What is therapeutic parenting? It is a style of parenting in which children and teens to interact with an experienced professional to enhance the emotional strengths and skills of the child as well as the parents. This can involve counseling, psychotherapy, behavior modification or parenting classes. The goal of therapeutic parenting is to enhance parenting skills, increase self-esteem and decrease conflict within families.
During the process of therapeutic parenting, children learn how to express themselves more constructively and how to deal with stressors such as peer pressure. When parents work together as a team, they also build trust and set realistic goals for their children. Additionally, parents help to make sure that children feel safe and supported during these trying times in their childhood. By building strong relationships within families, caregivers gain the confidence that their children will be safe and will be able to function appropriately during difficult times.
Therapy often involves the family working closely with a trained professional who has experience working with children with developmental disabilities or from traumatic backgrounds. The parent is usually the one who brings up the issue of childhood trauma and works with the professional on interventions that are appropriate for the specific child. Many children have experience emotional or physical abuse while growing up and while many of these children might not experience the same emotional trauma in subsequent adulthood, some may. When children are faced with the possibility of having an emotional or physical trauma as a child, they can easily experience symptoms related to this trauma in their adult lives.
For example, one component of therapeutic parenting involves working with the child’s caregiver to help them deal with their grief after the death of the primary caregiver. Grief therapy usually takes the form of individual sessions where the parents and child to participate in group sessions to discuss their experiences and how they managed to heal. In this way, the adult learns how to manage their grief after the loss of the primary caregiver and uses this experience to help them process their grief in a healthy way. This helps parents and children both deal with their different reactions to the trauma and help the parents learn how to best support their children.
Another component of what is therapeutic parenting involves working with an elder at (or as my clients call her ‘granny’) regarding their unique needs. Elder natp’s often have been removed from the family or from the organization that raised them, leaving behind a history of abuse, neglect, or trauma. Even though the elder may appear to be fine now, it is important to recognize any changes in the natp’s behavior. A natp may not be displaying the classic signs of trauma (for example, crying or speaking in a foreign language) but if the natp is exhibiting any of the elder symptoms described in this article, it is important to get the help the elder needs immediately. An elder natp is not likely to engage in further trauma-related behaviors unless they are truly frightened by what is happening to them.
A third concept in what is therapeutic parenting relates to the role of affection and support. Many of the individuals who have experienced abuse or neglect as a child find it very difficult to let go of those feelings and to let go of those caregivers who caused these feelings. Helping such individuals let go of the past and move forward helps parents as well as children. Applying loving support when the individual has a setback, letting them know that they are not alone in struggling and that others also suffer from similar experiences, helps parents and children cope with their emotions more effectively. It also helps the individual to connect past hurts to present frustrations so that they do not keep repeating their past disappointments.
The work of therapists and parents toward what is therapeutic parenting can be complex and controversial. Different schools of thought exist, but there are several common elements of therapeutic parenting that many therapists and parents agree on. These include the value of accepting that children can and do suffer both during childhood and later in life; that children, through their relationship with their parents, learn to become strong, self-reliant adults; that parents play an important role in helping their children to grow and develop in healthy ways; and that a good parent can inadvertently create a child who suffers from childhood trauma.
Although these are some of the broad theories on what is therapeutic parenting, it is not yet clear how these theories can be tested. In a study by JoAnn Simmons and Carol D Terry, therapists describe a child who was severely abused when she was five years old. The child was able to manage her feelings of shame and pain, but she was not able to feel safe in her own body or with her friends. The therapists found that when she was ten years old she was able to heal from the trauma, but at that point she was still not able to trust others or feel safe. This is a common example of how early trauma can impact a child’s adulthood.