Are you worried about your child or teen’s ability to engage with peers and have successful social experiences? Is it difficult to watch them struggle with anxiety, inattention, and emotional regulation?  

Big feelings that come with grief and loss can feel overwhelming for parents to manage on a day-to-day basis. It feels like regular life expectations are harder for kids when their bodies rarely settle into feeling good.  

You’ve probably tried all the regular strategies for helping your child to have better social skills, for staying regulated and managing the big feelings but nothing seems to get better. Nothing seems to stick and it’s frustrating.  

Even therapy can be hard for kids when their bodies and brains aren’t cooperating with each other. They struggle to pay attention and any mention of early life experiences or just having a big feeling can cause big upsets that are hard to come down from.  

Wouldn’t it be great if there was another option for children and youth that would address the impact trauma has had on their nervous system?  

We have one of those options available for families in BC, Alberta, and Winnipeg.  

Have you heard of The Safe and Sound Protocol by Dr. Stephen Porges? 

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a listening program specifically designed for children and youth struggling with:   

The Safe and Sound Protocol uses the power of music to help calm the nervous system. Through headphones the music sends messages that tell your child’s nervous system that they are well and safe. When they listen to this uniquely designed music, they begin to feel calm, relaxed and connected to others. The best part is that SSP doesn’t just work when you’re listening to the music, it helps to rebuild and strengthen your child or teen’s nervous system. Many therapists recommend that children who have severe dysregulation experience SSP before starting therapy so that their nervous system is ready to process the hard memories. 

A Child’s Song offers an online guided experience for you and your child or youth so that you can experience the benefits of The Safe and Sound Protocol from the comfort of your own home.  

If this sounds like something your child or youth would benefit from, we would be happy to walk you though the process. 

‘Cindy has been a real gift to our family. Her support as we navigated the SSP program has proved to be transformational for our family. There is a sense of regulation and calm in our house that we have never experienced before. Cindy has been a guide for navigating through the process and solution seeking through the unexpected.’ 

Parent of 5-year-old adoptee 

‘My daughter struggled with seer anxiety that restricted her from doing regular day to day things like ordering her own food at a restaurant, asking for help, or trying new things that she wasn’t sure she would be good at. After SSP she is so much more regulated. I watched her do math homework for the first time without getting really upset. What a relief.’ 

Parent of 12-year-old adoptee 

As a Registered Psychologist with the A Child’s Song team and an adoptee myself, I was asked to provide some personal reflections regarding National Adoptive Awareness Month.  So, here goes.

My first reflection is the title “Adoption Awareness Month”, as if I, and so many other adoptees are not aware of how adoption has impacted our lives.  Throughout this blog, I have chosen to refer to this month as “Adoption Appreciation Month” and I want to reflect on some of the ways in which appreciation plays a role in adoption for me.

Early Experiences with Adoption

As a little girl, I was blissfully ignorant of my adoption, while at the same time, being aware that I was different than my parents, my siblings, and extended family members.  I was about 5 years old when I was told that I was adopted. For me, that information was a significant source of shame for many years.  My adoption was shrouded in secrets and my adoptive parents were given a lot of false information about my biological parents’ history. I kept these secrets close to me and did not talk about my adoption for many years.  In fact, it was not until I was pregnant with my second child that I found out that I had been given a different name at birth.  That information was astounding to me and took time to process.

My Journey

As I reflect on my own experience and have listened to the experience of many of my clients, I have come to understand that adoption is a life-long journey.  The challenge is how to embrace this journey, coming to come to terms and embracing adoption is its own process.  One of my dear friends, also an adoptee, helped me to feel safe enough to speak up about my adoption experience.  I had to wrestle through a lot of shame to do that.

Through my early discussions with her and now having the privilege of working with adult adoptees, I have a new appreciation for the way I experience the world, which is similar to the stories of other adoptees.  I think there is the appreciation that I don’t really fit in anywhere completely.  I can notice that I am almost always a little off-kilter, often on the outside looking in, belonging but not really belonging.

I also have an appreciation for dysfunction-with the emphasis of keeping FUN in the dysfunction.  My life now includes a myriad of relatives…which is overwhelming and entertaining. One day I realized that I couldn’t make any of this craziness up!  I have acquired an appreciation for the turmoil, chaos, and pain that coming to terms with the lived experience of adoption.  There is so much hurt at times, periods of loneliness and feeling abandoned, and not really ever being quite sure of anything.

The Joy and the Pain

From my work in the field of trauma, I have come to appreciate that I do carry the trauma of adoption with me.  It makes me often feel tentative, shy, and withdrawn but also can give me moments where I can speak up with authority and be perceived as being an “expert”. At the same time, I have appreciated the joy of adoption.  I was often told as a little girl that my father chose me and was insistent that I was the one he wanted to bring home.  That thought gives me joy.

My experiences as an adoptee have contributed to my cognitive flexibility and willingness to think outside the box.  That is another appreciation I have for adoption. Many adoptees, like myself, are often more willing to be flexible in order to fit in and be included.  I have had to learn to adapt to situations which are often beyond my control, and I appreciate that about my life experiences.

And finally, I appreciate my own resiliency and the resiliency of adoptees who are willing to speak up, talk about their experiences, share their stories of hope and despair, and contribute to development of new ways to think about adoption and permanency. So, for now, I chose to appreciate adoption and to continue to engage in learning more about how adoption continues to impact my life and the lives of so many others.

Dr. Joanne Crandall, Registered Psychologist and Educator

Whew!  Here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic, and the future remains unknown.  COVID19 has permeated every part of our lives and has changed how we do family.  Routines are so much different, social distancing is a part of everyday living, and playgrounds are off limits. Parenting has become even more complicated. You are now juggling your own work schedule with your children’s school schedule (and trying to figure out space at home} while still managing household chores, lining up for groceries, and strategizing to make sure that there is enough toilet paper!  Not only that, you are now required to be a computer wizard; join numerous Zoom calls a day, make on-line play dates, and navigate school curriculum.

What is COVID Brain?

The impact of these unique experiences on the brain can be affectionately (or less so) referred to as COVID Brain. COVID Brain refers to how our brains are currently working during this time of unprecedented changes and new routines that are continually evolving.  Your brain has been required to constantly adjust to new ways of being.  COVID Brain is evident when these changes get too overwhelming and we just can’t shift or adjust any more.  Your brain does not like frequent surprises; and there have been so many changes over the past few months.  This is even more complicated when you are parenting children who are still making sense of how to belong in their forever home. Let’s break down how this COVID Brain works and how adoptive and foster parents can parent therapeutically through it.

COVID Brain can surface anytime and anywhere without warning.  It can make some days seem stressful and feel unproductive.  COVID Brain can be disruptive to your usual way of functioning and can leave you feeling confused, isolated, and numb.  The worst part is that COVID Brain is quite unpredictable.  You might think you are doing okay; successfully addressed today’s Lysol crisis, ensured everyone has washed their hands today, you successfully logged into 10 Zoom calls. Then suddenly out of nowhere COVID Brain strikes and you just cannot do ONE. MORE. THING.

How does COVID Brain affect attachment?

COVID Brain can also impact secure attachment and the trust-based relationship you have with your child. Children are looking to parents for assurance of safety and confirmation that they too can weather these changes. While you are trying to provide this security there is the competing pressure to be in your new role of ‘teacher.’ This can present challenges to parenting relationship that is so vital to maintain.  COVID Brain makes learning harder and you might be observing that your child’s ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response is triggered when faced with academic challenges.

What should take priority?

When you are sorting through the responsibilities that you are currently facing, it is important to be a parent first.  Your connection and relationship with your child is essential to their healthy development.  Your child looks to you for safety and reassurance.  If your child is demonstrating signs of regression, distress and dysregulation, the amount and quality of schoolwork can wait. COVID Brain does not do well when it is asked to do corrections, write a book report, or complete a Science project.  There is a good chance your child will start acting much younger that they are.  They may not remember what you taught them day before or be capable of doing the same amount of work today as they could yesterday.  It will be important for you to recognize when COVID Brain is present and change things up so that your relationship with your child stays as secure as possible. COVID Brain needs to feel calm and safe.  It is so much easier to help children catch up on academic skills when they feel feeling happy, healthy and secure. Rebuilding relationship is tremendously hard work so prioritizing parent child attachment just makes sense!

How can you respond to COVID Brain?

Be conscious of COVID Brain and its impact on you and your family. Mindfully reduce the expectations you have of yourself and your child.  When COVID Brain takes over, your child will be aware and it can be unsettling for them.  This is particularly true for children who still live in a hypervigilant state and work hard to stay regulated and feeling secure.  Once you recognize the signs that you or your child’s COVID Brain is active you can: take a break, play a game, have a snack, do some cuddling, and find some repetitive or rhythmic activities and focus on soothing.  At the end of this crazy journey what will be left solid is the safety and security your child feels in your presence.

Dr. Crandall

Stay tuned for ‘More on COVID Brain and How Your Child Learns During the Pandemic’

Mother’s Day is about celebrating mothers and all that they do for their families. Traditionally, kids are busy at school the week before, making crafts and cards. On Mother’s Day kids and parents plan for something special like breakfast in bed or keeping quiet so mom can sleep in! As you approach this weekend and prepare to celebrate, I wanted to reach out and offer a few words of encouragement for those who are dealing with the wide range of emotional experiences that this holiday can bring.

I have spoken with many adoptive parents who have said Mother’s Day can be one of the hardest days of the year for their family. It may not look or feel the same for you as it does for others. There is an aspect of Mother’s Day for adoptive families that can be difficult to understand and talk about – grief and loss. Expectations of family togetherness can lead to disappointment and discouragement when the feelings of hurt, sadness that come from loss are pushed to the surface. It can be a struggle for children to understanding these feelings and find the right words for them.

So, what does grief look like in children?

A child’s response to grief may be easily misunderstood when it presents as behavioural reactions or responses instead of fear and sadness. Do you see some of these behaviors leading up to special occasions or on day itself? (Keep in mind that behaviours will vary according to the child’s developmental age).

These behaviours can appear without an obvious trigger which is why it can be so difficult to recognize them as grief.  When we see the fear and sadness that these behaviours are communicating we can draw our child close, comfort and help them find words for the most indescribable of losses. This kind of response requires thoughtful consideration and planning to meet your child’s needs. Here are a few practical ideas that may be helpful this Mother’s Day. 

5 Practical Ideas for Adoptive Families 

  1. Acknowledge other ‘mother’ relationships that your child has, most significantly their birth mom. There may others such as foster parents or extended family members. Acknowledge the losses your child has experienced and honour relationships that happened before you became a family.
  2. Establish traditions to help your child honor and celebrate any relationships that are meaningful to them. Make a plan ahead of time and give them ideas for acknowledging those they do and do not have contact with. Expect each year to be different so you will need to check in to see how they are feeling now. Siblings may have different ideas about who they want to celebrate and that’s ok!
  3. Verbalize for your child that they are grieving and give them permission to do so with love and understanding. Your child may feel guilty that they are hurting your feelings or ruining your day.
  4. Prepare your celebrations ahead of time, soothe during the storm of  dysregulation (big feelings) and wait to address the behaviours when your child is regulated again.
  5. Adjust expectations so that you are anticipating a change in behaviours days and/or weeks before and/or during the special occasion. Choose co-regulation before discipline, demonstrate  your understanding that they are experiencing big feelings. Remind them that they are loved and accepted without conditions.

Sometimes the big moments that seem so hard and sad offer a window into your child’s experience and a reminder of the weight of grief they may be carrying.  You may not see it often throughout the year, but it is there and needs to be explored with you. These are the moments that build secure attachment and lay a strong foundation for your child to continue to build strong healthy relationships across their lifespan.

If you are struggling to understand or respond to your child’s behaviours and emotions and need support, our clinical team is available for parent consultations and counselling.  With the current COVID19 restrictions we are providing all services via Teletherapy.

Thinking of you,

Andrea D 

The world around us seems to be changing daily as we navigate these incredibly unusual circumstances. So much uncertainty can leave us feeling as though the ground beneath us is shifting and what we did yesterday to maintain a sense of order and stability isn’t going to work today. There are still a few things that we can count on to stay the same though. Our kids will be waiting each morning for us be with them, meet their needs, teach them life skills and help them feel safe. While your flexibility, creativity and patience may be put to the test daily, you may also experience a different rhythm of connection that comes only from sharing the same space day after day. Here are a few reminders to help you stay grounded and continue on your journey of connected parenting. 

1. Be mindful of how often you are talking about what’s going outside of your safe space and the language you are using to describe it. Children are listening to what you think and feel and will be taking their cues from you. We know that kids hear everything (except when you ask them to do chores ;). They may not be processing it at the moment they hear it, but they will soon enough. As luck would have it, this is usually bedtime or any other time when children must slow down their bodies and minds.

2. Keep a routine in place so that some of your child’s daily life can remain predictable. Have a visual schedule for your children do they know what to expect from the day. If things must change refer to the situation as a ‘wildcard’ and return to the schedule as soon as you can. Wildcards are unexpected changes that can be both preferred and not preferred. They teach children flexibility as well as assuring them that most of the time they will know what to expect.

3. Remind yourself that children who have experienced trauma may respond differently to fear based situations. A child’s brain struggles to differentiate between the fears of the past and the fears of the present. This may present as an increase in anxious behaviors and symptoms that seem unrelated to the current situation. Talk with your child about how the ‘scary that’s happening now’ can remind their body of the ‘scary that happened before.’ Work with your child to create a sense of safety in whatever way they need that to happen. Safety is something you need to help your child experience. You won’t be able to convince them to feel safe with words alone.

4. Take this opportunity to slow down and spend as much time as possible playing on the floor with your child. Play will be your child’s way of processing what is happening and what it’s like for them. Slow down your breathing and increase your focus so that you can practice being mindful of the interactions you are having. Being on the floor also has the added benefit of feeling grounded which we all need a little more of right now. If you have multiple children schedule 1-1 time with each child while others are set up with independent activities. This may feel impossible to begin with but keep practicing.

5. Keep your child connected with the important people in their lives. Think of all the people you see regularly under normal circumstances and help your child feel close to them despite the physical distance. There are many creative ways to make this happen: Facetime, phone calls, making videos, sending emails, drawing pictures or writing letters that can be sent virtually or in the mail, take photos of your children with the purpose of sending to people they love and ask for photos in return. If none of these are possible, ask your child to just talk and pretend the person they love is listening with their heart.

We are available to support your family during this crisis by offering many of our therapeutic interventions via Teletherapy including: parent child play, life span integration, individual therapy and parent consultations. Stay tuned for our upcoming online webinar on managing your child’s anxiety during this difficult time!

Be well. Stay Safe. 


The holiday’s are full of wonderful opportunities to connect and celebrate with your family. They can also be complicated and stressful for those who are parenting children who have experienced loss. You may find yourself needing to respond with sensitivity to some big feelings at this time of year. Exploring Tips for Enjoying the Holidays with your Family was the goal of today’s Facebook Live Event hosted by Adoptive Families Association of BC. Together Rebecca and I discussed what makes the holidays tough for some kids, offered some tips for making the most of this season and suggested a few ways parents can take care of themselves. I’ve summarized the highlights from today’s conversation for anyone who was unable to join us or would like a reminder they can carry with them over the next few weeks.

Why are the holidays a difficult time for a child who has spent time in care?

  1. The holidays are full of sensory experiences. Children store early memories in their senses. When these memories are triggered by sensory experiences in the present children may FEEL things from the past without understanding what is happening. Otherwise neutral sights, sounds, smells can trigger the memory of a previous experience. There are often no words to talk about this, just BIG feelings. You might notice either a ramp up or shut down reaction.
  1. Children have expectations that Christmas is supposed to make them feel a certain way. They anticipate this ‘feel good’ experience. If this doesn’t work out there can be so much disappointment and distress. Some kids will look for a ‘reason’ and often that leads to blaming others like mom or dad, siblings, etc. They so desperately want to feel good and its so hard when they don’t.
  1. Anticipatory anxiety about upcoming events or activities that they will be expected to participate in. There is a fear of the discomfort that may occur. This can lead to resistance to participation or high energy/frantic behavior.

Three top tips for helping your family enjoy the holiday’s?

  1. Be conscious of deciding what activities, events, family gatherings are best for your family to participate in. This will vary depending on how long you have been a family and how regulated your children are in different settings. Not everything that could be fun will be fun if it’s more than your children can handle or requires more of you than you have to give. Doing less and enjoying it will create more meaningful memories than hitting every Christmas highlight and constantly managing meltdowns or days of recovery.
  1. Create a holiday structure for your days that offers predictable routines. This may look different than your everyday schedule but it can still be consistent. Children with anticipatory anxiety will manage better if they know what’s happening ahead of time and can predict parts of their day. Have a visual calendar. Review the day plan. Talk about expectations and highlight their feel good activities. Think about how much they can manage on regular days and lower expectations to account for the intensity and overwhelm that holiday experiences can bring.
  1. Keep them close! Children can’t always initiate asking for help when they need it. If you are within an arm’s reach or have them in your visual field you can better anticipate and meet needs. This reduces the need for disruptive or inappropriate responses. Think this through, make a plan! How will I keep them close when we are at Grandma’s? When we are at the store? When we are walking to look at lights?

What are some self care options for parents during the holiday’s?

  1. The kindest thing you can do for yourself is to front load your own brain with realistic expectations of what you can do and what your children can manage. The ‘magic’ of Christmas will NOT magically make your children handle things that they otherwise can not handle. And then they find it is in fact quite the opposite. Your children are more likely to regress during high intensity experiences, even when they are positive experiences.
  1. Choose one holiday tradition or experience that is important to you as a parent and PLAN so that you can enjoy it. You will need to make sure the kids are fed, rested and have the tools they need to make the experience successful. Ask yourself, what do they need from me to make this experience as successful as possible. Then thank them for helping your make a wonderful memory. Every other thing you do for the holidays’ will likely be for them so be aware of what makes your heart happy. And don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. You tried and you will try again next year.
  1. Have your feelings. Stop trying to feel the ‘right’ thing. Your feelings aren’t wrong. They just are. How you choose to respond to your feelings is where you choose to be a therapeutic parent and put your child’s needs first. But those feelings are all yours and they don’t need a critic or a supervisor or a screening committee. It’s OK to be sad, disappointed, angry or hurt when things don’t work out. Acknowledge your feelings without criticism, feel them, share them with someone you trust. Now you can move on with the business of parenting and enjoying the holiday’s with your family.

A Child’s Song offers support services for children and families who have been joined together through foster care or adoption. If your family is needing some extra support through the holiday’s you can schedule a session with one of our clinical therapists or social workers. We offer services in office, by phone and Skype. If you have any questions about the services we offer please feel free to contact us. 

Happy Holidays!

♥ Andrea

For those of us parenting children with a history of trauma and loss, back to school can be a stressful time of year. We worry about how our child will cope with the changes and challenges this time of year represents and try our best to communicate effectively with teachers about what they need to be successful. If you are feeling a bit unsure as to how you might approach your child’s teacher about your concerns here are some things to consider.

Children’s bodies react in many different ways when the demands they encounter overwhelm their coping resources. There is no specific amount of coping capacity that a child SHOULD have, this is individual to the child and dependent on personality, history and current supports. It can also fluctuate dramatically from day to day or month to month.

Very young children thrive in moderately stimulating, low stress environments that allow for close proximity to a primary attachment figure. Children who have lived through the trauma of loss and fear will need to experience this type of environment longer than their typically developing peers and yet don’t get this opportunity because they need to be in school. For our kids, the classroom is often an overstimulating environment with multiple stressors in which children are expected to cope independently from their primary source of soothing (parent).

Feeling safe both physically and psychologically and experiencing success are fundamental to a child’s ability to tolerate the expectations and demands of school. It’s our job as adoptive and foster parents to carefully monitor how safe and how successful our child is feeling much like we would with younger children. Too much shame reinforces negative beliefs about self and others while no experiences of shame at all deprives a child of important awareness of how his or her behavior impacts those around them. When a child’s capacity to tolerate incoming messages of shame or disapproval is overwhelmed it will quickly become evident in their behavior, relational responses and ability to absorb new information and new experiences. It will also start to impact important areas of functioning and development.

The first step to managing your child’s stress is to have a clear understanding of their baseline functioning. What does it look like when they are most regulated? How do they sleep, eat, engage in family relationships, demonstrate secure attachment responses to a primary caregiver(s), experience joy and appear receptive to new experiences and ideas. Summertime offers children a much needed break from the demands of school and activities that create a fast paced existence with limited opportunity for self direction and spontaneous experiences. Most children return to baseline functioning at some point in the summer which offers parents an idea of what it looks like when their child is better regulated.

It is our job as parents to ensure that our children do not shift to far from baseline as they begin to encounter the expectations and demands of school. When we do see this happening we need to carefully calculate the psychological risks and find ways to effectively reduce their stress and match expectations with their current capabilities.

Here are a few important discussion points to have with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year to ensure that they understand the importance of monitoring your child’s stress. 

1. As his parent(s) I am committed to my child’s emotional and psychological well being and consider this to be more of a priority than his education. This means that I’m comfortable with him not achieving everything recommended for his grade level if doing so interferes with his mental health. We are open to supplementing his learning at home when necessary.

2. This is what my child’s baseline looks like when he is mostly regulated and this is what you can expect to see if he shifts too far away from it. Be specific in naming the signs of regulation and dysregulation you have observed in your child. For example: ‘When my child is regulated he will offer some eye contact when you speak to him, particularly if you gently remind him. Once he is escalated you can no longer engage him in any eye contact. ‘

3. You may not see the same behaviors or responses to stress during the day that we see when our daughter comes home. She might try really hard to manage expectations at school to avoid embarrassment. By the time she arrives home she will have has used up all her coping resources and be highly dysregulated. This is common for children with a history of trauma and loss. Please trust our judgement if we decide to pull back and reduce daytime expectations so that our child can save some of her resources for the evening time.

4. One of the things that will consistently shift my child’s baseline functioning is if she experiences shame too frequently or too intensely. We would like to minimize the amount of negative feedback she gets at school when she is unable to regulate herself. If her behavior requires more than gentle redirection or reminders we would like to know about this right away. We will make ourselves available to support you in getting her back on track.

5. Our child’s functioning is likely to fluctuate throughout the year. You might notice this in the way he learns, what he remembers, his attention span, ability to follow directions, etc. This can be frustrating but is a normal part of the healing process for children who have had early fear based experiences. There will be times of the year when his body remembers feeling very sad or scared and he will be working hard to manage these feelings. Other times it will just seem like he is have a day or a week where he is not able to function at the same level as he usually can. Please understand that this is not willful non compliance or laziness.

A Child’s Song is committed to providing parents and educators with the tools they need to help children experience success in the classroom. Here are a few of our current resources: 

1. Teaching the Hurt Child Manual is based on the content of a workshop that A Child’s Song has been presenting across the province for many years. The concepts in this manual came from the experiences of our therapists who participate in school based meetings for children struggling to be successful. The turning point for any school in meeting the needs of a child with early trauma is the understanding of important concepts relatedtobrain development, trauma, loss and attachment.

We know that a child’s early experiences not only impact the way the brain is formed but also shape beliefs about self and others, essentially forming the child’s worldview.  With the foundational information offered in this manual, it is easy to see why the current way of responding and managing these behaviors isn’t working and that new interventions are essential. Manuals are available for purchase on our Home page.

2. Attachment Printable for Teachers 

This resource is a printable designed for your child’s teacher to understand the basics of how attachment can be supported by their responses to a child’s needs. You can find a copy of this printable attached to a previous blog post 5 Things Your Child’s Teacher Needs to Know about Attachment.

3. Teaching the Hurt Child Workshop will be offered in Surrey, BC on September 29 from 9:30 am- 12:30 pm. More information about this workshop and how to register can be found at Fall 2018 Workshops.This workshop can also be requested for school professional development days.

4. Parent Consultations are offered to parents that wish to discuss the concerns they have about their child’s adjustment and functioning at school. Our therapists are trained to understand how early trauma and attachment losses impact a child’s ability to function behavioral and academically at school. We support parents and school professionals in designing a school based intervention plan for children who have been adopted or are in foster care. You can email us to set up an appointment.

5. Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a 5 day listening intervention designed by Dr. Porges and offered at the A Child’s Song clinic to support improved attention and regulation. Learn more about this specialized intervention on the HOME page.

For any other information about our services please feel free to contact us by email or by phone (604) 562-8308.

Black History Month is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our role as adoptive parents in educating our black children and the community around them about black history. I asked our clinical therapist Annie Newman to think about her childhood experiences with learning black history. Annie had commented during our Parent Resource Event in celebration of Black History that this type of opportunity had not been available to her parents when she was young. Annie was was born in Haiti and adopted into a white  family as a toddler. I asked her if she would mind offering a few thoughts on her experiences with learning about black history growing up in a white family. She graciously agreed and this is what she had to say.

‘When I think about black history, I have to say that it was not emphasized in my education; however, I do remember in elementary school being quite interested in people like Harriet Tubman. When we were asked to write little essays on some historical person, I would often gravitate to her. I would research and investigate at home with my parents, this woman whom I thought was strong and amazing.  I am truly grateful that my parents showed so much interest in fostering my intrigue with Harriet Tubman, but that’s as far as it would go.  Opportunities like this did not occur specifically in my educational experience, unless it was something that I brought up at school.  I cannot remember ever learning about Black History in school, and if I’m being completely honest, to this day, I don’t know as much as I wish I did.  This isn’t to say that self-discovery and learning about this topic is a bad thing, but I am saying that supporting intrigue and interest within the school system would have been much appreciated, not just for myself as a Haitian Canadian, but also for other students.  

I’m grateful for Annie’s presence at our office and the wisdom she brings from her personal experiences. As the month of celebrating Black History comes to a close keep in mind that as parents we have the incredible opportunity to foster and support our children’s interest in Great Black Hero’s of both the past and the present. We also have the resources to provide our children with accurate information about black history and the tools to support them in forming a healthy identity. These opportunities to invest in such an important aspect of your child’s development should not be restricted to one month of the year but part of an ongoing lifestyle of learning through exploration.

If you require more information about how to support your child’s learning about Black History or have questions or concerns about parenting a black child in a white family please feel free to contact us

Securely attached children are more confident and efficient learners because their minds are free from the primary task of attaching and able to focus on absorbing new concepts. Securely attached children are also better able to stay regulated in spite of the daily challenges they will encounter in a learning environment. Teachers can contribute to attachment security in several ways.  

1. Attachment is measured in terms of how secure the trust relationship is between a parent and a child. Secure attachment is the goal for all parent-child relationships. When a child is adopted, particularly in later stages of development, attachment security can take many years to establish. When children are separating from their parent to attend school, every effort must be made to prioritize attachment security over all other aspects of development.

Practical Applications:

2. A child who has experienced attachment disruption,  meaning they have lost one or more attachment figures, often find it easier to take direction, feel positively towards and enjoy the company of adults other than their parents. While this might feel good for the adults who are being engaged by the child it is important to know that forming close relationships with these children is NOT helpful in promoting secure attachment with their parents.

Practical Applications:

3. Attachment between a parent and child can be reinforced even when a separation occurs, such as attending school. Teachers can verbally remind students of their parent’s interest, care and availability when the child is in distress.

Practical Applications

4. Attachment security will shift and change depending on the time of year, current life events and developmental growth spurts.  This may result in behavioural differences and different levels of dependence a child might have on their parent. It is important to be responsive and flexible to these fluctuations without pathologizing them or assuming manipulative intent.

Practical Applications:

​5. Children who are building attachment security benefit when all the growups around them to prioritize this by ensuring they have access to parental soothing whenever possible. Sending children for a ‘break’ with mom or dad or sending them home for the day should not be seen as a consequence but rather the identification of a significant mental health need.

Practical Applications:

To access our printable version of the 5 Things Your Teacher Needs to Know About Attachment visit our home page at

A Child’s Song is passionate about providing mentorship opportunities to adoptees. This passion evolved through our countless discussions with teenage, young adult and adult adoptees who describe with intensity their longing to be around others who ‘get it.’ They shared with us their stories of the profound emotional connection they discovered the first time they really talked with another adoptee and how rare these experiences were for them. This makes a lot of sense.

A child’s social world is limited by geography, socioeconomic status and immediate (or in some cases larger extended) families. In a perfect world, these contexts would naturally offer our children opportunities to be with others that share similar experiences; however, the reality is that for many adoptees, these contexts do not. So when that first experience of connection with someone “like me” happens for an adoptee, it is memorable! Both research and our experiences in working with adoptees have informed us that these kinds of experiences promote healthy identity development and positive mental health for adoptees. We wanted to facilitate more opportunities for these kinds of connections with both peer and older adoptees who “get it.”

One of the programs we have designed for adoptees is our Girls Mentorship Group which is specifically created for female adoptees ages 9 to 12.  This unique opportunity allows young female adoptees to explore their own adoption story as well as hear adoption stories from both peers and mentors. There is a therapeutic component to the group that provides a safe environment for participants who might decide to delve into tricky emotional terrain. Girls will receive insightful feedback from an adoption-trained therapist throughout the sessions.  

Initial screening of registrants ensures that participants have a reasonably secure attachment with their parents, are able to manage the emotional content with group support and have expressed an interest in their adoption story. Mentors are chosen for each group cohort to reflect the diversity of current registrants on relevant factors such as international versus local adoption, infant versus older child adoption and degree of openness with the birth family. We have had the pleasure of working with some amazing young women who bring incredible diversity and personal insight to the process. Parents of participants are provided with information about the different ways children may respond to the group process and how to be supportive. Parents are also given the option of connecting with the therapist between group sessions if they are concerned about their child.

The structure of the first session of the group experience allows the girls to get to know each other and also allows the therapist to establish safety and connection between participants. Each subsequent week, the girls meet a new mentor who engages them in a fun activity that is interesting and meaningful to the mentor. We have had some amazingly creative mentors introducing the girls to creative story-telling, yoga, fitness, music making and other creative arts. We use two spaces for the group experience: an activity space that allows for movement, creativity and opportunity to do things that might get a little messy and a comfy area with couches and chairs for discussion.

After the initial introductions and activity time with the mentor, the therapist transitions the girls into listening to the mentor’s story. The girls are invited to ask the mentor questions about her experiences. Participants then have an opportunity to talk about how the mentor’s story relates to their own. For example, during one session, participants asked a mentor, “What was the hardest part of being adopted for you?” When the mentor discussed what was hard for her, there was an opportunity for the girls to find validation and identification in the common struggles. It inspired a deeper level of sharing about what was “hard.”

During the sessions, there are opportunities to find both similarities and differences in the stories shared. Adoptees came to realize they are not alone in their complex emotional experiences.  The therapist noticed after several sessions that participants incorporated the empathy they had been provided while sharing their own story or concerns into the questions and comments they offered to mentors and peers. This lead to a deeper level of connection between the girls.

The feedback we have received from mentors, participants and parents has been both encouraging and heart-warming. We were most honoured by the responses from our mentors. These young women gave of their time and allowed themselves to be vulnerable with a group of children they had never met before and then thanked us for giving them the opportunity.

Parents reported that their children appeared more confident in discussing their adoption story.

“As a parent, my daughter loved this group! It was so great for her to feel “safe” in sharing her story, and it brought so many questions to her mind about her own story. She finally felt she had the ability to ask these questions”(comment from the parent of participant).

 “My daughter never felt open to share with us the questions nagging at her heart about her adoption story.  This group helped her see and understand that it was safe to ask questions.  She no longer felt alone in being adopted” (comment from the parent of a participant).

Girls reported to the group therapist directly that “it felt good to be with other kids like me.” They also reported that our snacks were on point. We consider that a big win! When parents were asked in a survey how their daughters felt about their group experience, we received the following feedback:

“She liked meeting girls that were ‘just like her.”
“She loved everything about it: the discussions, the crafts, and sharing stories!” 
“She said the people were so welcoming and friendly.” 
“She asked ‘Can I go next time too, Mom?“  

There are many different ways to encourage mentorship, and not all mentorship programs require a therapeutic component. Each program can be specifically designed to meet the needs of a small group of children or youth. Last year, A Child’s Song offered a Boys Mentorship group that operated from a completely different model. This program focused on a few key mentors who attended each group session, and over six weeks provided skills training in several different sporting activities followed by a less formal discussion component. There are also thriving community groups such as Akoma that incorporate a valuable mentorship component for children in transracial families.

Adoptees are telling us that mentorship and connection with others who have had similar experiences are healing. It’s important that we come together as an adoption community and meet these needs in whatever ways we can. If you have adoption mentorship ideas or requests, we would love to hear from YOU.

Mon-Sat 9am - 4pm
Join our Mailing List
Be the first to hear about our free resources, upcoming events, blog releases and new services by joining our mailing list.
Copyright @2023 A Child's Song. All Right Reserved