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Therapeutic parenting is parenting in a highly structured, highly nurturing way. It provides firm boundaries tempered with empathy and compassion; it means not taking your child’s behavior personally, but understanding the behavior’s root causes. This form of intensive parenting is often a key to progress in dealing with children who have trauma and attachment challenges.

Therapeutic parenting in action can look very different for each family and each situation, and is often counter cultural. This approach can sometimes look, to an outsider, like too much leniency or overly firm boundaries.  Therapeutic parenting could mean the parent calmly offering food to a child who has just hurt someone or acted disrespectfully, because the parent suspects he is hungry.

Therapeutic parenting is characterized by routine and consistency, acceptance and containment whilst also promoting a focus on the critical emotional aspects of the carer-child relationship, offering love, nurturance, security and belonging (Mitchell, 2008). The approach seeks to assist children to challenge their negative internal working models of the relationships and thus open space for children to begin to experience relationships and their world differently.  Carers must be attuned to the motivations for children’s behavior and seek to respond to these (Wilson, 2006).

sdaThe primary purpose of therapeutic parenting is for carers to provide the secure base that has most often been denied them by their birth parents (Fisher et al, 2006; Schofield and Beek, 2005).

Parenting children with histories of abuse and neglect requires sensitive care giving. The more carers understand about the impact of abuse and neglect on children, the more likely they are to offer nurturing care (Howe, 2009).

This technique is designed to help parents of children who have disorders of attachment learn to parent their children effectively. By “effectively” it means in a manner that:

  • helps children to heal from the trauma or maltreatment they experienced early in life from relationships with primary caregivers
  • helps children form secure attachments with their current primary caregiver, providing the foundation of trust that is necessary for successful relationships in all aspects of their lives
  • helps the children learn the skills they need to be successful in life

Therapeutic Parenting works with the child’s developmental stage, as well as their chronological age. A feature of the work in providing a child with recovery is the child’s regression.

Therapeutic Parenting uses the concepts of Transference and Counter transference to reflect on the dynamics between the child and Key Carer that may include rejection, anger and resentment expressed by the child on a daily basis.

Maryam Riaz
Clinical Psychologist
Willing Ways, Islamabad

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