The Trauma-Sensitive Parenting Summit & Commentary


"Having a history of trauma or loss does not by itself
predispose you to have a child with disorganization.
It is the lack of resolution that is the essential
risk factor. It is never too late to move toward
making sense of your experiences and healing your past.
Not only you but also your child will benefit."

That's a quote from the book Parenting from the Inside Out: How A Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, which was published fifteen freaking years ago. It's co-written by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. Siegel will be the keynote opening up the Trauma-Sensitive Parenting Summit which starts tomorrow and was put together by the Attachment & Trauma Network.

I love the Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN). The ATN has always been out front and talking about ACEs and trauma and how kids are impacted by all sorts of early adversity in ways that have huge impact. They also focus on therapeutic style parenting for lay people, which just means ways that parents can help support and heal and love our kids in ways that recognize, respect and are responsive to the complexity of their experiences as well as our own.

We know that it's not just kids who are adopted from foster care or other countries who have faced loss, trauma and harsh social conditions. It's also parents, adoptive, foster, and biological who do as well. We are all impacted by the presence or absence of ACEs, resources, and healing and learn best from one another.

Learning from the Adoption Community about Lived & Learned Expertise

ATN is always leading the learning. They open up difficult and important conversations which include families, professionals, educators and policy makers. Their materials, conferences, and services support varied people and perspectives and meet people wherever we are. I love that. They pull equally from those with lived and learned expertise, and it's a wonderful model for the ACEs movement which also knows that these aren't us or them issues or things that live only in a personal or professional space.

In the old days, experts used to say how adoptive parents should speak, act and love after an adoption placement. The wisdom encouraged people not to talk about loss, race, grief, or even sometimes to tell children or other relatives an adoption had even happened. The focus was on the present tense, who and what is here and what family means starting from the point of adoption. 

The intentions were good and focused on strength and who and what is possible now. But it failed to honor the earliest experiences and relationships of infants and children and of birth parents and siblings. It left out the wider social context that impacts people and why children are even available for adoption in the first place. 

Over time, adoptees said stop talking at and about us, stop speaking for us. Adoptees said that adoption is not something for others to describe and they had thoughts, ideas, and opinions about what adoptees needed and what did and didn't help, what was or was not spot on, and what had created more sorrow or harm.

They took back the popular cultural narrative about adoption filled with myths about the lucky or grateful adoptee "saved" or "rescued" or the ideas of the benevolent or generous adoptive parent and replaced myths with true stories which are far more individual and complex.

Parents listened and learned. Sometimes. Experts listened and learned. Sometimes. The adoption community grew stronger and stronger and only when led by adoptees and families first as the best experts.

Adoptees and families shared opinions and ideas, shaped reforms to push for changes in laws about what records would be open or closed and insisted the adoption community better understand which children are available for adoption and why, and to deal with those issues as part of being adoptive parents. Those issues are poverty, war, racism, as well as personal stories about loss, grief, violence and trauma.

Over time, adoptive parents shared our experiences as well, usually in secret or private and with one another. We talked about the things we felt we were not educated or informed about, how little supports are available for our children who often struggle long and hard with grief, trauma and loss and how irritating it is to get advice from people who have never adopted about how we or are children should feel and act. We learned about the impact of being separated from birth parents, country, language, and siblings and how confusing and overwhelming it can be for infants, toddlers, and kids at any age even when adoptive families are loving, sensitive or caring.

Through the adoption process, many of us learned that love and attachment are not the same thing nor are love and security. We also learned that some of the very things we were told to do, as parents, such as avoiding talk of adoption or loss or birth families, or failing what it was like for our kids of color to sometimes be raised by white parents in all white communities.

There's so many things we have and are always learning which is how many of us got involved with the ATN in the first place. We needed to find support for our kids, or ourselves or both. We wanted to reform the adoption process and help all families involved before, during and after adoptions are finalized, before, during and after families are reunified.

The adoption community came to understand that there's a place for lived and learned expertise and one without the other is incomplete. We learned that families are the experts on what families need and we can each only speak about our experiences as part of what is called the adoption triad (birth parent, adoptive parent, and child).

We learned our experiences within that triad are not the same and that we need to learn from each other.

And we can share what it is we have learned, sharing what does and doesn't work, what does and doesn't help, what may or may not be useful. We can share stories, and community, and compare how what happens in our lives and homes may be different than what experts predicted based on what clinics, studies, and labs.

I know I'll be tuning in. Here's the schedule. 

Trauma-Informed Parenting When You Have Your Own Trauma History

Here's the scheduled line-up. 

Day 1-  Thursday, November 8, 2018

Keynote: Integration & Awareness

Dr. Daniel J. Siegel
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA’s School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA
Interviewer: Tiffany Sudela-Junker

ATN Roundtable Discussion: What is Trauma-Sensitive Parenting?

Four of ATN’s Trauma-Sensitive, Therapeutic Parenting Leaders:
Tiffany Sudela-Junker
Lorraine Schneider
Stephanie Garde, JD
Julie Beem, MBA

Day 2-  Friday, November 9, 2018

Supporting & Educating Therapeutic Parents in the UK and around the World

Sarah Naish
CEO of National Association of Therapeutic Parents and Manager Director of Inspire Training Group, United Kingdom
Interviewer: Julie Beem

Parenting a Child with a History of Trauma

Ce Eshleman, LMFT
Founder of The Attach Place, Sacramento, CA
Interviewer: Stephanie Garde

What Trauma Does to Our Children’s Brains

Julie Beem, MBA
Executive Director of Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN)
Marietta, GA
Interviewer: Stephanie Garde

Day 3-  Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Legacy of Attachment: Understanding How My Own History Impacts My Parenting

Karen Buckwalter, LCSW
Director of Program Strategy, Chaddock, Quincy, IL
Interviewer: Julie Beem

Self-Regulation and the Traumatized Child

Allison Cooke Douglas
Therapeutic Parent and Education & Training Coordinator of Harmony Family Center’s ASAP Program, Knoxville, TN
Interviewer: Lorraine Schneider

Day 4-  Sunday, November 11, 2018

From Chaos to Calm

Jules Alvarado
Healing Expert & Peace Consultant and President & Senior Clinical Consultant of Alvarado Consulting & Treatment Group, Boulder, CO
Interviewer: Julie Beem

Trauma-Informed Parenting When You Have Your Own Trauma History

Cissy White
Parent, Author and Speaker
ACEs Connection & Founder of Heal Write Now
Interviewer: Stephanie Garde

Day 5-  Monday, Monday, November 12, 2018

Parenting Children with Challenging Behaviors

Ross Greene, Ph.D.
Originator of CPS Model, author and Founding Director of Lives in the Balance, Maine
Interviewer: Julie Beem

Healing Through Stories: Using Narratives

Jane Samuel, JD
Grad Student in Family Sciences, University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY
Interviewer: Stephanie Garde

Day 6-  Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An In-Home Approach

Billy Kaplan, LCSW
President & Clinical Director of Housecalls Counseling, Willamette, IL
Interviewer: Tiffany Sudela-Junker

The Grief of Letting Go

Carrie O’Toole
Board Certified Life Coach & Attachment-Based Intervention Specialist
Carrie O’Toole Ministries, Colorado
Interviewer: Tiffany Sudela-Junker

Day 7-  Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Art of Becoming a Connected Parent

Mark Vatsaas
Connected Parent & Parenting Coach, Founder of Seen and Heard Coaching, Colorado
Interviewer: Julie Beem

Therapeutic Parenting: The ATN Difference

Stephanie Garde, JD
Operations Manager of Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN)
Fairhaven, MA
Interviewer: Lorraine Schneider

Again, all of these are available, for free, for 24 hours and you have to be registered to get the email links.

Note: I'll be speaking about Parenting with ACEs and what trauma-informed parenting looks and feels like for parents who are trauma survivors. My interview airs on Sunday. It's personal.  share that I chose to parent, through adoption, because of my own ACEs and trauma and not because of fertility issues as people often assume. This is not an uncommon reason for people to choose adoptive or foster parenting but it's rarely talked about or discussed.

The truth is many of us feel we are especially well-equipped to love kids who have experienced early loss and trauma because that's something we too have experienced. Many of us also have felt ill-equipped or unwilling to manage symptoms of traumatic stress (no matter how well-managed) along with concerns about pregnancy (and managing moods and medications) because there is very little support to do so until or unless one is in a crisis situation or wealthy enough to purchase additional support.

Many choose to avoid parenting entirely because the impact of the past, or the fear of repeating it are too daunting or because we don't have enough support to manage our fears and real-life challenges. It's for this reason that even those without children are welcome in the Parenting with ACEs community and have opinions, feelings and experiences that are relevant. 

Many of us have concerns about the prevalence of mental illness or addiction in our families of origin, whether we choose to create families biologically or otherwise  and how those may surface or resurface during parenting, as well as how we may need to navigate relationships with families of origin in whole new ways as we parent. We may have concerns about birth, breastfeeding, and how to provide love, attachment and security when bonding, intimacy and interpersonal family relationships have been traumatic for us and when we have no inner guidebook of experiential knowing to pull from.

Sometimes, as survivor parents, we just know it will take more than good intentions to help a child feel safe after loss and trauma and we want to pass on what we know and have learned in ways that can benefit kids who have been traumatized by families and/or systems. We want to use hard won lessons or post-traumatic growth. 

And, we also maybe just know how amazing it is to parent, what an honor and privilege and opportunity it is. Many of us found parenting healing in ways we never predicted or expected, found ourselves capable of creating stability, safety, and strong bonds. For some of us, that experience made us know in new and deep ways how much adversity and trauma kept us knowing about the sweeter parts of love and life.

Though the work of healing, individually and generationally, is hard it is far more than that. It's transformative, even magical, because we are never to old to benefit from knowing love, how to give it, receive it, expect and count on it, how to create and restore and recover it within relationships. That is work that benefits us, our kids, and generations past, present and moving forward. That's what I believe.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in the Faithful Gardener:

"What is this faithful process of spirit and seed that touches empty ground and makes it rich again? Its greater workings I cannot claim to understand. But I know this: Whatever we set our days to might be the least of what we do, if we do not understand that something is waiting for us to make ground for it, something that lingers near us, something that loves, something that waits for the right ground to be made so it can make its full presence known.

I am certain that as we stand in the care of this faithful force, that what has seemed dead is dead no longer, what has seemed lost, is no longer lost, that which some have claimed impossible, is made clearly possible, and what ground is fallow is only resting - resting and waiting for the blessed seed to arrive on the wind with all Godspeed."

This is how I feel about this movement work and how it moves so many of us. It happens in our own lives and families, in our own wind and soil, in our systems and communities - and all that makes for a stronger world. 

Again, register here to get emails to access the free interviews and how to buy them all after the fact if you miss them or want to have them.

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Comments (4)

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Karen Clemmer (ACEs Connection Staff) posted:

Cissy - Thank you for sharing this is a wonderful learning opportunity!  Your such an amazing, heartfelt writer!!  I was thinking of ACEs survivors as I read this: 

Over time, adoptees said stop talking at and about us, stop speaking for us. Adoptees said that adoption is not something for others to describe and they had thoughts, ideas, and opinions about what adoptees needed and what did and didn't help, what was or was not spot on, and what had created more sorrow or harm.

Thank you. I'm grateful to work with you and learn with you and from you! Cis

Cheryl Miranda posted:

Cissy, that was really insightful. So much information about adoption which no one talks about.  Thanks.

Thanks Cheryl! I think there are so many lessons the ACEs movement can learn from the adoption rights movement, that relate to trauma, attachment, voice and agency. We so many doing great work with and as adoptive families and who have been doing so for decades and decades. Cis 

Cissy - Thank you for sharing this is a wonderful learning opportunity!  Your such an amazing, heartfelt writer!!  I was thinking of ACEs survivors as I read this: 

Over time, adoptees said stop talking at and about us, stop speaking for us. Adoptees said that adoption is not something for others to describe and they had thoughts, ideas, and opinions about what adoptees needed and what did and didn't help, what was or was not spot on, and what had created more sorrow or harm.