OUR VOICES: TOUCHING TRAUMA AT ITS HEART

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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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Giving Ourselves and Others a Break

Time to take a break. Friendly neighborhood blog manager here. Life is doing that thing right now where it dumps a heap of overwhelm. Yet I want to preserve what’s left of my sanity. And I want to continue the string of (hopefully!) helpful posts on the ATN blog. Therefore I am taking a couple weeks off to get my ducks back in a row. The ATN blog will be

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ACEs and Toxic Stress: How We Can Heal Children’s Brains

As a trauma and emotion-centered psychotherapist, I am relieved that children are now being screened for toxic stress. Thinking about mental health as a byproduct of a child’s environment is an important addition to current thinking on how to improve children’s wellbeing. Rushing to diagnose a child with a potentially stigmatizing label, incorrectly blaming “defective” brain chemistry, resorting to unnecessary and sometimes toxic medications, and carrying out punishments do not

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Paying Attention: The Most Exhausting Part of Parenting with ACEs!

[Original version published at ACEs Too High, May 26, 2016] Self-care? What’s that? I used to sneak away for a hot bath as often as possible when my daughter was in the need-me-every-minute years. I’d soak long past when the water went cold and I felt guilty at times but sometimes I needed to be alone. To read poetry. To have some physical space. To exhale. I didn’t always know where

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Dear Educator, Part III

Dear educator, Here we are, the last of my three letters about childhood trauma. I appreciate you taking the time to read what I have to say. Here are my last pieces of trauma-sensitive teacher advice. Kids with trauma need teachers to understand that emotional age does not always equal chronological age. From day to day and from hour to hour, my child fluctuates in his ability to cope with

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Dear Educator, Part II

Dear educator, In my first letter, I shared some things I didn’t know about kids with trauma. In this installment, I would like to share what some of what I have learned. Kids with trauma are just trying to survive Because his brain has been changed by trauma and he feels his very life might depend on it, my child seeks to control every situation. His nervous system is in

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Dear Educator: A Series of Heartfelt Letters about what Kids with Trauma Need in School

Dear educator, Thank you so much for teaching my child. I appreciate this opportunity to share with you some insight into the challenges that my child has been having in your classroom and as a student in your school. I was one of you. A few short years ago, I was in your shoes. I worked as a classroom teacher for over 20 years, so I know you better than

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Stopping a Bully: How Learning About Attachment and Emotions Can Help

Richard, a former patient of mine,* used to bully kids when he was in high school. When I asked him to share what bullying felt like, he told me intimidating kids was the only time he felt powerful and strong. His father beat him. He showed the world his tough side, but he secretly believed he was the “weakest boy on earth.” The flip side to his rage and aggression was the

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Creating Connections, Finding Support

I am sitting on airplane headed back home to my real life. I have been at a retreat/conference with a hundred moms of kids from hard places. We had classes and support groups…and chocolate and hot tub time. We did a fair bit of lying in the sun and a whole lot of talking. From early in the morning to late at night (which, really, was actually the next morning…haha)

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What Therapists Want Parents to Do

–by Susan Ward, LPC Note from the blog manager: this is the promised and long-overdue follow-up to Susan’s popular post, What Therapists Want Parents to Know. Thank you to both Susan and our readers for your patience!   As the parent of a child with trauma and attachment issues, I understand first-hand how overwhelming your life is. In spite of that, I’m going to provide a list of things that, as

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A Trauma-Informed Revolution

by Sandi Lerman [original version published by the author, who is also a parent coach and educator, on Adoption Roots and Wings on March 12, 2018] “It is my hope that our story on trauma-informed care will not only be impactful but will also be revolutionary. It certainly has caused a revolution in my own life.”  – Oprah Winfrey One Sunday night in March, my online community of warrior mamas and I

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BRAVE: What I Chose to Tell

When I talk about BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma, I sense assumptions from the outset. They are understandable  – after all, the title says it’s about childhood trauma, right? Yet at the same time, I want to laugh and say, “Could you just read the book before you make up your mind?” This might seem slightly paranoid… but I once received a list of interview questions written

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Two Kinds of Brave

[warning – this post briefly references an act of sexual assault] In her response to BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma, Laura Dennis, ATN blog manager, asked me to address the following: “There are (at least) 2 kinds of being brave. One is an illusion in which we tell ourselves a version of events that we would like to be true. The other is the real deal. It

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One Year Ago

For over a year now, my son has been living in a residential treatment facility. One year of not being together for birthdays, Christmas, or Mother’s Day. One year of visits. One year of wondering what will happen next. One year of prayers. While I’ve written here and there about this experience (Residential Treatment: When Holding On Means Letting Go, The Downward Spiral of My Son’s Behavior), much of the time

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