Archive for therapeutic parenting

The Holidays Can Be Lovely With Children From Difficult Beginnings

Dear Parents,

The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

I just met up with my adult children for a pre-Thanksgiving gathering. I found myself marveling at how they are unfolding.  I mean that.  At 21 and 23, they are adults with lives of their own.  They are happy.  They have interests and friends and places to go and things to do.  They are grown up and I no longer worry about them. And that is the point of this post.

I worried way too much when my children were growing up.  Because they came from difficult beginnings and because their behavior was out of the ordinary, I fretted and worried and over controlled them.  I downright ruined every holiday.  Yes, it was me who ruined them, though at the time I quietly thought it was them ruining it for us.  I was wrong.

What I didn’t know how to do then was accept my children as they were.  I wanted them to be the way I wanted them.  You know, a lot more perfect.  Way less messy.  Seriously better mannered.  Definitely well regulated. I didn’t want their trauma to be impacting my holidays–pure and simple. Every year, every holiday I didn’ want that.  And, every year, every holiday they were who they were–traumatized, attachment reactive children from difficult beginnings.  Who needed to change in this situation?  Who had the most potential for change at the time?  Yep, it was me.

I could have accepted my life and my children. I could have changed my expectations and made the environment trauma-sensitive.  I could have been considerate of what they could tolerate and how long they could tolerate it.  Instead, I tried to fit them into my life the way it was before children and the way I thought other children were able to fit in.  My children weren’t other children; they were actually special with special needs during the holidays.  I could have been more loving and less worried about how they behaved. I could have been more flexible.

I learned a lot about myself while raising my children.  Much of what I learned was not pretty or pleasing to me.  Frankly, I wasn’t personally prepared for traumatized children.  I had to learn to be.  I had to learn to let them be.  I wish I knew then what I know now.

My children are unfolding in their adult lives according to their abilities.  That was always their trajectory.  My advice to my former self (who might resemble your current self): worry less, accept more.  I think that is the definition of love.

Happy Thanksgiving,


The Attach Place Upcoming Events Calendar

Trust-based Therapeutic Parenting Class for Parents of Children from Difficult Beginnings by Ce Eshelman, LMFT will be held in January 2019, from 10 am to 4 pm.  Childcare provided for an additional fee. CALVCB will reimburse this training. Register on our website!

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public.  Look for new day in January TBD next year.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to so we get enough snacks. This is a  monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $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.

UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:  Click Here to join our monthly  Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on December 12, 2018! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827.

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 get a discounted copy here.

Worry Holes

Dear Parent,

If I had a bucket filled with all the worry holes my children chewed from sweaters, shirttails, jackets, and cuffs, I would be rich in bits and pieces of a king-sized quilt, for sure. Internal turmoil is the name of the living game for our traumatized, attachment challenged children–not to downplay the pull of oral sensory stimulation needs. They are frightened babies in bigger bodies sucking on clothing for comfort when their anxiety inches up and they cannot contain it to the inside.  At one time, there was probably a thumb involved: ever ready to comfort and reduce their baby distresses.  At some point the shame of sucking on a thumb causes an object shift–from thumb to clothing–which is much more socially acceptable for older children.

If you are anything like me and a zillion other parents, you first think about the amount of money you keep throwing into the garbage heap in the form of chewed through clothing. I should just let you walk around looking ratty like that; but you don’t because that is not a humiliation-free natural consequence despite how natural it seems.  Then you might begin to feel your frustration and ire, thinking, Why won’t she stop already?  She is 10-years-old, after all, and I am not made of money. She doesn’t care about anything. 

That leap in parental logic is the result of an unconscious thinking/feeling spiral.  The more likely fact of the matter is that your child cares too much, not too little.  She isn’t, however, focused on caring about clothing when she is over focused on habitually surviving her internal anxiety.

A therapeutic parent must address the worry, not the holes.  Upon seeing the circle chewed in the shirt you bought last week, you would breathe yourself into compassion for the anxious child you love before saying, You must have had a difficult day today sweetheart.  I see you have a worry circle (hole) in your sleeve.  Let me give you a big hug.  

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

You might also want to find a replacement chewy for your child.  You can buy a chewable necklace online or give a square of fabric with a splash of lavender, sweet orange oil, or vanilla scent. Better yet, give an old fashioned handkerchief with your favorite perfume or aftershave spritzed on it. Your scent will add an extra soothing quality. You are the best soother in your child’s life, so give a little sensory something to remind that you are always somewhere loving your child when s/he is anxious and away from home (or in the next room, for that matter).

Love matters,


This is one of the best attachment and trauma conferences in the U.S.  If you have never been, consider a trip to St. Louis in September 2016.  For more information, click here.

ATTACh ConferenceATTACh Conference

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

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  Childcare provided for an additional fee. Email to register.

Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm.  Group and childcare are free. Please sign up at
picture of cover
You can find Ce’s book on or in The Attach Place Shop.  Don’t forget to leave a review.


When You Come to the Edge Of All That You Know

Listen folks, our kids do not come with handbooks, for the attached ones or otherwise, so you are in for the ride of your life.  Buckle up.  It’s bumpy out here in parentland.

When you come to the edge of all that you know, jump.  And, I don’t mean over the cliff.  I mean jump into the kind of parenting that is not what you were raised with; the kind that scares you; the kind that has to face the fact that you are not, never have been, and never will be in control of your children.

Your child is on a path s/he is trying to figure out, too.  Your parenting job is to help him find a middle ground: the path between cannon-balling into the deep end without a life preserver and diving head-long into the shallow end.  Neither of those hardwired paths is a good choice for your attachment challenged, traumatized child.  The middle way is the only way with hope for a better life.  If you are having trouble figuring out what the middle way is, let me help.  It’s for your child to have enough time to learn how to swim.

So, what is that scary, non-controlling, love-based form of parenting that can support your child into the middle way of a productive life?  It’s called non-traditional, therapeutic parenting that relies on relationship over compliance, and love over fear.

Traditional parenting is full of cause and effect, logical consequence interventions that make so much sense to attached people who were raised by biological parents. Therapeutic parenting puts logical parenting with imposing consequences away for another day when your traumatized child has a brain that can make sense of that kind of intervention.  Traditional parenting registers one way with attachment challenged children–I am bad and my parents are bad.  Therapeutic parenting registers a different way–I am safe and my parents are loving.  Which model makes the most sense for a child who came into your life believing at the core that s/he is bad because s/he was abandoned and parents are not to be trusted or even worse, dangerous?

If nothing is working to guide your child toward the middle way, you might check your parenting, then jump into something new, something untried, something less power and control oriented.  Are you putting compliance in front of everything else that matters–like love, relationship, safety?  If so, you are the one who has the brain power to change, not your challenged child. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is, you know, insanity.  If you are feeling more and more insane, try 100% therapeutic parenting.  Over time, I promise the middle way will seem more and more possible for your child.  Swimming happens.

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

The Attach Place offers an 8-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course every other month.  Our next course dates areDecember 5th and 12th, 2015. Sign-up online

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.

Read about therapeutic parenting in a number of books. Beyond Consequences by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post is a start.  There are many others.