I reply to many questions daily from parents who need 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, like this one:
I wanted to follow up about that glee you witness when your child is tantrumming—commonly referred to as throwing a fit, exploding, melting down and, my favorite, blowing-out.
That glee is part and parcel of a profound chemical reaction. When he is blowing-out, his brain is flooded with cortisol, a stress hormone, which takes his prefrontal cortex off line and with it his judgment, caring, and ability to respond appropriately. When his adrenaline pumps through his body, it gives him the feeling of superman-like physical power. Endorphins are released because of the over-arousal giving him a burst of relief and, dare I say it, exuberant satisfaction. All of this makes him seem to ENJOY a good...
Our children have a story they tell themselves. Do you know what your child's internal story is? You might hear it leaking out in times of emotional upheaval: Nobody likes me. I never get what I want. It's too hard. I can't. I’m afraid of everything. You don't love me. I don't love anybody. I hate myself. I hate everyone. I can do it without anyone's help. I don't need you. I don't need love. I hate love. I hate you.
Having a coherent narrative is one of the keys to good mental health. Whenever you can, tell your children the stories you want them to tell themselves inside. You don't need to make anything up. Your child is precious, loved, planned, wanted, adored, valued, appreciated, and special. Make sure you say these things all the time—at least 400 times to make one new neuropathway. And I have a hunch it’s even more.
…400 repetitions to create one new...
Dear Grandparents, Extended Family, and Close Friends,
I want you to know how much your love and support mean to me. Without you, I would truly be on a small deserted island. Here are some things recommended by an attachment therapist to help you understand and support the healing in our family.
She thinks it would be great if you understood these things:
My child has Complex Developmental Trauma. That is a combination of trauma and attachment challenge from early childhood maltreatment and abandonment. We are having an unbelievably difficult time being a loving family. Every single day my child and I are working at learning to have a balanced emotional life together and to heal from internalized negative messages about parents, self, and the world.
No matter how it seems, I love my child and sometimes it is more a love “commitment” than a love “feeling.” Please don’t judge me for my frustration, anger, resentment,...
Our children need coaching to listen to their hearts for what is true for them. It is really rather simple, though it takes time.
Child: What should I get? What are you having Mommy? What is Sissy getting? I want a milkshake. A chocolate milkshake. Can I have a milkshake?
Parent: What would you like to eat off of the kid's menu right here? They have hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches?
Child: I want a milkshake!
Parent: I hear you, honey, that does sound yummy, and I am asking you what from this menu you want to eat. Take a deep breath. Breathe. Nice. Now see what your mouth and your tummy would like to eat for food right now.
Child: I want a milkshake and a hamburger with cheese and pickles and French fries!
Parent: Yum, you did a great job deciding what to eat for lunch—cheeseburger with pickles and French fries. Let's get it ordered. I'm super-dooper hungry....
Ladies and gentlemen, start your planning. Mother's Day and Father's Day are coming up soon. I challenge you to make arrangements for some delicious respite to celebrate being the fabulous parents that you are to the wonderful children that you love.
Yes, I know you savor those sweet homemade cards, thoughtful though obligatory pink carnations, breakfasts in bed that stay forever stained on the comforter, and gift cards from Target, but what about some serious alone time at a Day Spa or with your partner somewhere secluded or adventurous, sans children?
If Hallmark is going to give us parents two whole days, by all means, let's take advantage of them. You can make it happen, with a lot of planning and a bit of saving. It might be worth it.
Will you accept the challenge? I hope so.
P.S. Are you pulling your hair out trying to figure out the best way to parent your child from difficult beginnings? Get some real support here: ...
Utilitarian parenting is not good enough parenting. What the heck does that mean?
You have probably heard that you don't have to be a perfect parent; you just have to be good enough. On the face of it, that is true. Perfection is required of no one and is by definition impossible for humans to attain anyway. Still, I find that many parents have succumbed to fast paced, over-busy, project manager, drill sergeant parenting, which turns out not to be good enough for the special needs of our special children.
Does this sound familiar? Come on, get your teeth brushed, we have to get going. You are not going to have time for breakfast. I have to go. Now. Shoes. Just put them on in the car. Hurry up, get out to the car. Did you finish that last page of homework? I told you to do it before watching cartoons. You said you did it. I should have checked. I will be checking today, so don't try to fake me out....
Parenting the way you need to in order to heal the deeper pain and reveal the real child beneath takes extraordinary energy. How is YOUR engine running?
You cannot do this by over eating, under exercising, under sleeping, over sleeping, avoiding, working all the time, feeling awful, drinking too much, caffeinating, sugaring up, stressing, worrying, fearing, frying your adrenals, and never finishing a glass of water.
You are so important. Take a reality check of your own wellness.
Here are some suggestions:
Are you curating your life? Remember I am encouraging you to create the days you want to have? None of my advice matters if you forget to put it into practice.
Knowing and not doing is not knowing.
Wow, I wish I had made that up out of thin air, but I’m sure I didn’t.
Probably something Yoda said. I love Yoda. He was the caretaker of an attachment challenged child, you know.
You must have a place for you in your life. To be emotionally well, it cannot be all about your child.
P.S. Check out the Love Matters Parenting Society membership for more support.
Attachment panic is often triggered when an attachment challenged person perceives deprivation or withdrawal of another's love. The cellular memory of early deprivation and loss causes a reaction of fight, flight or freeze.
This is freeze:
When you see those blank, death grip, lights on no one home, checked out, empty-faced stares, you are experiencing your child in attachment panic freeze.
Try to remember that freeze is pure fear, though...
Attachment panic can occur when an attachment challenged person is triggered by perceived deprivation or withdrawal of love. The cellular memory of early deprivation and loss causes a reaction of fight, flight or freeze.
This is flight:
When these kinds of mind-boggling events occur, you are witnessing attachment panic flight in your child.
Try to step out of the trap of making sense of flight behaviors. They don't make sense in the context of the moment. However, in the context of your child's inner world fleeing from fear of...