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I’m hugely excited this week to be sharing an absolutely brilliant book with you. The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting (Sarah Naish) was released a few weeks ago, and I have to tell you that it’s already revolutionising my parenting.
Wait…rewind a few steps…what’s therapeutic parenting?
It’s a style of parenting favoured by many adoptive or fostering parents – but with numerous benefits to birth parents too. Some may think it sounds a bit wishy-washy, as if you’re allowing your children to run amok with no boundaries, but the reality is pretty much the opposite.
Therapeutic parenting provides very clear and consistent boundaries for children (particularly important if these have been lacking in their early childhood), but it looks beyond the immediate, presenting behaviour to see the emotions being expressed and what they tell us about what a child might be struggling with. (Check out 5 Ways My Toddlers are Different from Yours for some idea of how an adopted child might behave.)
Children who have not been loved, nurtured and cared for in the first few years of life may well have difficulties in responding to people or situations, due to brain pathways not developing as they should. These difficulties can include: little understanding of cause-and-effect (the consequences of their actions), an overactive stress response, and struggles with daily transitions, to name but a few. (Check out the Four Types of Attachment Styles for more on this.)
It is! And that’s where The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting comes in. The first part of the book gives a really helpful and practical guide to therapeutic parenting – what it is, why it’s necessary for vulnerable children, how it works in practice. And this is compacted into 70 odd pages.
It might sound like a lot, but whole books have been written on this subject – so Sarah Naish’s helpful analysis is very concise and readable, broken down into several chapters.
OK – but that all sounds a bit theoretical.
That’s where part two comes in!
The bulk of this book is given over to its title – an ‘A-Z’ of over sixty behaviours commonly presented by children, with clear bullet-pointed lists of what the behaviour looks like, why it might be happening, strategies you can use during and after the incident, and preventative strategies you can put in place to reduce, or eliminate, the behaviour in the future.
Pretty much everything you can think of is included, from shouting to sleep issues, disorganisation to dummies, hypochondria to homework.
We adopted our boys over two years ago and I’ll be honest with you: the first two years were simply about keeping head above water. Now that I’m out of the initial haze, I’ve had time to read more deeply and widely about trauma, attachment and parenting.
But in those early days? This book would have been SO HELPFUL. You can literally just look up the behaviour your child is struggling with, read a couple of pages, and be armed with so many ideas for how to prevent and deal with it.
For example, two issues we’re constantly up against in our household are aggression and controlling behaviour. Both of these are included in this book, and both of the articles gave me strategies I could start using straight away, with further ideas to think about long-term.
If you’re in the early days of adoption or fostering, with little time to read lengthy and technical books, but need something quick which will actually help you, this is the one. It would also make a fabulous adoption shower gift.
Quite simply, this is THE most practical and helpful book on parenting that I’ve seen!
Sounds good! What a shame only adoptive and fostering families can make use of it.
Did I say that?!
Whilst therapeutic parenting is a fabulous (and, in my opinion, the only workable) way to parent vulnerable children, the approach does no harm to other children – and, in fact, will usually help them too!
Many birth children will have suffered trauma in their early lives too (a complicated birth, bereavement of someone close to them, an absent parent or parental relationship breakdown, etc.), and may well be presenting the behaviours listed in this book.
And, even for children who have led un-traumatised lives, these behaviours will sound familiar! I have two birth children who fall into this category, but they still present difficult behaviours, and I know that many of the strategies Sarah Naish outlines in this book will really help them (and me) too.
So this book is good for all parents – great! But who is this Sarah Naish woman? Bet she doesn’t actually have any kids, right?
Sarah Naish has an incredibly inspiring background which involves a career in social work, followed by adopting five siblings, followed by her husband suffering from compassion fatigue and walking out, followed by a few years of single-handedly parenting these five damaged and wounded children. (Yep, you read that right. FIVE. On her own. Geez. I have huge respect for any single parent.)
She eventually got re-married (to an impossibly-awesome-sounding guy!), and her children are now grown up. Sarah now works with hundreds of families to support them in their parenting journeys, through the National Association of Therapeutic Parents, which she set up, and the Inspire Training Group, which delivers training on attachment issues. She’s written several books.
I think the girl probably knows what she’s talking about.
OK, you win. I’ll bet she’s a bit patronising, though, with all that experience.
No! That’s another fab thing about this book: it didn’t make me feel rubbish about my own (often inadequate) parenting. Sarah understands that we’re human, that we don’t always act as we’d like to. She’s a great believer in new starts, in picking ourselves up after something’s gone wrong, and having another go. I loved her forgiving and encouraging tone.
Sounds brilliant! How does one get hold of a copy?
It’s available from all good booksellers – cheapest price at time of writing is right here, at Blackwell’s.
And why not check out The Mermaid Who Couldn’t, a book aimed at adopted children?