Therapeutic parenting is a unique style of parenting that applies to families where children have a history of childhood trauma. This parenting is usually taught to foster or adopting parents who are going to care for children coming from broken homes. Read on to learn more about therapeutic parenting and understand how it helps parents nurture traumatized children.
What is Therapeutic Parenting?
Therapeutic parenting is a type of parenting that is ideal for children with developmental trauma. This trauma may be from early childhood abuse, trauma suffered at the hands of a caregiver or trauma experienced in the womb. It comes in handy for adopters, foster parents, step-parents, caregivers, and sometimes even the biological parents.
It has been proven that one strategy does not work for all children. Therapeutic parenting has several types that vary according to the degree of trauma a child has experienced and the strategies that will be helpful. However, all successful therapeutic parenting programs are built on a strong focus on safety and intentional parenting. The basics of every program are fortified with the help of high structure, long term-perspective, and self-care on the parents’ part.
Every type of parenting method has some foundation rules. The foundation of therapeutic parenting stands strong on four pillars of PACE. This methodology defines how parents should interact and bond with young children. The primary aim of this method is to make the child feel secure and learn to trust the caregiver. Let’s elaborate on PACE.
P is for Playfulness – The first step is to ensure playfulness in all communications. Parents have to ensure that they have a fun and joyful tone while giving instructions, telling a story, and teaching a new thing. Parents have to avoid sternness or a strict tone at all costs.
A is for Acceptance – Children with trauma often have low self-confidence. They need non-judgment parenting, where the parent accepts the child’s feelings, thoughts, motives, wishes, and perceptions without being judgmental or opinionated.
C is for Curiosity – Parents caring for children with trauma need to develop curiosity. They have to understand the reason behind every kind of behaviour; hence they have to an open mind at all times that is willing to understand abnormal reactions.
E is for Empathy – Empathy helps parents fell compassion for a sad or distressed child. Without empathy, it can be very difficult for a caregiver to understand a child’s certain behaviour, and ultimately, they will fail to reciprocate appropriately. Parents are supposed to offer comfort, love, and support, and all these can come only from empathy towards a child’s feelings.
The therapeutic method is mentally challenging for caregivers. This is the reason; subject matter experts recommend that parents taking up this methodology should find a guide or a mentor. It will be helpful to find a caregiver who has successfully executed therapeutic parenting with or more children. Parents can also join parent groups to find other parents who are dribbling with therapeutic parenting.
Effects and Benefits of Therapeutic Parenting
Therapeutic parenting changes a child in more ways than one. It starts with making the child feel secure in a home or under the care of a parent and goes on to build confidence and strong values. A child treated to therapeutic parenting feels supported by the adults in the household and eventually opens up to their guidance and directions.
According to experts, therapeutic parenting enables a child to form secure attachments. This step comes after the child can self-regulate his behaviour and understands that there is no need for pretences (behaviour cover-ups).
It takes time, patience, and perseverance to reach a stage where parents can experience the benefits of therapeutic parenting. The most significant advantage coming out of this type of parenting is a reduced impact of childhood trauma. The main, noticeable benefits of therapeutic parenting are:
- Abatement of fight or flight mode in the child
- Improvement in communication
- Easy resolution of conflicts
- Increase in shared interest and values
- Strengthening of relationships
National Association of Therapeutic Parents (NATP)
Caring for a child with a traumatic past is not an easy feat. It gets so frustrating at times that parents start questioning themselves and their capabilities as a caregiver. National Association of Therapeutic Parents or NATP is a non-profit organization that was formed to parents navigate the rough seas of parenting.
It was formed in the year 2017, and since then, it has become a hub for resources, guidance, counselling, and more for parents who are bringing up children with any form of trauma in their past. NATP came into existence after a need was identified for such an initiative through social media forums and several training events, seminars, and workshops conducted with adopters, step-parents, foster parents, biological parents, etc.
NATP has more than 26,000 members now and works with a mission to promote better outcomes for children who have suffered significant early life trauma. It aims to cover all the central themes being experienced by therapeutic parents and assist them with specialist knowledge, strategies, skills, and insight required for effective therapeutic parenting.