OUR VOICES: TOUCHING TRAUMA AT ITS HEART

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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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Trauma-Informed Parenting: What Adoptive & Foster Parents Can Teach About ACEs

[original version published on Parenting with ACEs on June 5, 2016] There are many adults with low ACE scores who parent children with high ACE scores. These parents are often feisty and fierce advocates who tirelessly seek out support, strategies and solutions to make the lives of their children easier and better. They are some of the best parents I know. The ones I admire most have helped me be a better

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What I Learned -or Remembered- when I Read Brave

1) 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 involves facing our fears head on and living to tell the tale. In a future ATN blog post, Janyne will talk more about these two kinds of being brave. 2) Even the most

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On Losing a Mother…and a Mother Culture

I saw them the moment we entered the restaurant. The dad was suited up, ready for Mother’s Day at our favorite Indian buffet. The little girl, her black hair chopped in the style I instantly recognized as the “Indian orphanage bob,” sat safely strapped into a high chair. The mom wore a salwar kameez, blond hair hanging loosely about her pale neck. They sat close to the door, but that

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Opting Out of Mother’s Day?

I’m here to give you my blessing…yes, you CAN opt out of Mother’s Day! It is your day after all…so technically by the rules of our society (as enforced by Hallmark) you’re allowed to do whatever you want. Well…unless “whatever you want” triggers the heck out of your children with relational trauma. And there’s the rub. I truly believe there is NOT another day in the entire calendar year (not

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Mother’s Day. Beautiful and Complicated.

–by Neeva Carter The moment I heard my children’s names, my world stood still. I was at work, standing in an empty room on the phone, listening to our social worker run through the highlights of their story. She was reluctant to tell me anything, having only agreed because the children’s social worker had begged, convinced that we were the ones she’d been looking for. We were already considering five

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Mother of the Year (Sort of…)

–by Anna Gosman And  the “Mother of the Year” award goes to me…AGAIN. This is what I usually say to myself after I’ve lost my temper, forgotten to pack someone’s lunch, left someone at school (yes, that can happen…), the list goes on and on. It seems like every day I fail as a mother, and I wonder if I will ever get it right. I would like to say

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The Many Faces of Mother’s Day

–by Lorraine Fuller Mother’s Day is so many things to so many people. I was blessed to have one or two Hallmark-worthy experiences. Breakfast in bed of soggy cereal and burnt toast (pro tip: a dog is very useful in these situations!), handmade gifts and cards. I cherish those memories and warm, fuzzy feelings from my emotionally healthy, attached children. I cherish them even more now that I know a far

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What Happens to the Siblings of a Special Needs Child

–by Sara Borgstede [read more from Sara, including the original version of this post, at her website The Holy Mess] When my teen son, young adult daughter and I return home from a youth group meeting, my heart sinks when I see a police cruiser sitting in our driveway. We walk into the living room to find an officer taking a report from my husband and son about a situation

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When Children with Mental Health Issues Are Violent

–by Sara Borgstede [originally published on the author’s own blog, The Holy Mess, on March 1, 2018.] Manager’s note: while many children who suffer from mental health issues never become violent, the tragic reality is, some do. A huge hug of gratitude for Sara for her courage in sharing one such story. Like most people in this country, it was with great sadness and alarm that I read about the

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A Christmas Gift for You

–by Laura Dennis [NOTE: this post references this author’s faith as an aspect of her own experience. It is not meant in any way to proselytize, nor does it represent the beliefs of everyone at ATN.]     I was crying. Again. I never know when secondary traumatic stress will rear its ugly head. I do know it can get awfully old. “It’s just that I hate Christmas,” I blurted

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I Wish I Hadn’t Adopted

–by Donald Craig Peterson I wish, I wish, I wish…I wish I hadn’t adopted. There I said it. Like a majority of families who’ve adopted children, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the surprises. You know, the chaos inside Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The manipulation and triangulation inherent to attachment disorders. The invisible insanity associated with developmental trauma. Sure, I expected some challenges along the way. After all, adoption isn’t a fairy

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Throwing Myself on the Floor

  –by Janyne McConnaughey, PhD It was inexplicable. I was a twenty-seven-year-old wife and mother of an infant, and I had just left the family gathering and thrown myself on the floor kicking and screaming. My husband was standing over me with a compassionate but perplexed look on his face. I now understand exactly what happened. In that moment, I was not an adult. I was one of my child selves and

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Confession Time

–by Lorraine Fuller Time to confess some things. When I first started this journey of parenting a child with trauma, attachment, and other issues, I read everything I could get my hands on. I joined groups, attended classes, and went on retreats. I was determined to do everything right to help my son heal. From my reading, I got the impression that it was like a math problem: if I

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