Empowered to Connect- Houston 2013
This was my first ETC conference. I’ve heard Dr. Purvis speak a few times before and I’ve watched all of her DVDs. I understand the principals of TBRI and try my best to implement them in my own family. So, I’m not new to the material that was presented. The conference was amazing. It was inspiring, humbling, overwhelming, exciting. The passion and commitment that Dr. Purvis has for children is impossible to put into words. She is unmoving in her stance about the way that children- ALL children but especially children from hard places- deserve to be parented.
Recovery of function recapitulates the development of function.
When we re-learn a skill (such as walking after an accident that impaired the spinal cord, or talking after a stroke that impaired the language center of the brain) we re-learn it in the exact same way that it developed in the first place.
Attachment is no different.
When a child comes into your home, we must – developmentally appropriately- re-bring them through the experience of having been a newborn and forming attachments since birth.
This means we re-teach kids about their preciousness in the way we teach a newborn through our loving gazes, our tender strokes, our soft and gentle tones. This means we find a way to give “100,000” yeses, the way babies receive only “yeses” in their first years. Yes, I will calm you. Yes, I will change you. Yes, I will hold you for hours. This means we focus on connecting with children way before we focus on correcting. I won’t pretend that doing this with an older child isn’t challenging. It is difficult. But not impossible.
I have a conscious memory of being a new mom…my kiddo was probably a few weeks old. I can remember rocking him in the rocking chair that was in the corner of my bedroom, gazing at him, and thinking to myself that I cannot imagine ever being frustrated or annoyed with him. He was just so perfectly amazing, even when he was fussing, crying, or hard to soothe. Even as a new mom, I knew enough about kids to know that feeling frustrated or annoyed toward them is just a part of the parenting package, and I knew that those feelings would come. (Oh boy, did they come!) But I truly could not even imagine a place in my heart for anything but overwhelming love and adoration for this perfectly beautiful and sweet little being that I had been trusted to love and care for.
How many adoptive parents get MONTHS with their new child before they feel frustrated or annoyed with them? Well, unless you adopted a newborn or very young infant, not too many! Most adoptive parents who read this blog have brought home toddlers, school-age children, even teenagers. It probably took you minutes before feeling annoyed! That’s normal! But it also means our adopted children have missed something crucial to their development. They have missed those months of adoration, of loving, of nonverbal messages of “You’re perfect.” They NEED that to shift those implicit memories- their mental model of themselves.
This is a hard task. Sometimes it feels impossible! But we CAN do it. We can! Luckily, we don’t have to do it perfectly, or alone.
Dr. Purvis is a miracle to children who come from hard places. We are closing a door on ‘attachment promoting’ parenting practices that do nothing but shame and distance. This gives me so much hope! This makes my job amazing! And this makes your job hard- really really hard. But also promising. Promising because Dr. Purvis promises us:
I have never seen a child who could not come to dramatic levels of healing.
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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.