I’ve recently completed the first two days of the four day parenting course for adopters called The Great Behaviour Breakdown and I’m blown away already. 

What follows is a brief and entirely subjective interpretation of the course’s teachings with copious amounts of apologies to its practitioners. 

To be basic about the course, it’s based around parenting children who have suffered trauma, in our specific case the trauma of separation, but other trauma layers too. 

We don’t know whether there was trauma in utero in our case, but that’s also part of the teaching or should I say learning; that trauma may happen in the womb and the impact that has on attachment, development and self-worth can be as troubling as anything that happens post-birth.

 Without providing too much detail (for fear of getting it wrong!), a number of things amazed me about this course. 

Firstly, that it (or perhaps an abridged version of it) is not a compulsory part of the pre-approval adoption process or at least compulsory in the weeks leading up to introductions post-matching/approval. That I think would have saved us a lot of feeling adrift when our children came to us, might have saved us from making mistakes that may have actually inhibited their attachment and development, mistakes for which we have to consider ourselves blameless for the most part – we just did not have the insight that GBB provides. But for the authorities – WHY NOT? Since starting the course it strikes me that there are and have been so many adoptive parents just like us with good hearts and the best of loving intentions floundering about needlessly.

Secondly, but related, it made me feel very guilty. I was not expecting this. It made me feel guilty for all the times I’ve inadvertently triggered a dampening of our children’s self-esteem, when I’ve ignored or been vocally irritated by a behavior the source of which I did not understand or considered “naughty” or “manipulative” or “defiant”. But it also makes me feel very upbeat about the future for us and our children, for our relationship, for their development, and that’s priceless.

 Thirdly, it has reiterated to me very forcefully that parenting children with trauma, even if you cannot see or feel the effects of that trauma at the specific moment in time, is not the same as parenting those without; that actually maybe our own parents and siblings and those in our support network should also be sent on the course in order to understand that actually there’s a reason we do things differently and that no, it’s not ok to proffer contrary parenting advice or to tell us we should just add more “discipline” into our children’s lives. Or that “send them to their room to think about their behaviour” or “put them on the naughty step and leave them there until they say sorry” is actually the worst thing we could do, is not “teaching” them anything and in fact is at best confusing and at worst harmful; that “time out” is the exact opposite if what’s needed, which is “time in”. 

 Fourthly, and this is so simple but so powerful, that if we are not “in relationship” with our children (feeling connected and attuned), then absolutely nothing positive is going to happen.

I could go on and on. 

Suffice to say that I cannot recommend the course highly enough (even though I’m only halfway through it) nor recommend its presenters, Zach Gomm and Denise Golding more highly.

The course is funded for those who qualify (and adopters do), so do watch out for information on dates and available places from the WAF team. Oh, and the lunch provided is delicious!

Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

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