Therapeutic Parenting: Practical Applications

Parenting children who have experienced trauma requires a different type of parenting. What is therapeutic parenting, and why is it so often used for adopted and foster children who have experienced abuse and neglect in their early lives? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Sarah Naish, a therapeutic parent, the CEO of the National Association of Therapeutic Parents, and the author of The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting.

Hit the Highlights
  • What is therapeutic parenting and who is it used for? Used for all children who have experienced trauma based on its reliance on firm boundaries and structure with a strong empathic and nurturing approach.
  • Differences between kids who have been abused and those who have been neglected.
  • The basic foundations of Therapeutic Parenting:
    • 1. Understanding the causes of their behaviors. Why do our kids who have experienced trauma behave the way they do? Fear based responses. Was effective in their previous life to get their needs met. Thing many children fear is adults. But their behaviors don’t look fear based. They look defiant, rude, obnoxious.
      • Why do they do what they do:
        • Lack of ability to re-attune with parents.
        • Lack of ability to trust adults.
        • Lacking cause and effect thinking.
        • Lack of empathy. How do children become empathetic?
        • Lack of remorse.
        • Hyper-vigilance- how does this impact a child’s development.
        • Fear of being invisible
        • A child’s sense of self and the impact of shame: “If a child has not had their early, most basic needs met, they are consumed with a toxic form of shame… The child gets their sense of self from the actions of the people around them. If they are ignored or abused, their sense of self is one of worthlessness and ‘badness’. …Their internal working model might be, ‘I am bad, I am unimportant, I am unlovable.'” How does this play out in the child’s behavior. Why can’t a parent simply stress how wonderful they view the child?
        • Children sometime want to recreate a familiar environment.
        • Sensory issues
    • 2. Establishing Structure and Firm Boundaries.
      • The P.A.R.E.N.T.S. Model of Therapeutic Parenting- a checklist to run through in your head before you respond.
      • Application of Therapeutic Parenting to specific situations. What it looks like, underlying causes, preventative strategies, strategies during, strategies after:
        • Sleep Issues
        • Arguing
        • Bathroom Issues

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Image credit: Barney Moss