My new book…

Book cover 4 stepsI’ve spent years helping parents learn to parent children with FASD and behavior disorders. I’ve also spent years raising my own children who have FASD and behavior disorders. Along the way, I’ve, I realized that most of our children are not going to transform into well behaved, or even reasonably behaved, or even occasionally behaved, children during their growing up years. They will become attached, they will resolve their original traumas, they will learn some social skills, but the behavior disorders that are wired into their neural structures will remain.Yes, the love and safety that you provide, along with maturity and brain development will create positive results, but it won’t be evident until at least early adulthood.

I’ve also realized that while  there are no teachable moments, there is a teachable relationship. And, I believe, the focus needs to be off of trying to change the kids and instead, the light of attention needs to shine on sustaining that relationship throughout the years of chronic conflict. So, in my new book, I’ve taken the focus off of trying to change the kids and put it onto changing the way in which the parents manage the chronic conflict. Here’s an outline:


You can order the book from I’ll have it in e-form soon.

I’d love any reviews on Amazon or just in private.

Hey, you are entitled to a better day – and I hope my new book helps you get there.

Don’t forget to check out my Hazardous Parenting Facebook page when you have the time.

Expanding thoughts…

In my last post I was expounding on my thoughts about how, in my opinion, the really significant work of adoptive parenting happens after adolescence. I quickly received a lot of emails telling me that I was totally wrong and that the parenting we do while the kids are growing up is important. Well, yes, it is. Duh… So now I’m going to expand on those expounded thoughts…Of course I know that our parenting during the growing up years is important, but I really don’t think it has as much impact on our kids as the parenting we do later.

I truly believe that while we are raising them they are often just too busy with other things such as:


– playing catch up with their brain development

– reacting to earlier traumas

– testing our commitment

– projecting their anger at their genetic parents onto the adoptive parents

– learning social skills they should have learned in pre-school (but were too busy just trying to survive)

-learning to manage their various conditions such f.a.s.d. and a.d.h.d. and the rest.

Get the idea? I ‘m not saying nothing happens during the years we raise them, I just think that the years after that are when they finally get it that we really are committed to them and that it’s possible to have a healthy and loving relationship with; and, that happens because we are still there – we haven’t dumped them simply because they turned some legal age or left home. It happens because they still need us and they get old enough and far enough away from the original trauma to be able finally accept what we have been trying to offer all along.

The other day I was having a really rough time emotionally – I was crying about some rotten things that were going on – and I  felt overwhelmed with how much I wanted my mom. She couldn’t have fixed my problems, but really, there’s no one like a mom (or dad) to make you feel better when nothing else can. However, my mom is dead so that was not going to happen. But, it made me realize yet again how our need for our parents never goes away, it both changes and deepens as we get older and I am so grateful for all the years I had my mom and so glad that my 9 who have grown up can have that with me (if they choose). My 5 still at home don’t see any use for me at all, but they will in time. And, I will be there. Just like you will be there for yours.

Hey, have a glorious day.


I now have 9 adult kids and 5 teens, so I’m in a pretty good position to reflect back. One of the things that stands out for me is coming to understand that adoption is less about the present, and more about the future. Let me explain – during the years that I have been actively raising my kids, well, it hasn’t been pleasant for any of us. We’ve dealt with chronic rages, chronic lies, chronic thefts, chronic verbal abuse and on and on and on. Sometimes I’ve handled it well, sometimes I’ve totally blown it. Out of this, I’ve learned that there are no *teachable moments* during the active parenting years. My children were never going to learn anything of value in the moment and particularly not during conflicts. What they  appear to have gotten out of being raised by me was the years of stability, the predictable routines, the overall care, lots of opportunities, and the fact that I was still there when they reached some version of adulthood. While they were growing up we were all still too mired in their pasts – we were driven by the challenges that come with f.a.s.d. and a.d.h.d., and conduct disorder, and temper dysregulation disorder, and early neglect and abuse. Their pasts and their disorders controlled all of us so much that all of our energy went into survival.


It hasn’t been until they reach the first years of their young adult independence that we start to develop a real healthy, loving relationship. I don’t mean we didn’t have attachment, and I don’t mean we never had a good time, or a loving relationship, I just mean there was more crap than flowers. But by the time they reach adulthood, the  years have created enough distance from the original abandonment and abuse that they can start actually living in the present. As well, they have developed skills to manage the f.a.s.d. etc. They finally feel like they have some choices in their life and I am so thrilled when I realize that keeping me in their lives is one of those choices. It happens when their lives fall apart and they have to move home again for a while, or when they need unexpected financial help, or when they need sympathy for a broken heart or other adult life disappointments and they know they can count on me to provide that for them. And, when things go well and they want to share the good events they know that I will be delighted by their joy and that I am their tireless cheerleader. . I also get to see the ways in which I am  positively influenced by their perspectives on life and I get to start learning from them.

So, this morning, when I had CONFLICT with one of my not-so-little, and I handled it badly – I  reminded myself of two things – 1) I can and will do better with her for the rest of the day  2) my emotional investment isn’t in today, it’s in her future.

Well, that’s my thoughts for the day – remember, you are entitled to a better day – so grab onto it!


No is an attitude…

Yesterday I was pulled into a conflict with one of my not-so-littles. She isn’t a rager and there are no attachment issues, but she does have a temper and a teen ‘tude. It all started when we were shopping and I refused to buy her something she wanted. She made one of those lightening fast mood transitions that are a normal part of adolescence, but she added some extra ingredients of overt hostility & rudeness and she was moving quickly to verbal abuse.

I stopped and used my ACE (Acknowledge the feelings; Calm myself;  Exit the conflict). Well, I got to E and couldn’t exactly get myself out of it so while I was focusing on my breathing and pondering my Exit, she said “You know, this is all your fault, you started it. We could still be having fun except you ruined it”.  Mmmm that was a bit of a puzzler so I asked at what point did she perceive me turning our shopping and talking time into a conflict – she looked at me as if I’d just dropped from another planet and replied “When you said no”.

Yes friends, I understand that *NO* is a trigger word, but I don’t think I’ve seen it played out so clearly before – and I was surprised by her insight as well as her firm belief that *No* is a reason for bad behavior. I said – “When I say *no* does that give you the right to flip out at me?” and she said “Well of course it does, everyone knows that”. Okay, I know that parents and therapists understand that as a dynamic, but I hadn’t realized how clearly the kid might see it. She stated this as if it was the same kind of known fact that the sun will rise tomorrow and the rain is wet. There was no room for argument or reason -it was a fact in her mind. I said, “Okay, so if I ask you to do something and you say no to me, does that give me the right to be mad at you?” Her reply “No, you just have to put up with it.”  So much for insight. However, for me, it was a real reminder of how quickly the mood can be changed and how much the conflict is often only about the trigger words rather than about any real issue. And yes, I know that abandonment and pre-natal exposure and early abuse/neglect play into this as well, but in terms of managing the moment, it really is only about the moment and the words that are used.

I didn’t then move onto any great parenting – I just said that I didn’t agree and it was too bad the shopping fun was over.  My feet hurt and I was tired and I wanted to go home.

My point is, I often forget that my kids and I live by different rules. And, I forget that I don’t really know their rules, nor could I live by them if I did. I also realized that I don’t need to engage in every conflict as if it has some deep meaning for either of us, and instead, I need to simply focus on my A.C.E. and move on. After all, I’m sure you’ve all been involved in horrible conflicts with your chronic conflict kids in which you are left destroyed and feeling hopeless, yet 20 minutes later the same kid trots happily into the room and asks if there are any leftovers for a snack. The underlying feelings may have deep roots, but each conflict is likely just a surface event to the child.

Well, that’s my thought for the day. As you can tell, I’m working on some new stuff about conflict with chronic conflict kids, and I hope you don’t mind if I use this blog to process my thoughts. I welcome your comments and thoughts on this.

Hey, you are entitled to a better day.


When they won’t grow up…

As adoption changes and adoptive families evolve, there are going to be new issues that arise. One that I’ve been seeing more and more of  in the last couple of years is this – older child adoptees who refuse to leave home at a reasonable age and stage. When I speak of this with colleagues, I get these responses;

a) the adoptee now feels secure in the family and needs more time experiencing the safety and the emotional connection

b) neurotypical & non traumatized young adults are remaining in the family home till their late 20’s so why shouldn’t older child adoptees?

c) moving out re-triggers the adoptees’ original abandonment fears and attachment issues and so they need more years to resolve these

Well, I agree with these theories. The problem is that no-one seems to be talking about the toll this takes on the parents. Many that I work with were older parents when they adopted (I was young with my first adoption, much, much, much older at my last). For the older parents, they are near, or past, retirement age by the time junior reaches his early 20’s and they can’t continue to support either the size of house or the number of people living in it. They may be facing enforcement retirement, or their skills and ability to do the work are no longer viable.

The parents may also have experienced years of managing their child’s negative behaviours due to fasd, conduct disorder, severe anxiety, adhd, temper dysregulation disorder etc and they have their own PTSD from which they need to recover. The parents have likely put their life on hold while raising their child(ren) and now are desperate to have a few last years of being able to have friends and activities that are not related to behavior disorders. And, these behaviors don’t magically disappear just because someone turns 23. The young adult may be more emotionally self regulated, but that doesn’t mean he has suddenly become easy to live with – there will still be issues.

The parents may have their own parents to deal with at this stage. Their parents may need extra help and time due to aging issues but the continuing needs and demands of the live in adult adoptee preclude the parents from being able to carve out the time or find the energy.

The adoptive parents own health may be vulnerable and on a down hill slope. Years of chronic stress begins to devastate the health of the aging adoptive parent and to have to continue managing the needs of the adult adoptee further decreases the parents’ health and may increase their depression and anxiety.

I’m not suggesting that older child adoptees need to be thrown to the curb at age 19. Might as well leave them in foster care if that is the plan. I know in my own family that some of my children didn’t really get the whole concept of family bonds till they lived with us in their young adult years. It took that long till they had enough distance from their original traumas, as well as an adult brain, to really begin to form positive relationships. However, there comes a time when the adoptive parents simply can’t do it anymore – and that needs to be acknowledged, respected, and supported.

I don’t have any ideas on this as yet – would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions or ideas on this. In the meantime, I would like to see this topic have more public discussion and input from parents.

So, remember my friends, you are entitled to a better day.


I disagree…again…

Here’s the 1,456,967th thing I don’t agree with in today’s adoption industry. I don’t agree that parents should be therapists to their own children. I know that the term *therapeutic parenting* has been popular for quite some time, but I have never bought into that. My children are my children, they are not my clients. And, I believe that what my children need from me and what they need from a therapist are very different. And, as a therapist, I don’t want to be treading into any part of the relationship that should be developing between the children on my caseload and their parents.

I totally agree that as parents of pre-parented children, we have to know a great deal about the neurobiology of abuse and neglect & changing caregivers & pre-natal exposure to drugs and other toxins. I also agree that we need to learn parenting techniques that are effective with children who are neurodiverse rather than using those that are generally successful for parents of neurotypical children. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be primarily parents.

The way in which I am present for my children is pretty different from the way in which I am present for my clients. For my clients, I am as emotionally present, regulated, and attuned as possible. I am aware that I’m there for the client only, it isn’t at all about me. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or crabby, or worried, or not feeling well — that is all put aside while I am with the client. At home, I should be allowed to be *me* -at least to some extent. Like all parents, I get up with the kids whether or not I have had enough sleep, and I cook a good meal whether or not I would rather just have a sandwich (or go out for dinner). I listen to their day and take them to lessons when I get home instead of sitting on the patio and having a cup of tea.  I put their needs ahead of mine almost all the time. Still, I get to make my needs known, whether or not anyone is interested. I don’t get to whine (at least not often)  but I get to mention if I’m tired. I get to say “not now, wait till I’ve finished cooking, or laundry or whatever”. I get to get mad on occasion, and I get to be sad on other occasions, and once in a while I get to say “nope, I”m not engaging in that”. I believe it’s important for my children to learn that while there are no limits on my capacity to love them, I have some limits on my capacity to give. I don’t believe that in my family, I have to leap on each and every teachable moment. I believe my children need to learn that they make other people, including me, angry and that there will be an appropriate consequence for that. I believe that my children need to learn to tolerate and care about the needs of others and to understand, or at least act like they understand, that others are important, too. I most certainly need my children to learn that I can’t be perfect and that at times I will not be the best parent I can be, and at times I will totally blow it and will parent from my temper instead of my heart. That is all part of normal life and its okay for my children to be exposed to *normal* in our home.

Over the years we’ve benefited from some amazing support people who took on the therapeutic role and left me free to be the mom.  I know my children have cared deeply about some of them. But, I’m the mom. I’m the flawed, loving, dependable, predictable, mom – they aren’t being raised in a therapeutic placement – they are being raised by their parents in their family home.

Well, that’s enough of that for today.


Take care, and remember, you are entitled to another day.

Changing tactics…

I’ve spent my adult life trying to be a better parent to my challenging children. I’ve also tried to stay at the forefront of effective therapies in order to help my clients. Now, I’m taking another look at this. I still want to be a better parent, in fact, I’d like to be a better person in general (and I’m sure anyone who knows me would agree I could use some improvement). However, I feel like I’ve missed some stuff along the way. I’ve tried to improve me, and to help my children resolve issues and increase their relationship skills, but what I’ve learned is that all of this takes time, and more time, and more time that I could ever have imagined —-and—in the meantime, we all have to live with the stress, anxiety, and conflict that is generated by the emotional dysregulation that runs my children’s lives.

So, with that in my focus, I’m now working on how to manage the conflict, rather than resolve the trauma. Of course, trauma needs attention, but as I said, brains change slowly and it’s a long process and we all have to live together in the meantime. I’ve started taking lots of training in conflict coaching and management and I’m now integrating that into home life and the daily conflict that occurs. I like it, I think it has a far more immediate impact on our daily lives.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to these days, I’ll be writing more about it as I get it into a thought out form. If you’ve got any comments on this, love to hear them.

In the meantime, remember, you are entitled to a better day.








Sprint Announces New ”Neurodiversity ID Pack” for Android Devices

Sprint announced last week that it is launching a bundle of Android applications that are designed to provide neurodiverse individuals with access to tools that help them to better manage their lives.   The bundle includes 25 separate applications including an alternative augmentative communication app, a portal to thousands of audible books, reading and math skills programs, and much more.  The fact that Sprint has chosen to use the word “neurodiversity” in their description of the bundle is good indication that neurodiversity is approaching mainstream acceptance in the culture.  Ironically, it seems that the corporate sector is far ahead of the schools in embracing this more strength-based paradigm since only a few special educators have begun integrating a neurodiversity perspective into their practice.  Let’s hope that this announcement by Sprint will encourage more educators to take neurodiversity seriously, and that they will begin using the Neurodiversity ID Pack and other strategies to help students succeed based not on what they CAN’T do, but rather on what they CAN do!

Evolving thoughts…

Here’s what’s been bubbling in my brain for a while – and it’s not going to be popular – I think we, the adoption industry professionals and consumers, are on the wrong track. Why? Because we put all, or most, of our intervention/support eggs into one basket – therapy. I am a therapist, have been one for 30 years, so I value it highly. However, I don’t think therapy is the way to resolve all issues. Certainly its good for trauma, but it’s not always used in a timely way. I’ve written about that in past blogs – how I get referrals for kids who’ve just been placed and now suddenly everyone decides it’s time for the child to resolve all the past abuse and abandonment issues. Well, I think it’s better if the child first learns how to spell her new last name. Therapy has a time and a place and a purpose – but it isn’t always the answer, or at least, not the only answer.

So, it not therapy – then what? Okay, here’s what’s bubbled up to the top of my cognitive layers – I think we need to be more focused on developing skills, empathy, and tolerance in both the parents and the children. I mean really, if the parents don’t learn the skills to parent high needs children, then they little chance of creating a successful family. They also need to learn skills that are actually relevant to the life they will have post adoption – to me, that’s going to be a combination of effective parenting skills and conflict resolution skills. And, although the children/youth arrive in our lives with great survival skills, they don’t have much in the way of appropriate social skills nor do they have a clue about how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Further, we need to be collaborating with parents and kids on coming up with the plan – what skills do they identify that they need? rather than the professionals descending on them with a list a mile long that may or may not be relevant to that particular family situation.

I believe too, that the empathy part is important because often the parents have sympathy, but little empathy. They understand that the child has had horrible experiences, but they don’t understand how that plays into the youth’s resistance to attend school or to stop stealing. And, the children/youth have almost no capacity to experience empathy at all. They have been self-focused their entire lives just to survive the changes and the trauma – yes, they are on high alert  – but it’s an alert to help them respond in the way that best gets them through the moment – not an alert that opens the emotional doors to understanding and negotiation and relationship.

Then, we have the lack of tolerance. Parents are always asking me how to change their children’s negative behaviors; and, of course the kids want me to get the parents to back off. Neither starts out able to grasp their own responsibility to manage their feelings of frustration and to simply let some things go. Kids aren’t perfect, adults make mistakes. We all need to tolerate a bit more in each other. And, no, I’m not suggesting that a parent should tolerate being sworn at, or threatened with a knife – nor should a kid tolerate any form of abuse from a parent. But along the spectrum of behaviors from irritating to abusive – well, there’s a lot of room for movement and tolerance.

So, that’s where I’m at today. Going to be doing a lot more thinking on this and likely going to be changing my workshops and my clinical practice and my parenting to move more in this direction.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Remember—– you are entitled to a better day! 


How do I want to be remembered…

In my practice I often see adult adoptees who seek treatment for trauma experienced in their adoptive family. However, I also see some who weren’t traumatized, but who were desperately unhappy in their growing up years. In the latter group, it occasionally seems to me that the parents were doing the best they could to manage the challenging behaviors of the adoptee.  That is, the parents weren’t mean or abusive or neglectful or blaming. They were simply overwhelmed and under supported in their attempt to raise a child with adhd & fasd, & odd & ocd & rad etc.

These situations cause me to reflect on how my children perceive me as they reach adulthood (9 grown up, 5 still growing). Most of the adults seem to recall their childhood with me as being pretty good. Most have some wonderful memories mixed in with the reality of life in a behaviorally challenged household; but, one or two have some pretty negative stuff about me. One felt that s/he was never good enough for me. As we’ve worked through that in his/her adult years, we’ve recognized that this developed as I sought service after service to help with his/her severe learning deficits. S/he doesn’t feel the same way about this anymore, but the years of feeling *not good enough* damaged him/her and nearly wrecked our relationship. I don’t know what I could have done differently, but as I seek help now for my children who are still growing, I make sure I balance the need for help with the acknowledgement of what they do well. I thought I was doing that with the grown up kid, but apparently not well enough. I don’t know if it will turn out different for the younger ones because they have very different personalities and they didn’t experience pre-adoption neglect and abuse so their basic self concept is stronger. Well, I know that sooner or later they will advise me of their perceptions and I will learn some more.

The thing I reflect on the most, however, is whether they perceived me as loving and caring and nurturing and whether they recall ever having fun as a family. When they looked at me did they feel they were looking into the eyes of someone who loved them deeply? I’ve never been able to be the mom I thought I could be, or wanted to be. I’ve felt broken at times. I’ve felt too tired and depressed to try anything more. I’ve felt angry and I’ve expressed that anger too strongly and in ways that didn’t do a damned bit of good for anyone. But, that wasn’t all I presented as a parent. I know I did a lot really well, too. I know there were days, times, events in which I was really in top form and my parenting was the best. Which do they recall as adults?

I don’t want to be remembered by my kids as an angry mom.

I don’t want to be remembered as a mean mom. I don’t want to have created any part of what they have to resolve as adults. I want to be remembered as a mom who, despite moments of failure or exhaustion or anger, was a mom who made them feel loved. After all, that was the whole point of being a parent, wasn’t it?

So, that’s what I strive for now. I will never be perfect, I will have moments of anger again. But, as I experience the impact of living with children with severe behavior disorders, I will keep most in mind that if I want to be remembered well in the future, I had better manage well in the present.


Be sure to check out this new research on how the father creates fasd – we’ve been waiting forever for this!