Being a parent isn’t easy, check out these tips and reminders!
So much of what we do to help young people heal from their past trauma focuses on building healthy attachment. We are often asked by potential adoptive parents how we go about this with children who have experienced undue hardships. As parents, we start with the best of intentions, and then the realities of parenting set in: What are fair and appropriate boundaries? When should we focus on compliance versus building connections? How do we carry the dual role of being a nurturing parent and the one who has to discipline and follow through with natural consequences?
It can feel insurmountable, can’t it?
Dr. Bruce Perry, a nationally renowned trauma expert, provides sound guidance on the approach we can take to foment stronger bonds and build healthy attachment with young people.
First, our approach has to be relevant and age-appropriate. For example, younger children have not fully developed their logical functions, and cannot track all of our conversations grounded in logic (but they are so logical!).
We can also build attachment by being rhythmic and repetitive through the use of patterned behaviors and responses. Calm and consistent is key. Take note of the underlying message here to promote self-care and give yourself the personal time you need so that you can set the tone for your child. Show that you are in tune with their needs.
Next, be relational. Make space each day for your child. Get on the floor when they’re playing with Legos, initiate a pick-up game of basketball, or surprise them with a fun at-home nail salon. “I am here, and I want to be with you!” you are reiterating. But also recognize that each child is unique, and some of our children prefer quiet and even solitude. Invite them to read their own book on the couch while you read yours, or simply ask if they’d like some downtime. Give them opportunities to take control of the situation and the personal space to let you know what they need.
Lastly, reward your child by providing unconditional positive regard, an approach also stressed by a famous psychoanalyst named Carl Rogers. Parents accept the child for who they are and encourage them at every opportunity. Ultimately, this gives the child license to explore life unencumbered by the fear of failing or of losing your acceptance and love.
Whether you are exploring if adoption is right for you, are in the search and referral process, or have a child placed in your home, we are here to support you. Check on our website for ongoing training opportunities led by our fabulous and experienced team.
Written by Steve Kempster, MSW