OUR VOICES: TOUCHING TRAUMA AT ITS HEART

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When My Son Cries for His Birth Mom

My son’s behavior has been improving. It’s really quite incredible when I think about the progress he has made in such a short amount of time. There has been no hitting. No biting. No long-lasting rages. Very little swearing. Still. When my adopted child cries for his birth mom, my heart breaks. He’s constantly agitated, like someone wound him into a tight little ball, but I can tell he’s trying not

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Words of Wisdom for Mother’s Day

We have a lot of new members, and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d share some highlights from the collective wisdom of the ATN blogging team about what for many of us is a roller coaster day. To read each post in full, click on the author’s name. Complicated feelings Mother’s Day can be a minefield of disappointments, regrets, guilt, anger, and other painful feelings. Learning

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5 Enlightened Ways to Think About Mental Health

Mental health problems should be thought of no differently than physical health problems. In fact, they are related: mental health problems affect physical health and physical health problems affect mental health.

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Who Do You Trust the Most?

During a session with your therapist, she hands you a paper with three concentric circles drawn on it. They represent relative levels of trust in relationships. The central circle is who you trust the most. She asks you who you would put in that spot. You don’t answer. She pushes. You remain silent. Finally, she suggests your parents. You nod. You know that she needs you to nod.

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Instant Family

The morning after watching Instant Family, I sent this text: “as much as I liked it, it has messed with my head some. I’m a little stabby today.” Reading online reviews did not help with the stabbiness (let’s be honest–do online reviews ever help?). People were completely divided, and as per Internet social norms, were hiding behind their screens in order to spew their more-or-less extreme points of view regarding

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That kid must have been raised right

One day as I scrolled through social media, I saw that several different friends had shared a video of a kid doing something sweet, one of those heartwarming things that everyone likes to share. At first I smiled and thought it was nice. Then I noticed something–comment after comment stating that this kid had obviously been “raised right.” As I read dozens of similar comments, something started to nag at

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Tis the Season of Everyday Celetastrophe

A new season is upon us. The glow from the dawn of the new year is on the wane. For some of us, it is in the company of the resolutions to which we swore our allegiance before we climbed into bed at 9:30 on December 31 – satisfied that 2019 would arrive whether or not we were there to meet it. There is a lot about the holiday season

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Those Adoption Books

For years, I felt frustrated by parents and therapists suggesting I just read fill-in-the-blank  adoption books by fill-in-the-blank authors. I’d already read all of those parenting books. I’d highlighted them and made notes in the margins.

But the well-worn copies on my bookshelf didn’t seem to help. Sometimes the most worthy book suggestions even seemed to hurt our family.

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Live from #CTSS2019!

I don’t think this the most beautifully written post I’ve ever created. I do think it might be one of the most important. Here’s why. I am the most exhausted and energized I have been in a very long time! Exhausted because… I flew into Washington, DC, then spent nearly 2 hours getting from Dulles to my hotel. Not long after, I helped to stuff some 1200 welcome bags for

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ATN: The Power of Community

[N]ext week, I will speak for the second time at the Creating Trauma Sensitive Schools Conference, where my topic will be “Behavior through the Lens of Attachment, Trauma, and Dissociation.”

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Is the CTSS2019 Conference for Parents? No…and Yes!

Countless longtime members of ATN are parenting children severely impacted by early trauma. They may carry the painful memories of searching far and wide for trauma-informed resources, as do many who serve on ATN’s staff and board. Each year, members ask whether or not parents should attend ATN’s Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools (CTSS) Conference. The answer may be “No,” or at least “Not Really” CTSS2019 takes place February 17-20 in Washington,

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

–by Carol Monaco Last night, my 8-year-old son would not go to bed. He wanted to stay up and he wanted us to stay up too. He had a list of things we could do – a very long list. Even as we climbed under the covers, desperately hoping he would follow our lead, he stood at the foot of the bed and launched a full-on rant. It’s not fair

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Parenting, Anxiety, and ACEs

Parenting with ACEs doesn’t always require intense therapy. Sometimes all we need is a friend, a conversation, someone to remind us that we will be okay, if not immediately, then eventually.

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Expectation vs. Reality

Have you seen those funny memes that use photos to demonstrate the difference between how we might expect an activity or career to look and the reality? I have laughed at many. When we adopt, however, I think the contrast is sometimes not so funny. I also think that we make it worse. Because we are embarrassed by our reality, we don’t talk about it. When someone asks how it’s

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Surprised by Attachment: Time

–by Nicole Pritchard [originally published on the author’s own blog, Coffee-Colored Sofa on March 2, 2017]   This forms part of a series called “Surprised by Attachment.” This subject became a series because I’ve had way too many failures (or, “learning opportunities”) to fit them into one post. I will not make it a weekly series or anything, though, because you know I don’t really have my stuff together enough for

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New Year, New Who? 5 Trauma-Informed Resolutions

Winter break always gets me to thinking, and this time it has me pondering the implications of raising a child diagnosed with RAD. I don’t know if all the things I have done to help my child will bear long-term fruit for him, but I am increasingly aware of just how much they have done for me. I have become a better parent, co-worker, supervisor, and overall human thanks to

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Saying NO When You Feel SO Guilty

Note from the blog manager The “big” holidays are over, but the holiday season is not. Families with children affected by early trauma and attachment disorders still find themselves struggling to maintain structure and connection in the midst of all of the celebrations, which for us may mostly feel like chaos. And that can mean a lot of saying “no,” that hardest of little words. In this post, originally published

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Triggered by the Holidays?

From the blog manager Many of us raising children affected by early trauma and attachment disorders know holiday stress all too well. Even the most well-meaning relatives can inflict additional pain, sometimes because they simply do not understand, other times because they cannot help but judge. Our decisions, our families, our lives, may look very different from what they dreamed, hoped, or expected. Old hurts get triggered and we find

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Reaching the Teacher

Dear Teacher: I adopted my daughter through foster care. Her birth parents were addicts, and she experienced neglect and abuse in her early years. No one answered  her cries on a regular basis; no one consistent changed her when her diaper was wet or fed her when she got hungry. Because of these experiences, she formed Reactive Attachment Disorder*. My daughter’s brain has developed differently than a typical child’s–it has

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Christmas Spaghetti

Dinner is served A couple days before Christmas, I make spaghetti sauce. On Christmas afternoon, I move the pot of sauce from our refrigerator to the range and warm it while preparing pasta from a blue box. Matt slices grocery store bread. The tradition of “Christmas Spaghetti” may not be the tradition our kids are looking forward to, but it is a tradition. They do enjoy it and it simplifies

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The Greatest Christmas Gift

A few years ago, my parents flew out from Wisconsin to visit for Christmas. Because they only make it out to California to see us twice a year, and we make it to Wisconsin to visit them even less, it was a pretty big deal. Holidays were hard When we adopted our daughter through foster care eight years ago, having visitors at this time of year was unthinkable. To avoid

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Christmas Reinvented: The 12 Days of Connection

Relationships or things? Which one are you focusing upon this holiday season? To be honest, my family’s first Christmas 20 years ago was over-stimulating. An emotional roller coaster. My six adopted children unwrapped one gift after another – many from people they hardly knew. The following morning, the drama began. Fighting over each other’s toys and games. Arguing for no reason. Seeking control rather than enjoying the moment. In their

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Groundhog Day on Thanksgiving

The problem? Thanksgiving didn’t feel the same Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I have a relatively small family and since I wasn’t raised with religion, Thanksgiving was the main holiday where everyone all came together for a festive meal. This gave me a sense of family deep in my heart. I took it hard when my sister, Amanda, got married over twenty years ago, and agreed to spend

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The Attachment Effect

When TarcherPerigee offered to send me Peter Lovenheim’s The Attachment Effect: Exploring the Powerful Ways Our Earliest Bond Shapes Our Relationships and Lives so I could review it for the ATN blog, I had two sets of contradictory hopes and fears. One was that I’d see my child in it. The other was that I’d see myself. This just about always happens when I read books like this. The question is usually not

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A New Phase, Part II: Moving On

Last week on the blog, I told you a little about what life was like with my son with complex early trauma. I talked about the lying, the stealing, the fear, the things we did to protect ourselves and him. And I told you that once he turned 18, he outright rejected what he’d always resisted–our family rules and expectations. Here’s what happened next and what, so far, moving on has

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A New Phase in Life–Part I

I have moved into a new phase in life, especially my parenting life. My last child has moved out of the house. Another child visited for the summer, so we didn’t experience a true empty nest immediately. Yet it is still a new phase–the child who moved out last was our child with an alphabet soup of diagnoses. He suffered complex early trauma. Life with this child was never easy.

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