Family Consultations – Client Example 1 - Sarah and Gareth – Adoptive Parents of Two Toddlers


When we first met, Sarah and Gareth were the proud but emotionally and physically exhausted parents of two adopted toddlers. Their children had experienced considerable attachment-based trauma prior to adoption and were, at times, challenging to care for. Sarah and Gareth had also been through a gruelling journey in becoming parents and yet they were highly motivated to provide the absolute best care possible for their children, reading every attachment-focused and trauma informed parenting book out there!

Sarah and Gareth were experiencing a range of complex emotions and thoughts. They were lacking confidence in themselves as parents, they were hurt by the rejection that came from parenting children that struggled to trust adults, and they missed the support and time together as a couple.

How many consultations and who attended?

We were in the fortunate position of having this work funded so had the luxury of a few extra consultations. We had a total of ten consultations which the couple attended together, with two additional sessions for Sarah specifically, to make some space to address issues stemming from her own childhood, as well as one session in which we observed the couple play with their children.

What did we do in the consultations?

  1. Time and space – to think, discuss and reflect together away from the children.
  2. Adjusted roles and responsibilities – we worked towards the grandparents caring for the children more to give Sarah and Gareth time together away from parenting. We also structured the days and weeks to allow each parent individual time.
  3. Attachment and trauma informed parenting approaches – to help Sarah and Gareth create more boundaries, develop compassionate leadership, and firm parenting, alongside the empathic and gentle approach they had already been using. This helped the children to relax more and have more
  4. confidence in their parents.
  5. Addressing old family pains and patterns – Sarah discussed and processed historic pains, experiences and assumptions from childhood that were being triggered for her in parenting. She was sensitive to rejection and prone to self-criticism making it difficult for her to stay grounded and think rationally sometimes.

What did the client have to say about the experience and outcome of the consultation?

“We think that the foundation for the success we feel following our time with you was the unequivocal belief you had in our reality, without any hint of judgement or criticism. This created a nurturing and supportive environment for us to be open and honest, and to allow us to fully benefit from your expertise. Our feelings and experiences were validated, and you made our life feel ordinary in such extraordinary circumstances. We were able to then accept our own limitations, forgive our mistakes, and instead focus on how we could gain the skills and confidence to strengthen our family. Of course, your practical advice and ability to decipher the children’s behaviours and guide us with strategies for managing all of our trigger points meant that every session was invaluable and pragmatic too. Now, our children are thriving at this stage of their little lives because we have taken the time to understand, accept and develop into the best parents we can for two children impacted by loss and trauma. We can’t thank you enough”.
Sarah and Gareth

"Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative"

“Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative. During the second period of lockdown and home-schooling; parents and children found themselves again in a period of upheaval and transition. Many parents and carers were extremely worried about their children’s mental health and their own ability to be present and engaged whilst also playing the role of teacher and care giver. Dr Shortland gave attendees an insight into how many parents were feeling; tips on supporting children and helping them cope whilst studying from home and also managing their mental health. She also helped us realise the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to effectively support our children. It was such a useful session that we realise it was also pertinent for not only children’s mental health but also adults! We will be holding another session with Dr Andrea and MediaCom soon.”

Avelon Thompson, MediaCom (following a parenting workshop)