CHILD & FAMILY THERAPY
Below are some articles that may provide caregivers some information and strategies on particular topics they may be struggling with. Please check back on this page from time to time as new articles will be posted regularly. If you would like more information on a topic that is not listed, please send me an email so I can provide you with this information in a future article. To view any of these articles, click one of the links below.
Four tips to Positive Parent-Child Interactions
A child’s development: physical, cognitive, social, and emotional, is led by how her attachment needs are being met. Attachment is at the core of human relationships and is what matters to children to be able to survive, to explore their world, and to eventually gather enough confidence to become independent. If attachment needs are being met appropriately, a child will seek proximity and closeness with his/her attachment figure and feel safe to explore his/her surroundings knowing that a care-giver is close-by if the an emotional check-up is needed. The following 4 positive parent-child interactions are strategies for a parent to foster a healthy and secure attachment with their child.
1. Make the parent-child relationship priority.
Children need to know that they matter to their parents, which is learnt by observing their parent’s actions and by what appears to take priority in the moment. Strategies to show the child that his/her relationship is a priority include: taking a few moments after returning from work/school to reconnect with the child in whatever way the child indicates is needed, only making promises to the child that a parent is able to follow through on, and when the moment does not allow for making the child priority, providing a concrete time-frame to the child for when the parent can make him/her priority and get back to the child within this time-frame.
2. Set weekly parent-child dates.
Weekly parent-child dates allow the parent to spend regular scheduled one-on-one time with the child. This time allows for an emotional check-up and reconnection of the parent-child relationship. This time should be child-led where the child chooses the activity and the parent meets the child where he/she is at.
3. Provide positive reinforcement.
In this strategy, the parent “catches” their child being “good” or doing something well and comments on it to the child. If a child attempts an activity but is not able to complete it to the parent’s satisfaction, the child’s effort should be positively reinforced. The positive feedback to the child should be provided immediately after the behaviour and should include specific information to the child for what he/she did. Communication regarding a child’s behaviour often seems to centre around what the child is not supposed to do, what they did wrong, or were not able to accomplish. However, it is also very important for the child to know what he/she did right and what he/she did well. Providing positive reinforcement to a child will also increase the frequency of the child performing that behaviour again. This strategy not only fosters a healthy attachment between parent and child but also enhances the child’s self-esteem and confidence.
4. Preserve proximity to your child while away from her.
A final strategy to increase positive parent-child interactions and to foster a healthy secure attachment is for parents to help their children feel close to them even during times of separation. This strategy can be done for example by parents sending notes with the child to let the child know they are thinking of them, or by phoning the child when the parent is at work to see how the child is doing. Small check-ins by the parent to see how the child is doing reminds the child of his/her importance to the parent and is a quick emotional reconnection in an otherwise busy and disconnected day.
While children are naturally inclined to seek a healthy and secure attachment with their parent it is the parent’s responsibility to continually foster this relationship. A parent’s role in a child’s life is like a gardener nurturing flowers, the work is never complete it just shifts as developmental needs change. These strategies for positive interactions may be used for a child in any stage of development to care for the secure attachment that children seek from their parents.
© Coyright Sabrina Ragan M.Sc, CCC, CPT, RPsych
Understanding Our Adolescent’s Struggles
What could be heavier and more impenetrable than a rock, the densest of all forms? And yet some rocks undergo a change in their molecular structure, turn into crystals, and so become transparent to the light.
~ Eckhart Tolle
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term that captures various conditions of lifelong birth defects resulting from the mother’s consumptions of alcohol during pregnancy. One of the medical diagnoses echoed by FASD is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Although there is no known cure for FASD, individuals impacted by it are not imprisoned by the disability. The depth, affect, and overall grip that the disorder can have on those inflicted by it vary depending on the vibrant interaction between one’s own nature and nurture.
Whether you are an individual impacted by FASD, a loved one, a community professional, or a student of life, strive to encounter the humanness that is within FASD, rather than exclusively seeing the labels or characteristics of it. One such characteristic of FASD is that of brain damage, which can be apparent in areas of intellectual disability and behavioural problems. Although factually correct, what does this actually mean? And what impact does this have on an individual’s ability to self-regulate his or her state of being?
Things that may seem obvious are not always true, and things that may seem true are not always obvious. Emotions, for example, is a word that is frequently used as a means to relate, distance, understand, describe, and/or uncover the various layers of our own experience(s). Though most of us can admit to having them, how many of us can actually define the experience itself? Relating this idea back to the brain, just because it has the ability to do something, it does not directly imply that we know why it does certain things when certain things unfold. In other words, the how of its workings is not entirely known or understood. People can be consciously aware of their thoughts, emotions, and/or actions or be completely unconscious to them.
Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist and author of The Emotional Brain, writes how the brain itself has no actual function, but it is rather a collection of systems engaged in various functions. Not all of the brain’s workings, however, are located above the neck. In her book Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert reflects on her scientific research to illustrate how our inner chemicals, our in-house manufacturing plants of neuropeptides and their receptors, “are the actual biological underpinnings of our awareness, manifesting themselves as our emotions, beliefs, and expectations, and profoundly influencing how we respond to and experience our world” (pg. 9). Our brain network, therefore, is more mobile than once believed. This is a beautiful insight that touches the depth of our molecular being.
Given the assortment of networks located within our brain structure, and the constant movement, rhythmic dancing, and vibratory manners of our information molecules, it is safe to say that our biological constitution, our nature, is not preprogrammed, but influenced by the musical tone of our environment, our nurture. Regardless of our constitution, our destiny is not prearranged. Even the densest of all forms can change their molecular structure, and in turn, their relationship to life. An individual impacted by FASD can change his or her life situation. The journey is not about choosing a certain path, but to become more aware of the current path traveled, and from there, take the next step.
Below is a list of possible ideas that can help support children impacted by FASD. The list is inspired by Diane McGregor.
2. Not everything the child does is the result of FASD. FASD is not who he or she is; it’s not an identity. FASD is an impact, something that the child can give a voice to.
3. Engage the child from where he or she is at by addressing the current developmental need(s). Learning new skills may take longer, which means that repetition, consistency, and voicing your acceptance are important ingredients for cultivating the relationship.
Creativity and play are great openings for showcasing your support and understanding.
Modify your environment in a way that allows the child to feel comfortable – be aware of the child’s current sensory ability and the sensory stimulation of the environment. Do they match?
4. Provide verbal and nonverbal cues.
5. Give the child permission to be himself or herself. It is okay for them to make mistakes – not all mistakes are the result of FASD. To be human is to be imperfect; thus, mistakes are a validation of our humanness.
6. Express acceptance towards setbacks. Remember, it is not the finish line that is important, but the journey. Setbacks happen to everyone. Take advantage of them by using them as guides for the journey.
7. If the child could do better, he or she would. Similar to learning academic skills, developmental skills is a learning process that takes time. Be patient with yourself and with the child. Although stimulating learning and problem-solving skills is important, trust in the natural process of learning and the organic nature of your relationship. Without an authentic relationship, the foundation set for learning is built on a sandy ground.
~ Tudor Caliman
Eckhart, T. (2005). A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpos. New York: Plume.
LeDoux, J. (1996). The Emotional Brain: The Mysteries Underpinnings of Emotional Life. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc.
McGregor, D., (2010). Understanding and Supporting Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. McGregor Counselling and Consulting Services.
Pert, B., C. (1997). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. New York: Scribner.
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