Laura Dennis on the Attachment and Trauma Network


One river gives

Its journey to the next.

-Alberto Ríos “When Giving is All We Have”

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What other time of year asks nothing of a person except catching up with loved ones while eating ginormous amounts of food? If, however, you are raising a child who has suffered early childhood trauma, you tend to dread holidays at least a little… even the ones you like the best. 

This is not without reason. Nearly five years ago, on my favorite day of the year, I experienced one of the loneliest moments of my life. Not that I was alone, mind you–my eldest was home from college, my middle child still lived at home, and my parents and brother had come in from out of state, as they do every year. And, to be fair, this holiday had started out better than most – we even made it through the big meal without any incidents of note. Yet in the end, things had ended up going south. As my child and I stared each other down, I looked around for help. The others, bellies full, had gone off to nap. I held on as best I could, then once I was sure my child had reached a place where nothing would get destroyed, I slipped into the only empty room and cried.

Some weeks prior, yet another downward spiral had begun with yet another school. My child, diagnosed at age 6 with Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder, was now on his sixth different school, with 5 ½ years of education still ahead. I’d left our last IEP meeting literally shaking with impotence, despair, and rage. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I’d been staying up late, combing the Internet for options, each one more incongruous than the last. Was I really looking at residential care? How did that even work? Just thinking of it made me feel like I’d failed at motherhood.

Enter the Attachment and Trauma Network (ATN). I remembered that one of my mom friends had talked a lot about them and urged me to reach out. So, as soon as my family had returned home and the kids had gone back to school, I spilled my guts in an e-mail, figuring I had both nothing and everything to lose. ATN put me in a support group where, for the first time since adopting my three kids, I found myself in the company of families a lot like mine. With their encouragement and advice, I found a private school that would meet my son’s needs, both educational and social-emotional. He has been there ever since, with only one year left to go. 

So much healing has taken place in our family since I joined ATN. I can honestly say that I don’t know where we would be without the support and resources that they provide. The organization means so much to me, in fact, that I asked to volunteer and now have the privilege of managing the blog, Our Voices. I’ve also written for the parenting journal a few times and helped at the Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools conference. I would not be able to give back, however, if they had not first given so very much to me. 

Raising a child from a hard place can be the loneliest thing in the world. You can’t really know what it’s like unless you’ve been there, and at ATN, pretty much everyone has. Maybe you’re a parent who finds herself lonely, exhausted, and scared, needing more than a little help. Or maybe one of those parents is your sister, cousin, or friend. Whatever the case may be, don’t wait. Reach out and join us today. ATN is here to help.

To learn more about ATN and their mission, or to reach out, click here.

Click to join the ATN Family or donate.