What is Therapeutic Parenting?

What is Therapeutic Parenting?

You may have heard the term “Therapeutic Parenting” and are wondering what that is or if it could be helpful for you.  Therapeutic parenting is an alternative to traditional parenting so let’s define what that is first and then look at how therapeutic parenting differs and how it may be just what you are looking for.

Traditional parenting is based on the premise that a solid and secure relationship was developed early and continues to exist between the parent(s) and the child.  In this scenario the bond between the parent(s) and child was developed in a healthy way and has not been broken by severe trauma or disrupted attachment.

“Healthy attachment is a reciprocal, enduring emotional connection between a child and his/her primary care-giver(s) that begins when the child is in utero.

For some children, this attachment is disrupted through a variety of circumstances such as the abrupt loss of or extended separation from a parent, child abuse or neglect, invasive and/or painful medical procedures, prenatal exposure to toxins and/or neurological problems. A child is at highest risk of attachment related problems if these disruptions occur during the first two years of their life.”  (http://studentsfirstproject.org)

Attachment can be disrupted for many reasons:

  • Foster/adoption

  • Prolonged absence of one or both parents in early childhood

  • Postpartum depression

  • Severe medical issues for Mom or child after birth or in the first 3 years causing a break in the relationship

  • Neurological or other medical issue that inhibits the child form connecting (even if that connection was available)

  • Traumas (Known or unknown)

  • Divorce

  • Mismatch in temperament between parent and child causing misunderstood communication in the relationship

  • Any other reason that may cause the child to internalize an insecure sense of themselves, others and the world they live in

In a relationship where the children are secure they are able to rely on their parent(s) for guidance and when things get off track the combination of behavior modification and positive parenting methods gets things back on track fairly quickly.  This is the ideal situation and is what we all hope for when we have kids but for many who foster or adopt children this is not an immediate possibility and for many others this process was disrupted with their birth children and needs to be repaired.  That is where therapeutic parenting comes in.

Therapeutic parenting, which I also refer to as reparative parenting or connected parenting, focuses on developing this missing security in a relationship after the ideal time for that to be developed.  Think about it like learning a language.  When we are in the early readiness period for learning a language, we soak it in without effort.  We learn it in a traditional manner, from our parents in the natural communications of day to day life.  However, if you are in a situation where you need to learn a new language after that readiness period you would have to use other more intentional methods.  It is the same with learning the language of security in relationships after the readiness period and after learning a different relationship language based on fear and insecurity.  This intentional method of teaching security is what we refer to as therapeutic parenting.

Therapeutic parenting is a brain-based model which works with how the brain functions and processes information, experiences and relationships.  In doing so we can intentionally rewire how the brain processes interactions, resolve the fear-based patters and replace them with security-based patterns.  A fear-based brain produces chaos and survival behaviors while a security-based brain produces peace and growth-based behaviors.  So, our overall goal is to get hurt kids out of fear-based survival mode and into a security-based growth mode.  When we do this, kids heal, develop new patterns of interactions and their behaviors improve.  The problem with using traditional parenting with kids who need therapeutic parenting is that it focuses on the behaviors as if the underlying security was there.  When it is not, those behavior based interventions trigger fear and send the child into chaos and survival mode.

You Don’t Have to Become a Psychologist to Help Your Hurt Kids

You Don’t Have to Become a Psychologist to Help Your Hurt Kids