Parenting post-adoption can bring with it special challenges that often aren’t addressed by typical parenting support resources because, most likely, the child you have welcomed into your heart has experienced trauma and has had to learn to cope with the circumstances which led to disruption of his or her biological family. As such, your child will likely display behaviors that don’t make sense to you. The truth is, if your child has already experienced separation, this trauma alone will impact your relationship with your child. Your child may not respond to your loving attempts to nurturing in the way you would expect. Your child may have tantrums or respond intensely without warning. You may believe you are making progress toward trust, only to find that your child suddenly withdraws from you in fear. These behaviors and others are normal responses for a traumatized child. At The Center for Healthy Relationships, we are committed to equipping you with the knowledge and tools you need to increase the likelihood that your child will heal in your love.
It’s hard enough to successfully raise a normally developing child into an emotionally secure, socially responsible, active participant in society. That process can be complicated for the adopted child. When nurturing a child who has had an adoptive journey to your forever family, normal development is often impacted by trauma, uncertainty, loss of hope, broken promises and broken trust.
Our Special Needs Parenting Groups offers hope and support by addressing the following concerns within a 16-week format:
➤ Trauma and the Developing Brain: A child who has experienced trauma has a brain that works differently that a child who has had a nurturing, connected relationship with a parent from birth. Depending upon the age when trauma occurred, your child will respond differently to you and to his or her new surroundings. A child who did not have the typical safe, face-to-face mirroring of facial expressions, cooing and play as an infant may have difficulty connecting with you, maintaining safe distance from strangers and modulating emotions. A child who received neglectful or abusive behaviors during infancy and young childhood may reject your attempts to cuddle or soothe. Older children may have patterns reflective of never having been able to trust their basic well-being to another person. They may hoard food, lie or steal. They may act like they distrust you even though you haven’t given them any reason to feel threatened. They may repeatedly defy your trust in an effort to prove they are unloveable (as they have concluded based on past experience).
To deal with these behaviors and similar behaviors that don’t make sense to you, you’ll need to reflect back on your child’s pre-adoption history. We’ll help you combine what you know of your child’s history with up-to-date information about the effects of traumatic experiences on the brain. The good news is that the brain can heal. If you are committed to supporting your child’s healing, chances are good that you can provide a protective, corrective nurturing experience. Even in those situations where a child’s pre-existing mental condition(s) may prevent complete recovery, you can feel confident that there is a way to provide your child with the best chance of functioning at his or her highest capacity.
➤ Your Child’s Basic Needs: At The Center for Healthy Relationships, we teach a system that supports a clear understanding of basic human needs as they apply to being able to thrive within the context of human relationships. Your child came to your arms following a history of unmet needs sufficient for the local government to determine that your child required a new home and family. It is a parent’s job to teach their child socially appropriate ways to get their needs met. In the case of a child whose needs have not been met, you will be confronted with unwanted behaviors that your child has used to effectively get what he or she needed. Your child is unlikely to let go of these strategies easily because he or she has come to understand the world as an unsafe place where getting something you need is never guaranteed! We are prepared to help you understand your child’s needs as they would be present in a typically developing child as well as how to teach your child to expect that he or she can get his or her needs met through socially appropriate means. This requires a bit of detective work, patience and repetition, but is well-worth it when you are able to see your child learn to relax and begin to trust.
➤Giving Effective Commands, Specific Praise and Loving Correction
With a child who has experienced trauma, these aspects of nurturing parenting may have been completely absent. Because of this, it is imperative that when you give your child a command and offer praise or correction, you do so keeping the child’s sense of emotional and physical safety in mind. Remember, it is not your intention, but the child’s perception that will determine his or her responses to your attempts at parenting.
In reality, there are only 3 types of behaviors your child will display: 1) Those behaviors you like and want to see more of, 2) Those behaviors you don’t like, but can tolerate and 3) Those behaviors you cannot tolerate. (This type of behavior always includes those behaviors that involve threats to safety of your child, others or damage to property.) We are prepared to help you understand each type of behavior, recognize how each behavior may be impacted by your child’s history, increase the frequency of those behaviors you want to see more of and eliminate or reduce unwanted behaviors. It is our job as parents to teach our children socially appropriate ways to get their needs met so they can grow up knowing how to negotiate for what they need responsibly while increasing their ability to develop their own healthy relationships in the future. Your new child will have some resistance to learning a new, healthier way of interacting and negotiating needs, but when you are equipped with the right information and provide structure, love, and patience, your child can learn and heal with your direction.
➤ Your Child’s Identity: Identity development is a normal childhood task that is impacted by trauma. No matter how angry you get when you think of the mistreatment your child received on his or her journey to your arms, it is imperative to remember that your child’s sense of self is impacted by the reality that his or her birth parents hold real estate within your child’s psyche. Regardless of how they treated your child, your child still loves, misses and identifies with his or her birthparents. Any negative or positive messages you give about your child’s past will register for your child as your judgment (positive or negative) of your child. This aspect of helping you develop a positive identity within your child is included in our group curriculum. We will help you explore the best ways to talk to your child in order to support a positive self-concept. [New paragraph] Another important part of helping your child develop a positive self-concept is preparing yourself to help your child grieve. No matter how good you are at providing a nurturing, safe, loving environment – and sometimes because of your nurturing – you child is going to have periods of grief for the life he or she lost. Open communication and a good understanding of why your child is sad can help you and your child deal effectively with this loss and develop a healthy self-concept. We will talk about grief and within context of the various stages of development your child will grow through.
➤ Parental stress, Communication and Self-Care: Raising a child who has experienced trauma can be challenging. You will have times that feel very stressful. All children have an uncanny way of finding their parents’ “buttons” and pushing them, and you can bet that your new family member will be better than most at finding yours!
Any effective parent support program should address how you are personally impacted by your child’s behavior. In fact, every child will, at some time or other, provide you with a mirror of your younger self. During these moments, you may find yourself responding to your child in ways that don’t necessarily fit with your values system. You may find yourself yelling or scolding, ignoring or challenging in ways that you would never choose under other circumstances. This is a normal part of the growth process that every parent experiences. Depending on the unique combination of characteristics between you and your child, this process can be intensified because your child has been through loss, grief, the build up of hope and more loss. We will help you understand how to interpret your own trauma history through the lens of effective parenting strategies to help you understand why you have a particular ineffective response to your child and how you can shift your responses to be more in line with your ideal values as a parent.
We will teach you how to recognize when your stress is building too high, when to take a break, how to communicate about difficult responses your child brings up in you and how to take care of yourself while you love and care for your child.
Our Special Needs Parenting groups are held in 16-week, closed sessions and are limited to 10 to 15 participants, each of whom has been pre-screened to ensure the group will be a good fit and appropriate to each family’s needs. The fee is $50 per group session ($800 for the entire group series). A 50% deposit is required at your intake interview as well as a $75 processing fee once your participation is determined to be potentially beneficial to you. The balance is required at the first session. The fee for the series is non-refundable.
The Center for Healthy Relationships
350 S Lake Ave suite 201, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA