Family Separation & Child Psychology

With the current news cycle spinning with stories of family separation with immigrant children detained at the US/Mexico border it seems a good time to break down attachment theory and the possible psychological injuries to separated children.

The idea that the quality and consistency of early life attachments — and parental separation — can shape adult personality, was first identified by John Bowlby, a British developmental psychologist and psychiatrist. In the 1930’s and 40’s germ theory became widespread and in a rush to protect sick children from possible exposure to biological infections, hospital’s began to bar families from visiting or touching and consoling children. John Bowlby was working in these hospital settings and witnessed the distress of family separation. Later, when the children were well enough to return home, parents reported that it was a “different” child who was returned to them, an unruly, dispassionate child. Thus were the roots of attachment theory.

Later, after World War II, the World Health Organization commissioned Bowlby to mount a study of children separated during wartime — Kinder Transport that moved Jewish Children from Nazi controlled areas and the London program that saw thousands of children sent out to the English countryside for their protection during London bombings.

These unlikely study subjects, along with orphans and foster children, have now been studied for decades  in relation to adult depression, anxiety, aggression, criminality, stress coping style, and even inflammation, obesity, alcoholism and heart disease. And the news isn’t good.

Having a solid, supportive, loving, parent-child attachment is crucial to a human’s mental and physical health. Abuse and separation in early life can change the human brain and alter an individual’s capacity to love. The trauma of parental separation can impact whether a child will finish high school, get a job, marry, commit domestic violence, serve time in prison, become an alcoholic or have a heart attack.

Are You Living Out Ancestor Trauma?

An area of psychological research that I am currently fascinated with is intergenerational psychology. It includes the idea that responses to pain and suffering can be transmitted genetically. I call it Ancestor Trauma. We’ve all heard that our genes may be loaded guns for physical ailments like heart disease and cancer. And certainly many mental health illnesses, like schizophrenia, have a genetic link. But what about run-of-the mill anxiety and depression? Could the roots of our fears and wacky responses to stress lie with our ancestors? The answer, it appears, is yes.

Most of the research to date has been done on worms, mice and rats, but one human study of holocaust survivors and their children shows some chilling results. A team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital looked at the genes of thirty-two Jewish women and men who had been imprisoned in WWII concentration camps, were tortured, or lived in fear for years while hiding. Then they analyzed the genes of their children, adults in the United States who had never seen a war zone. The researchers found genetic changes in the gene that produces and monitors stress hormones — important because this influences how an individual reacts and copes with stress.

While genetic transmission of trauma is one piece of intergenerational psychology, a family system’s emotional communication — or lack there of — closes the deal. This is the clever beauty of the nature verses nurture debate. There is no debate. It’s always both. Our environment works to suppress or enliven our genes. I believe this is especially so during the transmission of ancestor trauma. Often parents and grandparents dismiss or minimize the trauma they experienced while silently giving emotional cues to the next generation. “Be careful! The world is unsafe!” The trauma eventually gives birth as unexplained anxiety, depression, poor coping mechanisms for stress and big-time relationship problems. And too often, one child, the “sensitive child”  is unknowingly nominated to carry the feelings of  grief and loss experienced by previous generations.

So how does one process and release ancient grief? Here are a few strategies:
  1. Explore your family history. Get the full story. Create a narrative for your feelings.
  2. Pay attention to your dreams. Keep a dream journal. Dreams are often the place where the pre-conscious material can be mined.
  3. Respect an identity crisis. Untangling a family’s emotional past might mean breaking codes of silence that may alienate you from family. A child speaks of the unspeakable when the parents and grandparents could not. There may be a period of separation and loss while you create a new self identity based on a healed narrative.
Believe you are the chosen one for Ancestor Trauma.

There is an honor in being the vessel for ancestor trauma. When we have been unconsciously asked to carry the pain of our ancestors into the future, whether that pain has been transmitted emotionally or through our DNA, we can gain strength by knowing we are the chosen one — the one who is strong and well enough to finish the emotional work of the past. By visiting any remnants of our ancestor’s trauma, we can break the chains and heal future generations. You are the chosen one. Go forward, knowing that your conscious mind will never allow what you can’t handle.



My Relationship With Food (And Why I Love the Keto Diet)

Here’s something you may not know about me. I love food. I love to eat. I’m even a trained cook, and I think of myself as a foodie, well, lately I call myself a Keto Diet foodie! Fortunately, as a lifelong exerciser, I could always eat anything I wanted. I’m one of those gym rats who actually loves sweating. I also am a member of the luck gene club – I’m an ectomorph, someone with a naturally lean body type. Basically I’m saying that I have the kind of body and metabolism that most women would kill for.

But recently I learned that I am also an unlucky recipient of another kind of gene. One that causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. This gene causes insulin resistance, not uncommon to menopausal women, and it’s probably the reason why my parents died near my age.

It all started late one Saturday afternoon a couple years ago. I had spent an invigorating day “gardening hard.” Now before you laugh, I was moving heavy potted trees, climbing to trim my vines and digging holes in stubborn root bound soil. I was gardening…. Hard. My work done, I had just poured myself an iced coffee and slathered a chucky layer of almond butter on a home-made piece of bread. Chewing on the last bite and scraping the sticky butter off the roof of my mouth, the strangest thing happened.

A sudden, massive pain in my chest just showed up out of nowhere.

Now this was new. An hour into the pain, with no relief from my yoga gyrations, antacids or bathroom acrobatics, the realization hit me that I would be spending the evening in the emergency room.

I’ll cut to the chase. I wasn’t having a heart attack. Instead I had a sizable gallstone that was making it’s way from my gall bladder to my intestine, and if I had let it, it would slip slide down to my pancreas and kill me. Again I am lucky. I live in a city with some of the best medicine in the world and I have TWO excellent insurance plans. Out came that gall bladder.

Now the average person would have stopped right there, happy to be free of the pain and comforted that no new gallstones could ever be formed again. But not this Brainy Barbie always curious to know the WHY behind everything. Down the medical rabbit’s hole I went. I wanted to know what caused gallstones in the first place. Hint: They are made of cholesterol. A mountain of lab reports later, I found myself sitting across from a pretty Irish cardiologist who told me I had dangerously high cholesterol and triglycerides and that I was in line for a major heart attack.

“What? Impossible!,” I protested “I’m a health nut. I eat low fat everything.”

“Your low-fat life may be the problem,” she sang in an Irish lilt. “That’s old news. It’s sugar and carbohydrate that cause high cholesterol. You need the keto diet.”

“Your low-fat life may be the problem,” she sang in an Irish lilt. “That’s old news. It’s sugar and carbohydrate that cause high cholesterol. You need the keto diet.”

Up until then, I had only heard of the Keto diet as a weight loss diet. I wasn’t even sure it was healthy. For those who don’t know, the Keto diet is high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carbohydrate. Yes, I said high fat! But it’s sugar-free and grain-free. Ouch.

You can google more about the details of the Keto diet – made famous by Atkins, sweeping the globe as the healthiest human diet, and the best lifestyle diet for weigh loss – but here’s what I have to say about it. Within 48-hours of trying the Keto diet, I felt my ankles shrink as my inflammation reduced, with two weeks my mid-life belly fat disappeared, within four months I had dropped twenty pounds and put on a ton of muscle, and two years later I have the blood of a thirty year old. That cardiologist still tests my fasting blood every 90-days.

I will never stop eating the Keto Diet. But lately, two years on later, I’m starting to miss desert. I am missing the odd waffle. I really would like a taste of sweet every now and again.

To the rescue, in steps my latest discovery, Nekstella, a SUGAR FREE version of that famous French chocolate hazelnut spread. I’m not joking. It’s sugar free and low carb. Look, I love this product so much — so do my kids! — that I am excited to tell you I am now a brand ambassador. I just love Nekstella!!! They also have low-carb pancake and waffle mixes so I have something starchy to spread my Nekstella on.

Nekstella lines up with everything I believe in. Our processed food industry is causing heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure largely because of all the added sugar. The low-carb, Keto Diet life should be everyone’s way of life. It’s certainly my diet for life. If you’d like to try it, CLICK HERE and use the key word: WENDY to get a discount at check out on your purchase.

Also, if you are a Keto Diet or low-carb foodie, I really love sharing low carb recipes, so please send them my way! – Dr. Wendy Walsh

Love Like a Super Attacher (Someone with a secure attachment style)

Black Couple SleepingDespite what romantic movies, TV shows, and books tell you, love isn’t something that simply happens. It is a work of art created by you. Really. Finding love is less about meeting the right person and more about acquiring the habits of what I call a super-attacher. People with good relationship skills and healthy attachment behavior, who believe they are lovable, are the ones suddenly finding love, as singles often perceive it.

So how can you begin to learn healthy attachment behaviors and find the relationship you want and deserve? It all starts with understanding what attachment style is and how it affects relationships.

Each of us comes into the world with a biological predisposition to attach to people in a certain way ? some babies require more closeness and care than others. During the crucial first year of life, when our brains triple in size, we start to form a hardwired blue print for love based on how our caregivers respond to our needs. Then, in our adult romantic life, we attempt to replicate that version of love, even if, believe it or not, it was filled with feelings of loss or pain. Trying to replicate that love is what causes millions of singles to seek out help from coupled up friends, speed dating events, dating advice articles, and reviews of dating sites from places like Once we find our preferred venue for replicating that love, attachment style is the invisible force that prompts us to swipe right on someone we like or say hello to a stranger we find attractive. Attachment style is also the invisible force that determines whether or not we get into roller-coaster relationships with extreme highs and lows or not.

At the top of the mating heap are super-attachers. These people have whats known as a secure attachment style. Secure people tend to have high self-esteem. They are comfortable sharing feelings with friends and lovers. When they are suffering, they seek out social support. They take responsibility for their actions and are known for having a lot of empathy. Best of all, they have trusting, lasting relationships.

If you dont exactly fit the profile of a super-attacher, there are three simple things you can do that should help transform your dating life:

  1. Give Care Without Having Strings Attached

Yes, be an authentic nice guy or nice gal, not one whose kindness comes from fear that someone will bolt or who uses a manipulative tactic to get someone to like them. Instead, be kind, expecting nothing in return except your own sense of high self-esteem. Enjoy the ego boost. Love just for the sake of loving and youll like yourself better.

  1. Receive Care Happily

The next time you are feeling under the weather or under a lot of stress, call in for backup. Reach out to friends and family members. I know this can be very hard for some people, but learning to have interdependent social support is great practice for one-on-one love. Let the people in your life know what you need and allow them to take care of you.

  1. Dont Take Anything Personally

If you often get emotionally hijacked by sudden feelings of abandonment or rejection, I have four words for you:?Its never about you.?There is always another side to every story, and trust me, people are more concerned with their own stuff than yours. So take a deep breath, and use every feeling of rejection as an opportunity to practice self-consoling. Remember, its never personal.

Learning to have healthy attachments is the key to having a long and happy relationship ? and life in general. Because when you love better, you live better. By the way, if you are curious about what kind of attachment style you have, you can?take the quiz here.

LISTEN TO THE DR. WENDY WALSH SHOW ON KFIAM 640 LOS ANGELES. Listen from anywhere on the iHeartRadio app or online at

Love For Sale – Buyer Beware When it Comes to Online Dating

Man looking shocked at computerIt may sound seriously unromantic to think of your heart as a targeted consumer, but the advent of love as commerce is upon us. From legitimate online dating sites and apps that promise to help you find the perfect match, to professional wingman services that will create your profile or even pose as you online until they collect the coveted phone number?and finally, to the dark world of online dating scams. Rest assured, the commercial choices don’t end once you are coupled up. Hit a bumpy patch in your relationship, or feeling nutty during a divorce, and relationship coaches, marriage counselors and even conscious uncouplers stand at the ready online to serve you. Not to worry if your relationship breaks up anyway, there is an army of free wisdom at


The business of love is an answer to a growing market of single people emerging across the lifespan. Simply put, we are outliving our relationships. When til death do us part was invented, death was pretty imminent. Increasing life spans mean that even the most monogamous may find themselves living through two or even three long-term relationships with stints of single and dating in between. Add to that, the fact that prosperity means women and men need marriage less for economic reasons, and being children of divorce, are wary of bad partner choices. Thus, there are more unmarried adults in America than ever before. And trust me, most are busy dating, and too many become victim to online dating scams falling for fake profiles and false words designed to get your heart strings to send money. Like any service industry, the relationship industry has its pro and cons and even a few buyer beware warnings.


Undoubtedly the biggest advantage to online dating is that it instantly ushers mates into a huge pool of romantic opportunity that might not be found nearby. It also helps people narrow down the field by allowing strategic searches. Want a woman who loves to fish Bass? Maybe shes on Want a guy to sit in a pew with you? Hell likely be on Looking for a kick-ass retirement relationship? Look no further than


But the biggest pro, is also the biggest con. Individuals are still at the controls of their love lives. Online dating gives the illusion that its more scientific and accurate than relying on Cupids bow, but in fact technology has created a paradox of choice. The more choices people are presented with, the more difficult it becomes to make a choice and stick with it. I mean, who eats one entre at a Las Vegas buffet?


The answer to all this, is to beat the market for your heart but getting your brain involved. Relationships are much more about skill than luck anyway. How do you acquire better relationship skills, the kind that will find you real love and help you avoid online dating scams? Well, besides expensive therapy, there are a couple absolutely free ways to learn the complicated mating game. You can log onto The totally free site features daily articles from experts, including dating coaches and matchmakers, as well as Q&A sessions, research studies, and a lively forum. Online, is the authority on all things dating.


You can also listen to my radio talk show every Sunday’s from 4-6 pm Pacific time on KFI AM640 Los Angeles. If you are outside of Los Angeles, download the iHeartRadio app to listen from anywhere!



By the Numbers: The Business of Love

Annual revenue from online Dating Industry: $1,249,000,000.00

Annual revenue from personal matchmaking services $500,000,000.00

Average spent by dating site customer per year $239

Total number of people in the U.S. who have tried online dating 41,250,000

Percent of users who leave dating sites within the first 3 months 10 %

Total annual revenue from professional coaching worldwide is now nearly $2 Billion