Where were all the parents…and why didn’t they show up?

by | Therapeutic Parenting, Emotions

I had the opportunity this past week to attend a super awesome conference sponsored by my friends over at CARES Meadow. You guys did a fantastic job!

If you’re a parent of kids who struggle with intense issues related to Reactive Attachment Disorder or Complex Developmental Trauma, there are some exciting things happening in our community. There are some REAL solutions in the works for kids and families like ours. When I say REAL solutions, I’m not just blowing smoke! I mean there is a movement happening.

There are people who know and understand this stuff, people who know what they’re doing, people who have been in the trenches and made it out the other side, and people who are still on the front lines (aka parents who live this stuff day in and day out) coming together. Each are bringing their own unique talents and piece of the puzzle and working hard to create a program that WORKS for attachment disordered kids AND their families. I’m super excited to be on the ground floor with this, to be part of the team, and to be part of this movement!

The conference was superb!

I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my time. I’ve been to a lot of conferences specifically about RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). This one truly was one of the best! They brought in Forrest Lien from Lifespan Trauma Consulting who did a fantastic presentation on Reactive Attachment Disorder. He spent a lot of time talking about what it is, the lifelong impact of trauma and attachment problems, and how to treat it. The information he shared was spot on and also very supportive of parents, especially Mom!

Kudos to those who came to learn

I was very happy to see this event was well attended by therapists and social workers from across the region. Kudos to all of them who came to the conference and were there to learn! This is a big deal!

These are the people we parents of traumatized children turn to for help. Unfortunately, we all too often quickly discover that most of them don’t understand complex developmental trauma or Reactive Attachment Disorder. Because they don’t understand it, they don’t know how to help us…and often make things even worse by blaming us for the problems.

We parents of traumatized children need you! We need you to understand us moms. We need you to understand our families. We need you to understand the complexities of this disorder and the intensity of what happens in our homes as a result of it. Thank you for coming to learn! 

Two major groups were seriously under-represented

Happy as I was to see so many professionals there, I was quite taken back by the fact that two very significant groups of people were markedly under-represented in the audience. These two groups are also the key players that often determine the difference between success or failure of a foster or adoptive placement.

Health and Human Services

Every state calls their department something different. Here in Utah they are called Division of Child and Family Services, or DCFS. Regardless of what their name is, this is the government department that is responsible for the administration of child protective services. They’re the ones that get all the reports of suspected child abuse and have to investigate them. They are also the ones who also oversee all the foster care and post-adopt programs.

These guys weren’t just under-represented in the audience. They didn’t even show up! There was literally not one person that was there to represent DCFS from anywhere in the state. That isn’t just unfortunate. It is a travesty!!  Suffice it to say that a gross lack of knowledge on their part combined with having too much power to rip families apart is a MAJOR contributor to the problem.

Enough about them. They make my head spin, so I don’t want to talk about them anymore.


The second most under-represented group blew my mind, though. There are enough parents of traumatized kids who live within driving distance of this event that it could have been filled to capacity with standing room only. Parents also should have made up the majority of the audience! Yet we parents were the marked minority of the bunch…and not by just a little bit!

Where were all the parents?

Seriously!  Where were all the parents and why didn’t they show up?  This has bothered me for several days now. It bothered a lot of us at the conference, actually!

As we talked about this question, all the usual things came up. I heard a lot of things like “They didn’t know about it, they couldn’t leave their kids, they had work or other obligations and couldn’t make it, it was too far to travel…” I can also 100% guarantee that had this been a paid event, “They couldn’t afford it” would have been at the top of the list.

Those are just excuses

Here’s the deal. While those might be legitimate reasons for a few people in a few cases, it didn’t explain why so many parents weren’t there. I’ve also done this long enough and been around the block enough times to know that all of those typical things we see on the surface are the automatic cover stories we all use when we don’t want to admit to the real reason we don’t want to do something.

It didn’t make sense!

It just didn’t make sense to me. Why were the people who needed to hear this message the most not there? At least from my perspective, if I knew there was an event, especially a free event, where real solutions to a very real problem were being presented, why didn’t more of our parents move heaven and earth to make sure they were there?

Why didn’t our parents show up?

I’m kind of a straight shooter and not one to take stuff like this at face value. There is always a reason for it. I wanted to dig deep enough to get below the surface and reach the heart of the question. In the process of doing so, I came up with three reasons why I think our parents especially didn’t show up.

It wasn’t a high enough priority

Oh sure, we might be able to brush it off and say they just didn’t know about the event, but I don’t think that was the case here.  This was a highly-publicized event. By and large, I do think many of our parents did know about it. Showing up to it just wasn’t a high priority on their list.

They didn’t think they needed it

Why not?  This was an awesome and free event!  Why didn’t it make their priority list? I think it’s because they didn’t think they needed it. They’ve heard it all before, they don’t want to hear any more about it, and they’re sick of it! The last thing they want to do if they have an opportunity to take a break is to hear more about RAD, right?

They already know all this stuff

This one strikes a chord with me. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve heard parents who are still drowning in the depths of chaos tell me they already know all this stuff.  Guess what? There was a time I once thought I knew all about this stuff, too. Ironically, the time in my life when I said this was also when my family was stuck in the trenches of hell and were on the verge of losing everything!

The more I learn about complex developmental trauma and attachment disorders, the more I realize there is still much I don’t know. Plus, new information and research are coming out all the time. I’ve also learned over the years that a lot of people think they know all about it, but they really don’t. Granted, they do know more than most doctors, therapists, and other professionals do, but they are still stuck in chaos because there is still a lot of confusion. There are still a lot of missing pieces and there is still a LOT of misinformation floating around.

Yes, I really did already know it

To my delight, YES, this time I did already know most of what was presented at this particular conference. That was super validating for me and some nice vanity confirmation that I am on track with the work I do with parents. I already knew that though, because I’ve watched the process I use work for many, many others as well. It was still nice to hear it from one of the gurus, though.

But I didn’t know everything that was presented. I also didn’t know a lot of what I now know before I started coaching. Furthermore, I also didn’t learn it until we were out of the trenches ourselves and I turned around and created a clear path and process to help others climb out, too. Life definitely would have been easier had I known then what I know now!

They’re stuck in crisis mode

The second reason I think a lot of parents didn’t come is because they’re stuck in crisis mode. They can’t see anything outside of the chaos and trauma. They are terrified about what will happen if they leave. They don’t want to deal with whatever will happen when they come back home, so it’s easier not to leave. They have no one to leave their kids with. It’s too much effort. It’s too far away. It’s all just too much!

Don’t get me wrong. These are very real issues! I’ve lived all of them myself. Sometimes I still do as my traumatized kids still live at home. But, this conference was held during school hours, it was centrally located, and it was all about getting OUT of crisis mode…so I knew that wasn’t the real reason our parents didn’t show up, either. 

They don’t believe anything can or will change

This is it. This is the real reason I think our parents didn’t come. This is why it didn’t make their priority list. Far too many of our parents have been on their own too long, are now traumatized themselves, and are stuck in an endless loop of hopelessness and helplessness. 

Believe me, I get this one very well! The professionals have failed them. The systems have failed them. They’ve read all the books, they’ve joined all the groups, they’ve tried all the things and none of it has worked or been sustainable. Sadly, they no longer believe anything can or will work, so why keep learning? Why keep trying?

They don’t know how much power they have

Hopeless, helpless parents tend to forget they still have choices. They lose sight of the fact THEY are the ones that have the power to create a different experience for everyone. Far too many don’t even know they are the ones who hold the keys to creating a different life for themselves and their family that they don’t need to escape from…and one that allows them to become the most powerful agent of change for their child! 

It isn’t a doctor or a therapist. Those people are the helpers. Mom is the one who really holds the keys to create the most change. But she’s never going to be able to do it alone. 

They’re stuck in cycles of abuse

This one is heartbreaking…and it’s one I know well because I got stuck there, too. WAY too many mamas are stuck in negative cycles of abuse and they don’t know how to get out. That is a scary one to face. It’s scary to admit! It also comes with a whole lot of shame that doesn’t really need to be there. 

After all, they didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t do this do their kids (and even if they did, they are different people now!) The truth is that chaos is a combination of the disorder on the part of the kid and Mom not having enough REAL training and skills to adequately parent it.

I’m not okay with any of that! 

My friend, I’m living proof there IS hope and there IS a way out! Is it always easy? Oh, gosh, NO! Does it take work? Does it take commitment? Yes, it takes a lot of it…and it also requires a significant investment of time, energy, and resources. 

But is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!! 

I can help you!

For you moms who have found yourself passing over opportunities to show up to things like this…or who are just plain stuck in the trenches of hell, I want you to know you don’t have to stay there. As a parent coach, I don’t just teach parenting techniques. I help moms create a life they don’t need to escape from!

Let that one sit for a minute. 

I help moms create a life they don’t need to escape from…and I ONLY work with moms of kids who have severe trauma-related issues.

How I do it…

I do a whole lot more than just sharing parenting tips. I can help you create a life you don’t need to escape by first, helping you calm the chaos. I arm you with the right information, tools, and skills you need to do your job. Then I help you pull out of burnout and trauma mode…because a mom who is stuck in that place herself can’t be an effective therapeutic parent. Once we get you shining, we work on relationship and coping skills. With many of my clients, there are marriage issues that have crept into the mess that need to be untangled.  After we have all that under control, THEN we work specifically on therapeutic parenting…IF we still need to…because truthfully, by the time we get here, you’ve probably already been doing a lot of it anyway and just didn’t know it.

An invitation to show up!

If that sounds like what you need, I want to give you an invitation to show up! Pick up the phone and call me. Shoot me an email. Book a free Parent Empowerment Session. Let’s talk about the next right steps are for you and create a path to help you get you out of this mess!

If I happen to be part of that plan, awesome!  We’ll talk about how we can work together 1:1 for 6 months to a year to create that life you don’t need to escape from…a life where you don’t just believe there is hope, but know there is because you’re living it

Whatever you do, please remember there is a way out. This stuff doesn’t have to destroy you. There is hope. All you have to get on that path is show up and that first step!

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