The Book Every Parent Needs: The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting

Parenting is hard.  We all know it's hard, we all tell each other (often) how hard it is.  Put a group of mums together and there is almost competitive bad story telling!  Mine won't eat/sleep through the night/stop crying etc etc - and that's just the teenagers!  You know how people say parenting should come with a manual?  Well here it is.

Sarah Naish is the parent of five adopted children who began fostering 30 years ago.  She then trained as a social worker before adopting her children in 1998 and 1999.  Recognising that her social work training had not at all prepared her for caring for traumatised children, and that conventional parenting strategies were rendered meaningless, Sarah sought a new model, therapeutic parenting.  She has subsequently managed a foster agency, created a training company for TP techniques, and is now offering her advice to all parents via this book.

We all need some (a lot of) parenting help from time to time, but how much harder must it be to parent a child who has come to you because his primary carers failed.  A child who has suffered and experienced more than any child ever should.  Luckily, therapeutic parenting now has its own handbook, with guidance from someone who has been there, got the t-shirt and written the book.

What is Therapeutic Parenting?

Therapeutic parenting is a deeply nurturing and responsive parenting style which emphasises empathic, insightful and patient responses to a child's actions and behaviours.  By building greater trust, empathy and new neural pathways, a traumatised child begins to recover from the past, by linking cause and effect, repairing damage, reducing fear and shame, and beginning to make sense of a confusing and frightening world.

Fundamentally, this is parenting that goes against the grain.  It's responsive, it seeks to understand what a child is saying through their actions, even when they are angry, aggressive, even violent.  Parents of those who have attachment issues, are recovering from trauma, or see the world differently, have to parent differently.  They need to meet their child's very specific needs and help them to make sense of the world.  No Supernanny approach works here.

How does it work?

Therapeutic parenting is ideal for foster and adoptive parents where a child has experienced trauma through abuse or neglect, but it is also useful for biological children where there may be pre-birth trauma, separation, illness or other factors that have affected attachment.

The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting offers parents and caregivers a process to follow when responding to common behaviours and challenges.  Part 1 discusses the foundations of therapeutic parenting and the strategies, models and responses to follow, as well as strategies to avoid.  There is also a chapter on self-care, a vital component that it is all too easy to overlook as a hands-on parent.

The second part presents the A-Z element, 60 common issues parents face, from children absconding through to yelling and sleep issues (OK Y and Z are a bit forced, but you get the idea!)  Each problem area offers an idea of what that may look like, what might trigger these issues, and strategies to enable parents and carers to respond therapeutically in order to resolve these challenges, re-connect, and prevent future occurrences.

Why does it work?

To me, therapeutic parenting has its roots in gentle or attachment parenting, where children are treated with patience and understanding, however hard that may be, rather than resorting to the shame and humiliation of naughty steps and other punishments.  Like gentle parenting, therapeutic parenting looks beyond the behaviours a child is exhibiting and seeks the real reason for presenting this way.  Eureka, the way is open to both solve the current problem but also to tackle the issue behind it, thus preventing further incidents and repairing the damage behind the issue.

This handbook is a vital lifeline for parents of autistic and ADHD children too who may exhibit many of these behaviours.  I found myself nodding my head wryly to various sections and picking up some great tips for how to handle some of Lara's issues in the future.

Therapeutic Parenting and Autism

We've been attachment parents from the very start (hence the name of this blog), responding to cues, breastfeeding, babywearing etc, and have created three fundamentally attached, happy little human beings as a result of it.  But parenting is still tough.  And parenting a special needs child is even tougher.  I can only imagine how much harder that must be if a child has experienced trauma, abuse, neglect or has no secure attachment.

With an autistic child it can be very difficult to understand how the world affects them, and how they see things differently.  Even as a probable autie myself, I do forget and sometimes struggle to understand or respond empathically to Lara's needs.  (As I write I am battling my own fight or flight response, simply because the cafĂ© table I write at has had the direction of a nearby spotlight changed so the lighting is different to how it usually is.  Yet I still manage to overlook such 'insignificant' factors with Lara.)

The A-Z guide is really helping us at the moment.  I'm all over the absconding, stealing and nonsense chatter sections at the moment.  Guess where our ASD is at!

My copy - on hand!

Isn't it just parenting?

Understanding the particular needs and personality of every child is, of course, a vital requirement of parenting, but it is simply not possible to help children who have experienced trauma or have additional needs by using conventional parenting styles.  This book offers everything the adoptive, foster or biological parent needs to therapeutically parent, with an easy to apply model of intervention, and an A-Z of practical advice.

Simply look up the issue you and your children are facing and find your stress and pent up anger abating so you can respond empathically and lovingly to help your child.  It is, quite literally, as easy as ABC.  Whatever the issue, make sure everyone is safe; read and breathe; return to your objective, rational self; deal with the problem; reconnect with your child; then work on preventing future incidents.  And repeat...

Easy to navigate and written in a helpful, non-judgmental style it will become your go-to manual throughout your parenting years, and is a must-have for adoptive and foster parents, as well as those parenting a high needs child.  Although, as an attachment parent, I would say this advice could be used by all parents to respond more empathically and without inciting shame or fear in their children.

The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting offers a sympathetic ear, a practical guide and realistic responses to common problems.  A must-read for all parents.

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