About Melinda Charles
As a caring and compassionate person, I’ve always known I wanted to be in a helping profession. I started off with a degree in education and taught children K-8. Over the years, I became interested in how children learn and develop. Enrolling in graduate school, I majored in educational psychology, the science of how people learn. The study of learning applies not only to what happens in the classroom, but social, emotional and behavioral learning as well. Educational psychology is informed by cognitive, behavioral and developmental psychology, and over several years I developed expertise in these disciplines, before leaving university with my MA degree.
In the 1990’s and 2000’s, the emerging science of neurobiology began to have a profound effect on the field. Researchers could now study how experience physically shaped brain structures. The implications for educational and developmental psychologies were enormous. Attachment studies had gone back decades, but together with neurobiology, we now understand that learning and attachment and related issues are experience dependent.
In addition to this expertise I also taught parent education. So, I thought I was prepared when we welcomed our Eastern European post-institutionalized five year old daughter into the family. I was wrong. This tiny and beautiful child mystified me and before long I’d hit a brick wall. How could she be so charming and joyful one minute then flip into being angry and obstinate the next? Why did she follow me around anxiously and go into meltdown when I put her in time-out? Why was she so reactive to the slightest hint of displeasure on my part? Why would she sit in anyone’s lap but my own? And, hardest of all, why was she so rejecting of me?
Something was wrong. We started to seek advice from experts. Some were helpful, Occupational Therapy for sensory integration disorder, most were not. From professionals we were told “give her a chance to learn the language”, “provide love, good nutrition and lots of experiences”. And from family, “you worry too much”, “you have to be more firm”, “you need to ease up on her”. Nothing really made a difference. In hindsight I realized it was because none of the experts were addressing attachment trauma. I knew that simply waiting for a change to happen without intervention would likely make things worse.
Turning to other more experienced parents, I began to understand. And relying on my own expertise, I began to build on it by immersing myself in the relatively new field of developmental trauma. In addition, we worked with an attachment therapist for almost a year which accelerated my skills development and existing knowledge. The approach I was learning was novel and even paradoxical, requiring a total mind shift. However, with practice, it became easier and I was so happy with the results we were experiencing. Difficulties lay ahead – school challenges, the teen years – but we were able to navigate the shoals. Now I have a passion to help other parents and children to avoid the frustration and despair which result from a lack of understanding and knowledge.
Your child is not bad. Their attitudes and behaviors have ensured their survival. They want to connect but can’t trust or feel safe. You are not failures as parents. You just haven’t been given the key to unlock your hurt child.
Hope and healing are within reach. It would be my privilege to teach, coach and mentor you as you reach for your dream of a loving and connected family.