“How we feel about our kids is not as important as how they experience those feelings and how they regard the way we treat them. Our main question shouldn’t be, “How do I get my child to do what I say?” but “What does my child need- and how can I meet those needs?” Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting
As with any worthwhile and creative endeavor, parenting is a rich experience. It brings joy, inspiration, intensity, absorption, self-expression, and a world of meaning. It also brings frustration, irritation, fear, helplessness, issues of control (and loss of control) and questions about one’s ability to be “good enough” for the ones you love. With a focus on performance, both our own and our children’s, we can lose sight of the relationship, i.e. of truly knowing, accepting, and enjoying our children for who they are.
I believe that compassion is the starting point. In therapy, I seek to understand the perspectives of all family members. Once I have a good understanding, I return to the parents, where I focus upon strengthening their understanding and care for themselves. They, in turn, can then focus upon understanding and caring for their children.
In my experience, both children and parents are doing the best that they can with what they know. Once safety is established, compassion reduces stress. It allows parents to approach situations with curiosity and interest about themselves and their children vs. the need to control or manage outcomes. A compassionate approach allows parents to collaborate, to teach their children how to problem-solve while taking-in multiple perspectives. Parents can retain their role as a resource! This is very important, especially in later years, when adolescents are testing their independence and considering multiple options (all of which have higher risk).
Clearly, parenting is an enormous learning opportunity. We come into our roles with our own histories of wanting to emulate the positives of our past and avoid/improve upon the lacks we once experienced. And in spite of our good intentions, we can find ourselves limited relative to our children’s needs. As much as they may resemble us, our children are not us. And as adoptive parents, we may be contending with an additional challenge, the child’s previous attachment history. Aware of these challenges, we are then given opportunities to grow in ways that help all of us develop fully.
Let the learning begin! I approach parenting from a background in attachment theory (the qualities of safe and trusting relationships), education, child and adolescent development, trauma and human responses to stress, mindfulness, collaborative problem-solving, and behavioral vs. relational approaches to parenting.
I can help you in the following ways:
• Assessing current strengths and vulnerabilities from wellness, cultural, and developmental models
• Compassionate parenting to help you tune-in to yourself and attune empathically to your child
• Identifying triggers to negative responses and developing safe alternatives
• Increasing teamwork for parents who find themselves polarized into “good-cop”/”bad-cop” roles
• Collaborative Problem-Solving to help parents and children think through problems and develop creative, win-win solutions (vs. using power and control or anger and explosiveness to secure outcomes)
• Collaborative Treatment Planning with professional colleagues (i.e . physicians, teachers, coaches, etc.) to enhance success at school and in extra-curricular activities
• Assessment and treatment of any emerging conditions (i.e. depression, anxiety, past trauma, bipolar disorder)
• Attachment skills for parents who want to improve upon their own parenting, and enhance their attachments with their children
• Abuse-Specific models to help you intervene with abusive behaviors during times of stress (i.e. substance abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, destruction of property)
• Risk Management/Safety Planning to increase safe choices and resources when under stress at home or in the community
• Interventions at home and at school for children/adolescents with learning disorders and/or rigid cognitive styles (i.e. difficulty with new information, changes in plans, transitions, etc.)
• Gender-specific treatment
• Family Therapy to increase communication, playfulness, and joy