My take on ‘therapeutic parenting’ is this; a way of parenting that reduces a child’s suffering, which allows ‘emotional’ release which in turn makes healing possible. In fact the kind of parenting that every child would benefit from.
Having trained as a psychotherapist and participated in years of personal therapy, what I know is this. To feel safe in relationship is imperative. To establish such a relationship when one is not born to it takes time. Trust doesn’t develop overnight. Connection is necessary.
Listening is key… deep listening; listening below the words, below the behaviour, below what can be seen and heard; with warmth, without judgement and most importantly with acceptance.
I thought I was ready for that until our little monkey arrived. Children are bundles of emotion; children who hurt, who have experienced trauma, have a layer of intensity that cannot be explained. This sure threw me adrift, found me on my back foot!!
I want to ask you a question…
How does it FEEL, to parent a child who is quietly suffering!?
How does it FEEL, to parent a child who is hurting so bad, they flip into high octane expressiveness in a second?
How does it FEEL, to be with your child’s feelings, to be with such raw emotion – overt or covert?
Do you or can you even allow yourself such reflection? Exhausted, drained… how to fill your emotional tank, let alone strengthen your own resilience in the face of such emotional intensity!?
Yet, here we are, parents of traumatised children, expected to be able to listen and support our children’s feelings when we can hardly handle our own!!
In the helping professions it is a known fact, that caring for people who have experienced highly stressful events (trauma) puts the caregiver at risk of developing similar stress-related symptoms, also known as secondary traumatic stress.
Have you heard of compassion fatigue? vicarious trauma?
What about your own life story?
After our daughter arrived I read “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier. It was one of those aha! moments where it dawned on me that my life story began with a disrupted attachment. That was the beginning of me realising, with some certainty, I needed to tend to my own wounds if I was to be able to do the same for our daughter.
If you have your own unresolved or unconscious developmental/relational traumas, if you have had some difficult times growing up; they too will likely be re-stimulated. You may recognise such moments; these are our triggers, hot spots, the times we feel our buttons pushed, our blood boil or feel like we are losing our minds, going crazy. If you are unaware of being re-stimulated, chances are you frequently experience feeling controlled and/or manipulated by your child and their behaviour.
Where is your emotional support?
All parents need and deserve support for the hard and complex work they do. This is a key ethos of the We Are Family community. It is imperative for adoptive parents – for anyone who becomes a parent to a child from care… foster carers, kinship carers, special guardians!! We are at risk! We live with our children’s trauma 24/7! That’s before even looking at our own attachment or trauma histories. Please don’t get me started….
I advocate that we parents need regular, personal emotional support! At a bare minimum each and every one of us needs someone to listen, a “Listening Partnership”, where we can offload emotional tension, brainstorm solutions and ease the pressure and judgements we place on ourselves. A “Listening Partnership” is a way to get back to being the authentic parent you want to be.