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"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the well being of our own children is intimately linked to the well being of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. When one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will commit it. The good life for our own children can be secured only if it is also secured for all other people's children. But to work for the well being of all children is not just a practical matter-- it is also right!" - Lilian G. Katz, Phd.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Therapeutic Parenting

Therapeutic Parenting is a term developed by professionals working with children with attachment and mood disorders. According the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, Therapeutic Parenting includes:
  • practicing and teaching their child relaxation techniques
  • using firm restraint holds to contain rages
  • prioritizing battles and letting go of less important matters
  • reducing stress in the home, including learning and using good listening and communication skills
  • using music and sound, lighting, water, and massage to assist the child with waking, falling asleep, and relaxation
  • becoming an advocate for stress reduction and other accommodations at school
  • helping the child anticipate and avoid, or prepare for stressful situations by developing coping strategies beforehand
  • engaging the child's creativity through activities that express and channel their gifts and strengths
  • providing routine structure and a great deal of freedom within limits
  • removing objects from the home (or locking them in a safe place) that could be used to harm self or others during a rage, especially guns; keeping medications in a locked cabinet or box.
This is what we do in our home. It is hard for people to understand this process. It is almost counterintuitive to how our society tells us how children should be raised. A child must have consequences to his actions. Give him an inch and he will take a mile. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

This article by Deborah Hage is a good start on understanding a different perspective. It is based on attachment disorders, but is applicable to all children that are differently wired.

Now, how does this actually work for me and mine? Well, like all things that involve changing paradigms, it is slow going. Parenting is a very emotional process. When we operate from an emotional base, it takes time to reprogram our responses. So, when my child kicks or hits me, it takes great strength of will not to react in anger. Anger is the understandable emotion. You have just been physically attacked. It is not a useful emotion in this case.

What does help is looking in my child's eyes, and knowing him. Speaking with him at length when he is doing well and getting inside his head. He is fighting battles with himself, trying to make sense out of an insane world.

He recently told us that everything is OK, then a red haze settles over everything, and it feels like his body is electrified. This is where the first step comes into play. If we can catch him before logic leaves and get him to a calming point often things go better. If not, chaos ensues.

It is a journey, but it is worth every step.