Specialist Parenting Support
Adoptive children are likely to have experienced the loss of significant relationships and many have also been abused, hence have experienced trauma, which is often unquantifiable within file records. It is likely that children lived in an unsafe, sometimes dangerous, environment where they experienced fear and anxiety rather than feeling safe, protected and comforted.
Trauma happens in relationships, so it can only be healed in relationships
Adoptive parents’ own life scripts can also have an influence on how they respond to the child’s trauma and extreme behaviours and many suffer from secondary trauma i.e. the child’s experience will trigger unhealthy responses which are rooted in parents’ own past e.g. being rejected, not being heard or seen in their own family, infertility as loss and recurrent dashed hopes, a ‘never good enough’ script, fear of failure, a wish to rescue the vulnerable child.
I think of all these scripts, experiences and beliefs as ‘narratives” which shape and are shaped by new experiences and attachments. The way adoptive parents make sense of themselves as parents and carers through particular ‘self-narratives’ or ‘family scripts’ is crucially important in defining their identity and role and in gaining a sense of competence and confidence in their parenting. This might also relate to their own upbringing and how they are trying to replicate or change their ‘parenting scripts’ in relation to their own parents.
The key aim of Parenting Scripts work is to explore some key features of the parent-child relationship e.g. safety, emotional warmth, boundaries, communication, protection, comforting, by making links between the past (with their own parents) and the present (with their adoptive children).
Therefore, adoptive children’s behavioral and emotional development present many challenges to adoptive parents. They can be extremely controlling, anxious and becoming abusive, aggressive and violent. (Non-violent Resistance).
The key to address emotional pain and multiple losses is to provide a nurturing context where children begin to feel safe and build positive attachments within the adoptive family in spite of their early experiences. In fact, new relationships and attachments present great challenges as well as opportunities for adoptive parents and children. A different kind of parenting may be required to focus more on relationship building rather than behavioural management using a more therapeutic approach (Therapeutic parenting).
NVR (nonviolent resistance)
NVR is an innovative and specialized family therapy approach to address child to parent violence and other abusive behaviours and to improve family relationships. It originated in Israel by Prof. Haim Omer in Israel and there is increasing research evidence of its effectiveness in UK.
Child to parent violence and other abusive, self-destructive and controlling behaviours are a feature of the interaction between adoptive children and their parents and a regular occurrence in cases of placement breakdown as highlighted in the most recent research (Selwyn et al., 2014). This was highlighted in a pilot project I have delivered using the NVR approach with some adoptive families in East Sussex.
The success of the NVR intervention lies not only in a robust family support network but an equally robust professional support network to reinforce zero tolerance of violence and abuse and promote collaborative practice and corporate risk management.
Therapeutic parenting is rooted in some key principles (PACE) i.e. Playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy developed by Dan Hughes specifically in looking after foster and adoptive children who struggles to trust adults and receive love and care because of their early attachment trauma.
As comfortable as I was with my adoption, the nature-versus-nurture question has been a big one for me. I adore my parents, but I always wondered if I would feel a different kind of love - not more or less, just different - for someone who was biologically related