All of the above strategies have one thing in common: they stem from a belief that traumatised children may need a different type of parenting than is required to parent non-traumatised children. This different parenting approach is embedded in the work we do at Adapt (Scotland). This, in turn, stems from our belief in the principles espoused by proponents of ‘developmental re-parenting’ (Archer and Gordon 2013; Golding and Hughes 2012).
These principles are captured in the mnemonic P(L) ACE; i.e. that parents need to come from a place of love by parenting their children in a playful, accepting and empathetic way. The ‘C’, reflecting the need for curiosity and understanding of the reasons why the child is struggling, means remembering the child’s history and the way the messages they received within abusive and neglectful households have become encoded in their way of understanding themselves, their parents and the world around them.
We must remember that the strategies suggested above may not come naturally to parents who have been raised in families who espouse more ‘traditional’ forms of parenting. Parents may need to practice ways of parenting that might seem counter-intuitive and which may not be understood by family and friends; it takes time and commitment to develop the ‘mind-set’ of developmental re-parenting. Just as we fell off our bicycles several times before we learned to cycle, ‘mistakes’ are an inevitable part of the process and should be seen as a learning tool. Professionals need to recognise this and support parents on their journey towards creating a safe, calm and aggression free family where children are supported in repairing from the early traumas that blighted their early months and years. Professionals also need to convey the message that no parent is perfect and that, while practising new ways of interacting, parents are likely to make ‘mistakes’. We can all have a ‘bad hair day’.
Although crime in Scotland is falling it is estimated that around 3% of adults in Scotland were a victim of violent crime in 2012-13 (www.gov.scot). Supporting the families who are caring for children who could become the next perpetrators of violent crime will not only lead to a happier and healthier family life for those families, but also potentially for a safer society at large.