Thursday, August 5, 2010

Adult Attachment Styles

Parents often find themselves overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for their children, particularly when the child has behavioral, developmental, medical or mental health challenges. The child seems to be pushing our "buttons". Sometimes it feels intentional and purposeful. We often blame the child. However, while children may find and push our buttons, they did not install them. Our parents did. That is, as a result of our own childhood experiences, each of us has developed an attachment style that affects our ability to develop all kinds of relationships; with friends, co-workers, spouses, and especially with our children. A securely attached adult has made sense of his or her childhood and has the ability to deal with a child's behavior without taking it personally. The dismissing adult has difficulty identifying with a child's struggles because to do so means he may have to take another look at a possibly painful past. The preoccupied adult has open childhood wounds and feels hurt and rejected by her child and others. The adult with a disorganized attachment style is a dangerous parent. Taking another look at our childhoods can help us develop "earned security". Then we can help our children develop more secure attachments to us, thus setting them up for more successful relationships.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Toward More Powerful Parenting

Traditional parenting focuses on fear and force to gain compliance for the purpose of controlling behavior in the present without regard to future repercussions. It leads to insecure parent-child relationships and children with low self esteem and shame who grow up to be angry adults who are more likely to use power and control with their children. By contrast, powerful parenting means effective parenting; real adults who are aware of themselves and their children in a way that results in long lasting life lessons and secure relationships with children who have healthy self esteem who become well rounded and effective parents themselves. Effective parenting splits the two parts of parenting in two. First, joining and attuning with a child in such a way that the child feels acknowledged and understood despite his/her behavior, mistake or success. Then, second, and only when necessary, and separated by time and space, the thoughful application of a teaching consequence that is commensurate with the mistake or lesson to be learned, a value added experience that builds self esteem and self efficacy. The second without the first will not be effective and can be damaging. The first, with or without the second, is essential to maintaining and improving the parent-child relationship and may teach as much.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Therapeutic Parenting

Therapeutic parenting is purposeful parenting with the intent of helping a traumatized child heal through the relationship. The trauma may have happened because of previous parents, an event or serious of events, or as a result of typical changes in family life like divorce, moving, or birth of siblings. The healing parent first needs to understand themselves, their own childhood hurts, their thoughts and feelings about children and parenting, and develop an awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. Much like flying, put the oxygen mask on yourself and then put it on your child. The therapeutic parent is the change agent; the number one tool of change is empathy; and the medium through which change happens is the relationship. We develop, improve, and repair a parent-child relationship in which the child can feel felt and heard, understood and accepted. From this safe base, the parent (with a therapist or not) helps the child explore the traumatic material so that its stressful impacts on behavior and functioning no longer have the same effects. Healing parents use affection and play to build and repair the relationship and structure and supervision to reduce anxiety. It splits the parts of parenting in two; joining with the child as a nurturing consultant then providing teaching lessons that last.