feeling.
That said, what is the answer?   While you are getting him into recovery from addictive blow-outs, you have to do some therapeutic things that maybe seem counter-intuitive and like way too much energy to be putting into a kid that is old enough to do the basic tasks of getting dressed, taking showers, etc. Remember, his brain is addicted to blowing out.  He has been blowing out most of his life; it isn’t just for you.  You will have to do the regular, daily, hard work of re-organizing his experiences to replace the blow-out habit with a new positive addiction like relational, interactive play (the language of children).
Keep your emotions light and be playful… Give him the same chemical alchemy in a positive way.  Morning pillow fight to get his blood pumping? Game of tag around the house before a shower? Turn on some rock and roll and dance around like an idiot?  Tickle fest?  Serenade him with I’ve Got a Hammer?
 

Try it, if you think you can stay playful and tolerate the “up” energy.  You can get some replacement neuro-pathways constructed this way.

Love Matters, Ce

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Understanding your child’s behavior as a brain/body process, rather than a calculated, personal attack on YOU, is important to your ability to meet your child with love. 

 

No Fear

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend where I found myself insisting that I have no fear.  She was doubting me and perhaps I protested too much.  Our silly banter made me ponder that concept a little more because I really don’t experience fear.  But why don’t I?  Then I was reminded how my children never seemed to express fear in the years following 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 how much fear and anxiety operated in them.  They were actually afraid of almost everything.

fearMy children and I have something in common.  We have all three been scared “to death” in our lives and survived to see another day.  That kind of trauma can have varying impacts on people.  Some become more fearful and others repress fear completely, thus NO FEAR (or any other feeling for that matter.)

Eventually, the feelings of fear must be uncovered, so life can be engaged with appropriate amounts of risk taking and caution. I think 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 hear the grief and work to 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.


So, what is my story.  Of course I feel fear, when I am in danger.  Since I am rarely in danger, I rarely feel fear.  I was scared to death early in my life and I think I did repress my feelings for a number of years.  In my twenties I faced my scary loss with copious crying that seemed to last forever. Talk about keeping my therapist flush with vacations for a few years. When the grief came to a natural close–my loss processed fully, made sense of, and incorporated into my narrative about myself–I returned to a life fully alive and filled with love.  That was my goal then and continues to be my goal now. I think living in love, without fear, AKA anxiety, is the outcome of doing my personal work.  I am grateful for that and for the ability to embrace life and accept it on its own terms.  For me, there is no other option.

unconditional love

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.

Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:

 
Feel free to invite your friends and family to receive Daily YOU Time emails, too. Click here to sign them up.  All you need is an email address and first name.

Empathy Cools the Jets of Anger

I am intimate with anger, my own.  My misunderstanding about the meaning of behavior in the early years of parenting made my blood boil.  I really thought my kids’ behavior was purposeful.  It “felt” that way to me.  Those were only my feelings though, not the facts of the matter.  The facts of the matter were more complex and required me to dig deeper into two things: 1) my own history and 2) my children’s history.

Once I realized that the attachment challenge and trauma suffered in my childhood and the attachment challenge and trauma suffered in my children’s early years transformed our normal brains into chemical turbine factories, I had a better way of understanding behavior, which facilitated the growth of my own empathy for myself and for my children.
cool your jets

 

Empathy significantly cools the jets of anger.

If YOU are too familiar with anger in your relationship with your children, then it makes sense to up your empathy through understanding the impact of attachment and trauma on the brain’s function.  In traumatized humans, survival mode is chronic and pervasive.  Turns out it isn’t really that hard to understand from the factual side.  Tornado

However, when you are swirling in a chemical spiral of emotion, it is pretty hard to see the fear at the center of the tornado.

Behavioral symptoms of a traumatized brain:
Emotional Out-bursting
Controlling
Inflexible Reacting
Demanding
Sneaking
Lying
Stealing
Hoarding
Arguing
Defending
Refusing Responsibility
Resisting Parental Authority
Defying Direction
Running Away

Distracting
Opposing

Freezing
Freezing
Freezing

Fleeing
Fleeing
Fleeing

Fighting
Fighting
Fighting

Fearing
Fearing
Fearing

Up your empathy.

Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • The Trust-based Parenting Course  ended last weekend and a good time was had by all, though our back sides are a little sore from all that sitting. Thanks to all of you great parents for your commitment to therapeutic parenting with heart.
  • Next Trust-based Parenting Course is scheduled for July 19th and 26th.  Sign up here.
  • 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.
  • Wow, more generous donations have come in to help other families.  YOU are appreciated–Big Love. 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. We are working on non-profit status, so these donations can be tax deductible.  Yay!
 
Feel free to invite your friends and family to receive Daily YOU Time emails, too. Click here to sign them up.  All you need is an email address and first name.

Teach Regulation

Sometimes we parents want things from our children we think they should know already.  Extrapolation, cause and effect, judgment, forethought and regulation are skills that must be taught.  They must be modeled, shaped, expanded, repeated, and taught over and over, as a matter of fact.  Yesterday, Play It Again Sam was my motto.  Today it is, Take Time for Training.  Take A Long Time For Training.

Nothing pleases me more than to see my son stop in mid-sentence, take a purposeful deep breath, and wait until his brain moves from “stuck on blank or nonsense” to engaged conversation.  He does this often without prompting.  And it makes me smile at him every time.  I usually give him a quick acknowledgement for realizing he needed to “regulate” and get on with the conversation.  It is a practice between us now.  I do it sometimes and he does it sometimes.  We are working together to fight our cycle of dysregulation.

I started teaching that breathing thing to him years ago:

  • Stop for a second, honey, and take a deep breath, so you think better about what you are saying. 
  • I need to take a breath because I am getting frustrated. 
  • When you feel overwhelmed, it just means your brain needs a little more oxygen, so breathe deeply a couples times. 
  • There is a big word for what is happening to you when you can’t think the way you want to–dysregulation.  Wacky word.  You should see how it is spelled, too.  Really wacky.  The opposite of that word is regulation.  Easier to spell. When I say regulation, I just mean remember to breathe.
  • Please take a breath so I can understand what you are meaning to say.
  • I am so angry that I need to stop talking right now and breathe.  I’ll come get you in a second so we can finish, okay?
  • I know you don’t want to have to do this, but breathing really helps.
  • It is hard to remember to breathe deeply when you are upset.  Me, too.
  • I feel badgered right now.  I don’t want to yell at you.  Please stop and take a breath cuz I am stopping and taking a breath. Thank you babe.  That really helps me regulate. 
  • I know you don’t want to badger me, but it feels like it.  Can you take a breath and slow down?
  • I just yelled at you because I didn’t take time to regulate.  I’m sorry.  I’m needing to breath more first.  Sorry.  That is my problem. I am working on it.
  • When you rush me as I first come home with your body and words and questions and computer, I get dysregulated.  I need some breathing time before I can actually listen.  Okay?  Can you give me a few minutes please?
  • Every day after I set my bags down, put my things away, and change my clothes after work, I will be ready to talk.  If you can make yourself wait, we will have a better conversation.  Breathing deeply helps me wait sometimes. Maybe you can try it. Deal?


X 10 or 20,000

breathe

Breathe.


Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • The Trust-based Parenting Course  ended last weekend and a good time was had by all, though our back sides are a little sore from all that sitting. Thanks to all of you great parents for your commitment to therapeutic parenting with heart.
  • Next Trust-based Parenting Course is scheduled for July 19th and 26th.  Sign up here.
  • 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.
  • Wow, more generous donations have come in to help other families.  YOU are appreciated–Big Love. 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. We are working on non-profit status, so these donations can be tax deductible.  Yay!
 
Feel free to invite your friends and family to receive Daily YOU Time emails, too. Click here to sign them up.  All you need is an email address and first name.

Long-Term Damage Is What It Is

tripping 2My parents sent me to 9-years of ballet lessons because they said to each other often in front of me, “She is c-l-u-m-s-y.” YOU already know I fall a lot. Yesterday, I broke my toe by misjudging a step outside my kitchen, and this morning I nearly broke my face misjudging the same darned step.

I come from difficult beginnings of maltreatment and insecure attachment, and the scourge of c-l-u-m-s-y has been with me all my life. I also have to cut every tag out of my collars and buy shoes a half-size bigger than necessary (which might explain the tripping problem on a different level–ha) because tight shoes significantly lower my IQ.

While I embark on the task of launching my son into adulthood, I am pointedly reminded of the long-term damage from difficult beginnings. I lose sight of the effects on me because, after all, clumsy and itchy are all I have ever known. On my sweet boy, the damage is what it is–long-term and pervasive.

Sunday, I started on the process of chaperoning my son on weekly grocery shopping trips for himself. He was like a deer in headlights, and the truck hit him. The cortisol flooded him so completely that he couldn’t remember what he ate last week. Beyond what I cook, he eats the same 6 things every week of his life–milk, bread, chili, ravioli, fruit, cereal. He couldn’t remember even one of those things for 15 minutes.

Eventually, he recovered his memory, searched the aisles four or five times, and got it all in the cart. It took nearly an hour. When I asked him to sign his name on the electronic pad at checkout, I thought my computer geek son was going to hyperventilate. I can’t Mom. I haven’t ever done it before. I don’t know how. I can’t write that small. I can’t handwrite. I can’t. With soothing, persistence, and prompts to breathe, he did it just fine.

After putting the grocery bags into the car, I caught a glimpse of his smiling face. “That was easy,” he said proudly. That was easy just like walking and chewing gum at the same time is easy for me.

This is just a reminder about your children from difficult beginnings. They have long-term impairment that YOU and they need to understand in order to overcome with self-esteem intact.

Love Matters,

Falling On My Nose

trippingI fall a lot.  Just this week I fell right on my nose.  Didn’t break it, so all is well.  I fall so often that when I texted my husband about an accident outside the house between a bicyclist and a SUV, he texted back, What hospital are you going to?  Huh, wah?  It took three texts to clarify to him I wasn’t talking about myself, but rather about a stranger in the front yard (bicyclist hurt her foot, not too serious, for those of you with inquiring minds.)
Both of my kids had and still have proprioceptive and vestibular deficits.  They fall a lot, have trouble riding skate boards and bikes, slam into closed doors to seemingly stop, spill stuff, drop stuff, put things away with lids ajar, hug like jellyfish, and clean up like blind-folded raccoons.  Physical life is hard for them and my empathy was not always as high as it is now.

Frankly, I didn’t understand the constant physical mayhem running around me, but I wish I had. If so, I would have participated more fiercely in Occupational Therapy with them.  As it was, I sent them, but didn’t realize I could have contributed to making their lives easier by providing–Wilbarger Brushing Technique (as prescribed), Full Body Deep Pressure Touch, Joint Compression Activities, Interactive Brain Gym Play, Crash and Bump Play Space, Massage, Sensory Engagement, and Rough and Tumble Play.

What are YOU doing every day to help your child integrate and organize the sensory input of living?  It matters more than soccer practice.

The Attach Place Logo
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:
The link code was wonky, if you had trouble clicking into the Love Matters Scholarship page this week. I think it is fixed now.
 
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.  
 
Check out our three blogs:
 
Feel free to invite your friends and family to receive Daily YOU Time emails, too. Click here to sign them up.  All you need is an email address and first name.

Hold Me Tight Couples Workshop for Parents of Attachment Challenged and Special Needs Children

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Weekend
April 25, 2014   6pm to 9pm
April 26, 2014  10am to 4pm
April 27, 2014  10am to 1pm
Hold Me Tight
Weekend Workshop for Couples with Adopted and Special Needs Children
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The Hold Me Tight Workshop is designed to give you a weekend away to connect with your spouse. This workshop will not teach you useless things; it will give you an opportunity to fully engage the deep, loving connection you desire in your relationship with your partner.

• Address stuck patterns and negative cycles

• Make sense of your own emotions

• Overcome loneliness

• Repair and forgive emotional and physical disconnection

• Communicate to develop deeper understanding and closeness

You will strengthen your bond through private exercises with your partner, didactic experiences, and video demonstrations of couples that have moved from distress to that longed for deep, intimate connection.   This workshop takes place in the safe environment of experienced attachment specialists and other parents experiencing similar attachment pushes and pulls in their lives because of the demands of healing the broken hearts and emotional difficulties of children from difficult biological beginnings, maltreatment, abuse and attachment breaches.  YOU will be “seen” here and your struggles will be understood.

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Hello Ce,
This attachment focused couples workshop is brought to you at a 50% reduced rate by The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships. We believe that you, your relationship, and your love matter.  The stronger your relationship, the better able YOU will be to whether the slings and arrows of raising children from difficult beginnings. The Attach Place Logo  2

This workshop is especially designed with YOU in mind. To that end, we are dedicated to providing creative financing to make this opportunity possible for you and child care options.

Who:                YOU and Your Partner
When:                6pm to 9pm April 25, 2014
10am to 4pm April 26, 2014
10am to 1pm – April 27, 2014
Cost:                $300.00
Child Care:       $5 per hour per child

Snacks Provided and Local Restaurant List for Lunch Options.

Reserve your place by RSVPing to: info@attachplace.com

If you can carve out time for yourselves on a weekend, we promise that you will have valuable experiences to help you strengthening the safety, connection, and bond in your relationship.

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT, Jennifer Olden, LMFT, Robin Blair, MFTI,
The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

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