Connected Parenting Training

With the recent Empowered to Connect Simulcast finishing up, many parents are wondering HOW to take the next steps.  Below is a great place to start.

2017-03-28 04.00.26But it takes more forward movement of course!  Some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Read the Connected Child – it contains the critical information to get stared with Connected Parenting (TBRI).
  2. Look for some additional training opportunities.  At TFM we are planning on hosting an afternoon seminar a few weeks after Easter to give parents a chance to explore Connected Parenting further.
  3. Enroll in a multi-week parent training class that explores the content of the afternoon seminar in much greater details to help you start actually practicing Connected Parenting/TBRI.
  4. Enroll in some individualized parent coaching through TFM as you problem solve and apply Connected Parenting every day with your children.

Keep an eye on this website for specific details coming soon.  You can also see our Facebook page, Transformational Family Ministries.  In the meantime, enjoy any of the content you find helpful on this website.  You can also shoot us an email from here too.  You are NOT alone!



It is OK to lower the bar…no, it is essential!

Cindy Richman at Parenting with Connection (Facebook Page) posted some EXCELLENT advice this morning and I had to pass it on.  Hoping it helps!

Moderator Post: Lower the bar. If you are raising a child from a hard place, you have heard those dreaded comments from strangers and family. “She is so cute” they say, with a heart to encourage. From how well they have behaved, to how cute they are to who knows what, people look at the cover of the book, and assume that this child is just like every other child. Strangers do it, and so does family, but we do it too. We look at this 12-year-old body, with a 12-year-old face and brain, and expect that this child should be able to do what other 12-year-olds do. We are wired to think that way, and so we do. The book should match the cover.

The truth is that most trauma children are emotionally delayed. That 12-year -old body might contain a 4-year-old heart and mind. We want them to function as they should and we forget too often that this child, no matter how tall, can’t manage 12-year-old responsibilities. They just can’t.

Connected parenting looks at the child through the eyes of who they are, not who they should be. When we recognize the emotional age of a child, we can hold them to realistic expectations. Furthermore, by dealing with the child’s reality, we can mitigate our own stress.

Lowering the bar is important. If a normal task for a 12-year-old is to clean their room, we might ask and expect the child to do so. A connected parent will look at the 12-year-old, recognize their emotional age, and change their expectations to match. Perhaps this child needs mom’s assistance. Instead of asking them to clean their room, we set up a time to clean their room together. Or maybe this child can’t put away all their toys, so we break up the task into segments. As we meet the child where they are, they find that they are able to successfully accomplish the tasks we ask them to do.

This does NOT mean that we will let them stay there. Lowering the bar does not mean forever. It means that while this 12-year-old is still 4, we will help them accomplish 4-year-old tasks. Slowly, and with our help, we will give them greater and greater challenges until the time that they can do these tasks on their own.

Having realistic expectations will create success for everyone. It will enable felt-safety to grow, and will minimize angry and destructive interactions that often flow out of unrealistic expectations. Lowering the bar is essential, especially in the beginnings of healing.

5 Reasons Your Teen with Reactive Attachment Disorder Isn’t Like “All Other Teenagers.”


“He’s just being a typical teenager,” they say. “He’ll outgrow it.” This single sentence exasperates most people raising teens with reactive attachment disorder (RAD). As a parent of a teen with RAD, you know your child has larger battles ahead than many of his peers. Typical responses about your “typical teen” probably make you feel more alone and overwhelmed. Here’s the good news—if people say that you’re too strict with your teenager or over react in regard to parental concerns, you’re most likely on the right track in your parenting. Many parents are able to give their children a bit more freedom as they grow from children to adolescents. Teenagers often have the capacity to make more decisions for themselves than when they were younger. For teenagers with RAD, however, this isn’t usually the case. Teens with RAD are different from their peers, even if they look the same on the surface.

Here’s why teens with reactive attachment disorder aren’t “typical teens”—

1. Early trauma changes the brain. Even though teens with RAD may look like other teens on the outside, they have much younger brains. That’s because children who were abused or neglected before the age of 5 didn’t get opportunities to experience normal early child development. Therefore, they essentially get “stuck” in the developmental stage of a toddler. They don’t “outgrow” their trauma. Teens with RAD are cognitively and emotionally less mature than their peers. Like a toddler, they will take or do what they desire in the moment without forethought.

2. Healthy attachment contributes to healthy remorse. All teens test limits from time to time. The difference between attached teens and those with RAD is how they feel about their poor choices. Attached teens have the capacity to feel guilty and correct behavior on their own accord. Teens with RAD will continue to make poor choices without empathy for others.

3. Peer influence is more powerful for teens with RAD. It’s normal for teenagers to spend more time with friends as they get older. Those influences, however, impact attached teens differently than those with RAD. Attached teens have regard for their families. Even when they spend a lot of time with peers, they may still make some time for their families. Teens with RAD have little to no attachment to their families and will follow their peers without pause.

4. Teens with RAD have abnormal social relationships. Most attached teenagers learn to successfully navigate relationships outside of their families. However, teens with RAD seek control at all costs to feel safe as a result of early abuse and neglect. This interferes will all of their relationships, including with peers. Therefore, their peer relationships are often short-lived or superficial.

5. Teens with RAD desperately want to attach to others based on their terms rather than to have reciprocal relationships. Therefore, they can develop emotionally and sexually inappropriate relationships. They can get obsessive about relationships. Sexual relationships may be the only way they feel as though another person cares for them. To raise a teenager who has the mindset of a toddler makes puberty and peer pressure all the more stressful during the teenage years. It’s extremely difficult for parents and their teens.

Here are some tips based on our practices here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development.

Tips for parents raising teens with RAD: …

(in their 1st tip the author recommends the approach spelled out in the book, Parenting Teens with Love & Logic which we have found to be a poor match with children from hard places. At TFM we would, instead, highly recommend Connected Parenting laid out in The Connected Child by Purvis & Cross)…

Remain calm. As stated above, remaining calm will allow you greater emotional and mental health. Moreover, a calm environment will help your teen to feel safer. Teens with RAD feel less safe with parents who lose their temper. Angry parents confirm the belief that the world is scary and unreliable. Of course, keeping calm is extremely difficult to do with teens with RAD who know how to “push your buttons”. You have a greater capacity to remain calm when you don’t engage in arguments with your teen. If your child is engaging you in an argument, less is more. Be kind and empathetic but firm and to the point. Tell her that you love her too much to argue and move on.

• Keep your teen safe. Again, children with RAD have cognitive and emotional capacities of toddlers. Things that other teens “should do” don’t apply to your child. If you wouldn’t allow your 4-year-old to drive a car, stay home alone, or ride his bike to a friend’s house, we advise against letting your teen with RAD do so. She simply isn’t safe in the same environments and situations in which her peers can venture.

• Restrict electronics. Here at IACD, our teens don’t get access to electronics. Social media and the Internet provide too many opportunities for teens with RAD to establish superficial relationships, false identities, and inappropriate emotional and sexual relationships. Furthermore, teens use electronics to create further distance from their families, limiting opportunities to build healthy attachments.

• Get help from a qualified attachment therapist. You can’t do this alone. Your love is important but, unfortunately, not enough to heal your child with RAD. It is wise and necessary for you to recognize that your teen is, in fact, different from her peers. Setting firm limits and parenting with empathy doesn’t mean that you’re limiting your teen’s joy. On the contrary, you’re helping to keep her safe and to feel safe. For fun, you can engage your child in conversation about a book you both read, play board games as a family, or watch a familyoriented movie together.

Empathetic parenting (At TFM we prefer “Connected Parenting”) isn’t about power and control— it’s about respecting and honoring your child’s needs, as well as your own. The next time someone tells you that you’re too strict with your teen, take a breath, smile, and pat yourself on the back. They can’t understand. You know why you’re doing what you do and that’s all that matters.

How To Navigate Christmas With Children Who Have Special Needs. by Mike Berry

The malls are decorated with garland, bows, and lighted wreaths suspended in mid-air between stores and shops. Display windows have followed suit with decorative frosting in the corners and mannequins dressed in cold-weather attire. Starbucks debuted their red holiday cups, and radio stations are beginning to play Christmas music on loop. There’s no doubt about it — the holidays are here.

For many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time for gathering with family, opening presents, feasting on amazing food, and traveling to see relatives that live in other states. But, for those of us who are raising children with sensory processing needs, attachment issues, anxiety disorders, high stress, or FASD, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year. The excitement, over-stimulation, rich food, change in schedule, and disrupted routine can spell disaster.

We’re in that boat as adoptive parents. For years, we dreaded the holidays, particularly Christmas morning — still do to some degree. The excitement and energy surrounding it almost always resulted in a full-blown meltdown from one or more of my kids with sensory processing needs. Often, it was a snowball effect. One would go, and either trigger the others, or provoke the others and the day would be lost. The struggle with anxiety, impulsion, and over-stimulation from chaotic or high-energized environments was too much to handle.

For years, we dreaded it. We began to lose hope. That is, until this time last year. That’s when Kristin came up with an idea.

“Let’s not open gifts in our house this year,” she said to me one November evening.

I was confused. “Do you mean, go to your parents’ house instead?”

“No,” she replied. “Let’s open them somewhere else.

“Like where?” I asked.

“What if we asked someone to use their space, just for opening presents, nothing else? We could do that and then come back to our house for Christmas Day dinner.”

And that’s precisely what we did. We had a connection to an after-school program who owned a house just north of where we lived. It was only a mile from our house. But it made a world of difference for our children with sensory-processing needs.

It’s a big question we’ve asked over the years, right after Thanksgiving hits — how do you navigate the holidays with children who deal with special needs that may be triggered by all of the excitement and fanfare surrounding the season? We’re still learning how to do this for the most part, but we’ve found a few key ways to help reduce the overload …

  1. Pay attention to location. Perhaps your home is a trigger. Perhaps the room you open gifts in is a trigger. If you have this option, try moving to a different location for the big morning. It may not be feasible, but it was something that worked for us. Even a relative’s home may be a better option. Often times, the place they are most familiar with becomes the biggest trigger for meltdowns or sensory overload.
  2. Create a safe space. We have some good friends with a son who has sensory processing needs, much like ours. He has lots of trouble on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas morning. Really, anytime lots of people are gathered around, watching him open gifts (as grandparents, aunts, and uncles will do at Christmas), or focus lots of attention on him, he has trouble. They tell their son, before holiday gatherings, that he can take time away in his room or in a quiet place if he feels like he’s nearing overload. We have followed this same measure with some of our kids. When you intentionally create a space that is safe for your kiddos, you’ll enable them to find peace through hectic holiday gatherings.
  3. Allow time for preparation. Those same friends do something else I think is key. They prepare well in advance. They have conversations with their son about what is to come. It doesn’t always fully help them through moments of high sensory overload, but it has made a big difference. We follow along the same lines with lots of conversations with our children who suffer from alcohol-related nuerodevelopmental disorder (ARND). Their brains cannot handle lots of overload or excitement. But, walking them through everything well in advance has made a big difference with the outcome of the day.
  4. As much as you can, stick to routine. I know — this is hard to do if you’re traveling, or even with the holiday break in general. There’s no school routine, no work routine, no one has to get up early, and you can pretty much stay up later if you want (because there’s no work or school to contend with). I get it. Same deal in our household. But, routine is king when you’re parenting children with major special needs (like ARND or sensory processing needs). As far as it depends on you, stick to routine. You may not be able to fully, but if you can to some degree, you may find that meltdowns are shorter lived or few and far between.

The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who is parenting children who have a difficult time during the holidays, is be aware of your kids’ needs. It sounds simple but often, it’s hard to remember, especially during the chaos of the season. As much as we wish we could do the things that normal families do during Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can’t. We have to modify — tweak the world around us — to accommodate our precious children. We want them to enjoy the holidays as much as anyone else. That’s true for our family, and I’m sure it is for yours. Taking small steps, and paying attention to a few key aspects of our children’s ability to process through a bright and chaotic season, can make a world of difference.

Thriving Through the Holidays

This will probably not be the last post about raising special needs children through the holidays.  As we come across helpful suggestions, we will be sure to pass on the best ideas.  Sometimes one of the biggest challenges of the holidays is simply the fact that lots of what goes on is not “normal.”  Children from hard places thrive best when things are normal and predictable.  So the holiday season seems guaranteed to cause problems.  But it doesn’t have to.

First, we can normalize the holidays to some extent by developing family traditions that we carefully repeat every year.  Parents of special needs children should give some careful thought before creating those traditions, especially if your child has sensory processing issues.  Keep your child’s triggers and challenges in mind and modify what you plan to do.  Maybe we will share some of our family traditions later.

Secondly, keep a careful eye out for holiday activities that will over stress your child – especially if they have SPD.  The following chart is helpful for learning how to “read” the state of your child’s emotional arousal.  When participating in various events and activities, this might help you keep an eye out for your child’s body language and how it might reveal what is going on inside.  Hope it helps!


Upcoming Parent Training Course

Empowered to Connect

WHERE?  Calvary Baptist Church, 506 Cottonwood St., Woodland CA

CLASS PREVIEW and ORIENTATION (FREE) Monday, 9/12/16 from 6:30 to 8:45pm

CLASS DATES ($90/couple) Mondays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. 9/19/16 thru 11/14/16

Empowered To Connect (ETC) Parent Training is an interactive learning experience designed specifically for adoptive and foster parents and parents of kids from hard places.

For a complete description of the course, visit

 Things to note:

  • Both parents must attend. Single parents must have a designated support person attend with them. Space in the class is limited.
  • Priority will be given to post-placement adoptive and foster families.
  • We are encouraging clinical professionals, teachers, babysitters, ministry leaders, and friends/family to attend the Preview/Orientation or a shorter workshop designed for you (see for upcoming dates).

Child care will be provided upon request.

Cost covers child care and some training materials.

For Questions and to Register

Contact Eric or Amy ( or 530-402-1489)

Uncle Matty Gets It!

helpingThere is a local animal trainer named Uncle Matty that advertises his services saying that he specializes in training people’s pets (dogs mostly) with “love and affection” as opposed to using punishment when the animal doesn’t obey.  Having had to house train a dog or two in my day I would have to agree with Uncle Matty.  Though  many trainers “get it done” with punitive measures, it is far easier and faster to use praise and affection.  Why?

Because dogs have been bred to WANT to please their masters.  It’s part of their pack mentality to want to be in good graces with the alpha pack leader. So they respond very well when praised for doing something.  They eventually pick up on the cause and good effects and wha laa.  Punitive measures sort of work for the same reason – they don’t like it when the alpha growls at them.

I was reading out on the front porch in the cool of the morning and observed a girl walking her golden retriever on a leash.  She was training him to “sit & hold.”  But when the dog would move or sit for just a moment she would pop him lightly with the leash and scold him.  It went on for about a minute before the dog finally did what she wanted.  She then moved on.  And I was struck at how ugly the scene was.  I did not like watching her be mean to the dog, partly because I know that praise works SO much better.

Children aren’t dogs of course, but I immediately made the connection.  Training children using punitive measures is actually pretty counter productive.  Children are born with a tremendous need to connect and relate to their caregivers (a.k.a. attachment).  Without it their brains do not develop properly and if they survive infancy, will go on to be impaired for many years.  Children WANT to please their caregivers.  They want to be part of a close group of loving people.  Praise and affection give FAR better results than punitive measures, especially with children from hard places.  There is more to it than that, of course, but I think it would be helpful to us all just to contemplate this simple reminder that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”

Re-Do – Versatile Parenting Tool


We have found that using the Re-Do tool in parenting works very well.  It gives us a chance to correct playfully and gives them a chance to practice doing the right things.  It doesn’t waste lots of time “telling” them or lecturing (which is totally a waste of time with children from hard places).  It really can be a very positive and connecting moment.

Of course, it isn’t always – Re-Do is difficult to do if the child is “in the moment” (a.k.a. in a melt-down or emotional state).  Better to help the child self-regulate and when they are calmer, try the Re-Do if you think it will go well.

And be careful about Re-Dos with teenagers – it can absolutely be done but be careful that it doesn’t come across as condescending or “treating them like a baby.”  Teens generally don’t respond well when they think that is going on.  And there are times when a Re-Do might feel humiliating.  Food for thought – hope it helps!

We all need this – really.

Whether you 10847606_369065879963771_8613937955680489639_ohave adopted or are fostering a child from hard places, you and those around you need to understand how challenging it is to parent a child from hard places. It can require significantly more effort, energy and patience than any two people can realistically muster.  If left alone, we will falter and can run on “empty” for years.  But that is quite destructive to everyone in the family.  All In has been encouraging churches to seriously consider and implement ways to “wrap around” families with children from hard places. We think this is an idea whose time has come!  But we would add that any community could do the same.  Any club, extended family or friends network, employee group could take the same approach.  Spread the word!