What is Therapeutic Parenting?

Therapeutic parenting is a specialised approach to parenting that focuses on creating a safe and nurturing environment for children who have experienced trauma, neglect, or other adverse experiences. This style of parenting is rooted in the understanding that traditional parenting techniques may not be effective for children with complex emotional and behavioural needs. Instead, therapeutic parenting emphasises empathy, feelings and consistency to help children heal and thrive.

How Trauma Can Affect Behaviour

Children who have experienced trauma may exhibit challenging behaviours as a result of their past experiences. These behaviours may include aggression, defiance, withdrawal and difficulty regulating emotions. Instead of viewing these behaviours as misbehaviour, therapeutic parents understand them as communication tools through which the child expresses their inner pain.

Tips for Therapeutic Parents

  1. Refrain from internalising your child’s actions; their behaviour reflects their experience, not you
  2. Don’t neglect self-care, remember to exercise regularly and eat nourishing meals
  3. Give yourself the same compassion and understanding you offer to your child
  4. Understand that your child’s behaviours may stem from fear or shame, even if they manifest as anger, aggression, or rejection
  5. Maintaining your own composure, stability, and optimism is crucial for the success of any approach
  6. If your child’s behaviour triggers emotional challenges for you, consider counselling for yourself and your relationship
  7. Build respite into your family life. This is important for each parent, for the parents as a couple (e,g date nights) and for the parents to spend time with siblings
  8. Read, study and practice

Structure and Nurture

To foster children’s healthy development, cultivate independence, and establish secure attachments, prioritising their sense of safety and affection is paramount. Therapeutic parenting necessitates the establishment of clear boundaries and consistent routines to ensure their safety and aid them in navigating even minor shifts and transitions. Addressing difficult behaviour demands a unique approach compared to children without a history of trauma; consider how intimidating a “time out” might be for a child who has experienced abandonment.

Children who have experienced neglect or abuse may exhibit resistance to caregivers imposing structure in their lives; therefore, such measures must be implemented with an attitude of affection and regard for the child. Reassurance and affection are essential for children, emanating warmth from parents and caregivers. A smile, physical touch, and solace can convey care and a commitment to their safety. Attempt to convey empathy for your child’s emotions by acknowledging and validating their feelings, aiding them in comprehending their emotional state, such as saying, “I notice you’re feeling quite angry right now.”

Ultimately, therapeutic parenting is about creating a loving and supportive family environment where children feel valued, understood, and empowered to overcome their past experiences. By prioritising connection, empathy, and trauma-informed care, therapeutic parents can help their children heal and thrive, laying the foundation for a brighter and more hopeful future.