Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Pre-Waiting Room Letter

Last night I stayed up and helped my husband whom is a LMSW, prepare a presentation on early childhood trauma, identifying the symptoms, behaviors and best practices in therapy to a class of social workers about to join the public health force.
Unfortunately he only has an hour.
I told him to lock em down with food and water and give em the rest of the month, and after the first hour I would drop the kids by, and give em all a little "hands on experience."
He didn't think I was very funny.

He has the rare insight of working in this field and parenting healing children.
Still their were times I was all “ UM NO, you can't say that.”
It was truly a labor of love and patience and moments of tears and frustration recognizing the struggles we continue to face and remembering behaviors that are long since gone that have snuck away so discretely we didn't notice.

I decided to write a form letter, in a parents voice for him to share.
One that gives parents and care providers like us a voice and consideration by the professional who’s office we are about to enter.
Feel free to use this, if it might help you in your brave, nail biting experiences of the dreaded waiting room.

NEW therapist, counselor, pediatrician, or teacher, (health care professional)

              Whew, we are taking a big breath and a giant leap by walking into your office.
We are nervous, excited, exhausted and so very, very hopeful and feeling so incredibly vulnerable to be here meeting you.
You see, we need help, and new opportunity's for our child, ones we hope you can provide.

Your office is one of many we have sat outside of, nervous, hoping what I am about to tell you about my child’s special needs and behaviors are things you are familiar with, understand and well really will simply believe.
We have been in situations where this was not the case and truly increases the anxiety of seeking your, and others help.

We hope you can listen openly, know in the past I and this child has been met with disbelief and judgment, and that has been painfully hard and hindered healing for both of us.
You see we both have healing to do from the onslaught of pain that has overtaken both of our lives from the aftershocks of their trauma.

Nothing I share about my child is meant to shame or demonize them. Their trauma already has them believing the very worst about themselves. I am hoping in sharing their past and hurts and unhealthy coping behaviors you can aid in giving them more tools to combat their and even my pain in trying to parent them.

Some things I need you to know.
My child distrusts people who try to get close. In the beginning it is very possible very little truth will be told in most circumstances it is a coping mechanism for my child to control the information and if you ever have any questions about the validity of something my child has said, please, please ask me, I will do my best to not be defensive.

My experience has been as vast and unbelievable to most people familiar with neurotypical children.
Things as “normal” hiding the fact that they have spelling tests, to more manipulative behavior such as pretending they can't speak English in a classroom for week, to using another siblings trauma in therapy instead of sharing their own. Creativity does not run short.
Their need to constantly control their environment creates such barriers.
But they do feel safer with adults that hold them gently with truth and emotion regulation.

My child does not need a second parent.
Because of early trauma my child struggles with attachment at times and often sabotages their relationships with the ones they are closest too. Most often it is their primary care giver, and often my partner or other siblings and family members. They are masters at creating sympathies in strangers for more attention. I recognize the need for you and my child to have a working, trusting relationship, and absolutely support that, but ask you to recognize the importance of boundaries with them as to not to encourage emotional dependence on you.

My child also struggles socially with their peers. If you can help them in healthy ways look at creating those relationships that would be so helpful. Often my child is “ new parent shopping” and creating fantasies around a new home and parent situation. It is not rare to see my child on a playground and instead of engaging with the other children, seeking an adult to charm, please join me in redirecting the importance of age appropriate friendship. It has happened more than one that my sweetie has packed their bags ready to move in with their latest teacher, aid, therapist or playground monitor.

Please believe me as their caregiver. I can not express the pain, frustration and alienation that comes with parenting a child with so many special needs. At times the additive of doubt,blame or judgment to families like ours, magnifies the shame and pain for both me and my child.

Let me just say Thank you, once again, I know the responsibility to work with families like mine must be difficult, and I recognize your profession and education as such a benefit to what you can do for us and so many others.

We are so hopeful walking through these doors. Ready to put our faith in your ability. Grateful that you might be a step towards my/our child’s healing.
Please know we are available at any time and willing to do much to make this new relationship successful. Thank you so much for reading this letter.
I promise I am not quite as crazy as this letter makes me appear.
I am pretty darn normal, normal, and desperate, and hopeful.
Deep Breath, whew, here we go.


A basket case of a Mom with all of the best intentions in the world.


"I will bake you cookies if you can get my kid to stop peeing on everything, Peanut-butter balls if you can stop the lying. "

Dear ones,
I am curious,what more would you add to this letter, in hope to engage and help a new care provider understand your and your child's needs?


  1. My kid has a different background than yours but I would add:

    My child has extremely high anxiety. Any unexpected change, no matter how good or wonderful it is, in their routine can throw them off balance for days at a time. Please make them aware of changes in routine as soon as possible. Also giving me a heads up so that I can help them prepare and adjust will make things go more smoothly for everyone.

    My child has been hurt by people he should have been able to trust. Please respect his personal space and only venture into his bubble if he invites you. This means that he will likely not welcome or engage in social behaviors such as handshakes, pats on the arm, or even high fives without first establishing a very broad foundation of trust with you. It is likely that he won't do any of the above without one of his parents present.

    My child is awesome and amazing but has very low self-concept. He believes that if he does anything wrong that he is a failure. For example he may be the quietest child walking down a hallway but if he forgets to fold his arms he will believe he should lose all his privileges for the remainder of the day. If possible recognizing something he has done well prior to offering constructive criticism will help him recognize his positive attributes while giving him the opportunity to improve.

  2. I would have to add that my child self sabotages every positive thing in her life and truly believes she is at fault for everything that goes wrong in her surroundings. She is a failure for forgetting something needs to be added to the grocery list and so on.. It is never just a small mistake, but proof she cannot do anything right.

  3. We have been homeschooling the last four years, and I'm about to go NUTS. God has lead us to a WONDERFUL teacher, who I think gets it pretty well (she even has four 'off the record' foster kids living with her family right now!). We are 'jumping the broom' and enrolling all three of our adopted kids with her in about three weeks, when we move to the community that her little school is in. I think this letter will help her to understand a little bit more of what we have going on, and in my opinion, you NAILED it!! (perfect timing too!!) (oh, and you don't suck at blogging!)

  4. The one thing I always stress to others is, " it is not OKAY" when my child may verbally say sorry for something. The person may; accept the apology or forgive, but never ever say it is ok. This just gives my child permission to repeat the behaviors. Check out some of my articles etc at www.carousel project.net