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When Your Child Pushes You Away

When most children get hurt or become afraid, they go to a parent. After all, parents are the ones who protect children and keep them safe from danger. They are the ones who comfort children when they are afraid. For these children it’s a simple equation: mom and dad are safe and I can trust them to help me so I will go to them.

But things aren’t always that simple for children with histories of early harm such as trauma, abuse, neglect, or relinquishment. Their life experiences impact them in any number of important ways, often making them prone to prolonged states of fear and a limited ability to trust. Instead of going to their parents for help or comfort, these children often run from them, push them away, or shut them out.

Becoming a Band-Aid Dad

Recently I came across an Adoptive Families Magazine article entitled Band-Aid Mom. In the article, Wendy Flemons, an adoptive mom, asks this important question – “Can a Band-Aid do more than heal a physical wound?” As simple as it may seem, this is a profoundly important question and one that adoptive dads should be equally interested in answering.

Flemons explains in the article her initial aversion to Band-Aids given the tendency of many kids to over-rely on the simple first aid supply that lacks any real inherent healing characteristics. I can relate. However, as I continue to learn more about the important and complex subject of attachment, I have discovered that Band-Aids are actually a highly relevant tool – literally and metaphorically – for adoptive and foster parents as they seek to help their children heal from the effects of their past. Writing about the experience with her 10 year old daughter who they adopted less than a year ago from Ethiopia, Flemons noted that she had learned two important things: “Children have pain beyond what we can see, and Band-Aids are not just physical objects.”

Total Voice Control: Focusing on How You Say What You Say

Possibly one of the most practical and useful tools Dr. Karyn Purvis teaches parents is what she calls “Total Voice Control.” This tool equips parents to focus on how they use their own voice when interacting with their child.

Watch as Michael Monroe talks about how parents can use this tool to focus on how they say what they say, and as a result more effectively promote connection and understanding between themselves and their child.

The Impact of Fear

Fear is very real in the lives of children from hard places. In fact, fear often ‘bullies’ our children into much of their misbehavior. As a result, it is critical that parents of children from hard places approach fear and fear-driven behaviors with compassion, insight and wisdom. Watch as Dr. Purvis explains the impact of fear and how parents can begin to help their children learn to trust and let go of fear.

Starting at the Beginning for Your Child

Researchers have documented the profound and lasting effects that early care or the lack thereof have on the development of trust (“I am safe”), self-worth (“I am precious”) and self-efficacy (“I am heard”). In addition, developmental researchers widely acknowledge that the formative early days dramatically influence attachment relationships and also have dramatic and lasting effects on brain development and brain chemistry. Tragically, many of the children that we love and serve came into an unwelcoming world and started life amidst very difficult circumstances. These heartbreaking early harms and losses often hold our children back from developing in healthy or optimal ways and too often prevent them from developing trust and understanding just how precious they truly are.

Keys to an Effective Time-In With Your Child

Time-in (as opposed to time-out) is an important strategy to help parents learn to “connect while correcting” with their children.

When using the time-in strategy it’s critical to remember that time-in is not intended to punish your child. Instead, time-in is designed to help your child calm and regulate so that he can express his needs (or wants) appropriately. Also, be sure not to jump the gun and resort to time-in when another, lower level strategy (such as playful engagement or choices) might address the behavior more effectively.

But there are times when a time-in is precisely the strategy that is called for. So here are eight keys to help you implement an effective time-in with your child.

Fostering Healthy Independence

Parents often encourage or even push their child to be independent. However, for children from hard places becoming independent can be a real challenge, primarily because these children have not developed trust and may not have had their dependency needs met consistently by an insightful, attuned and available caregiver.

Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis talks about authentic and healthy independence and how parents can best foster this with their child.