If you become a foster carer with Break, or are currently researching whether joining our team is right for you, you’ll often hear the words ‘therapeutic parenting’. We feel very passionately about supporting our carers to parent therapeutically, as we know this highly empathic, nurturing and trauma-informed approach can help children begin to feel they are loved unconditionally.
The children and young people who are fostered by Break have had a difficult and troubling start to life. They are likely to have experienced trauma and neglect and can often feel worthless, unloved and undeserving. This means trusting and forming attachments with adults can be really hard.
Therapeutic parenting describes a style of care designed to support a child or young person in developing feelings of safety and connectedness. Rather than managing behaviour, therapeutic parenting sees behaviour as a form of communication.
The approach is based on neuroscience. Through being nuturing and empathic as well as providing consistent, firm and fair boundaries and predictable routines, the brain can begin to form new neural pathways. These new pathways allow children, in time, to rebuild their trust in adults.
One of our foster carers told us:
“It’s a completely different mindset and can feel as if you’re almost always doing the opposite of what you think you should be doing as a parent. But because of what they’ve experienced in the first few years of their life, development milestones are not met in the same way as a child that hasn’t come from that background and this can come out in all sorts of challenging behaviours. For example, when your foster child has a meltdown and they’ve called you everything under the sun, your response is not ‘Go to your room,’ it should be, ‘I can see you’re struggling, do you need a hug?’. These children are expecting adults to shout at them, to hurt them, to take things away from them but you’re reacting differently and saying you’re still deserving of love no matter what you do. It’s letting the young person learn by their mistakes and allowing them to make choices. It can be hard sometimes, and it can take a long time, but it does work.”
If therapeutic parenting isn’t something that you’ve practiced before, we offer a reflective space to think about children and young people through a trauma and attachment lens. As well as comprehensive training, this space could look like one to on sessions with a therapeutic parenting practitioner, monthly supervision with your Supervising Social Worker and tailored programs of support. We also facilitate a monthly support group for Break’s foster carers to offer peer support, sharing experiences of fostering.
It is critically important that care is centred on each child. Care isn't one size fits all, and should adapt to meet the child or young person wherever they are emotionally. Although we expect that you will take the time to learn more about therapeutic parenting and how to use it in your role, you won't be alone. We will work with you one-to-one to talk about different techniques and practices that might help the specific child or young person in your care.
Together we can develop a home environment where children and young people feel safe, have a place within a family and know it's okay to be who they need to be and make mistakes along the way.
If you have any questions about therapeutic parenting or are in need of more examples or guidance, we are always very happy to answer questions and explain it more in detail, some of our foster carers have talked about therapeutic parenting when they’ve shared their own experiences which you can find here.