Sat nav was programmed and we set off to attend day one of four and get stuck in with the training. Wanting to arrive in good time and not feel pressured, we lift for our short journey giving us 15 minutes extra to find the venue and settle our nerves. This extra time was soon consumed with a frantic drive around the town to find the venue, which clearly we were not being directed to the right venue by the sat nav. Instead it kept trying to send us to an abandoned old warehouse. Turns out the venue we wanted was located on the far side of this abandoned warehouse but was accessed via an entrance off a housing estate up the road.
The car was parked, and we eventually found the entrance and signed in and directed through the corridors to the meeting room. Nervously approaching the door we both gave each other a reassuring glance and entered the room. Looking around the room there were 7 couples sat and a space on a table next to the window with four chairs, luckily we were not the last to arrive which would have been embarrassing as we were the most local couple to the venue. We got settled and another couple joined our table. It turned out this couple lives a few miles up the road from us and we have since become good friends.
So it begins, our chance to get stuck in and absorb as much information as we can. Not knowing what to expect the work sheets were handed out and the team introduced themselves followed by all the prospective adopters. We all came from different backgrounds and all had our own reasons for wanting to adopt. There was 1 other gay couple, others had a biological child of their own but were unable to have any more, others having been unsuccessful through IVF or due to their age.
The first day covered our hopes and fears about adoption and a chance for the team to answer these. Then an insight into the backgrounds and reasons children are taken into social care and looking for their forever homes. This was an eye opener and really emotional as to what these poor little children could have been subjected to. They talked about appalling neglect or abuse and the effect on the individual child, but we were informed that these stories are worst case scenarios and thankfully social services are much more alert these days and step in long before it escalates on the whole.
The afternoon was slightly less harrowing and discussed therapeutic parenting and the importance of using these techniques with looked after children with some practical examples. Therapeutic Parenting is a parenting practice involving deep roots in nurture which is especially beneficial for children who have experienced trauma or attachment difficulties. A technique to enable a child to feel safe and build attachment after experiencing neglect in their first few months/years where their basic needs may not have been met. Therapeutic parenting is particularly effective if a child has experienced trauma as a child’s brain is developing between birth and 3 years of age, so for instance if a baby was crying due to hunger and had been ignored, this development pathway is switched off resulting in them being unable to distinguish if its hunger or not in the future. Therapeutic parenting skills differ from other more traditional parenting methods in that there is never ‘time out’ or punishment of any kind. Instead it focuses very much on the opposite with ‘time in’ and holding the child close to your body for reassurance. A need for age related communication and empathy. With therapeutic parenting, you are encouraged to remember PACE which is a methodology based on how parents interact and bond with a young child.
Playfulness: creating an environment of lightness and interest such as your tone of voice and having fun opposed to sounding stern. Being playful together helps the bond between the two of you grow. It’s about having fun and showing your child that it’s okay to have fun with your parents and also promotes a positive connection between you.
Acceptance: being accepting of a child’s feelings, thoughts and emotions but not the unwanted behaviour. eg. If a child says ‘no one loves me’ or ‘you hate me’ you don’t challenge them as being wrong. Accept these feelings and acknowledge them using curiosity & empathy.
Curiosity: understanding their child’s behaviour, being curious about a child’s feelings and wishes. If a child behaves inappropriately then ask them in a calming voice what they are feeling, or what is going on, in order to understand.
Empathy: feeling compassion and the emotions of a distressed or sad child and actively showing this so your child feels understood. Actively showing your child that their inner self is important to you and that you want to be with your child during the hard times. Parents would offer support, love, comfort and compassion towards their child. Understanding and expressing your own feelings about your child’s experience can often be more effective than praise. For example, if a child says “you don’t care”, you can respond to them by saying something along the lines of “That must be really hard for you. I feel sad that you experience me as not caring”. Being empathetic allows your child to feel safe with you and share their deeper feelings.
We left the first day feeling exhausted after spending the day in the classroom ( it’s been many years since we’ve had to sit all day listening). We had some research to do over the next week before the next session, but also to help our own knowledge of therapeutic parenting. Once home we ordered a book that was recommended, ‘The A-Z of therapeutic parenting’ by Sarah Naish. This is going to be our go to bible for advice and information and we would also recommend you to invest in a copy.
Our emotions were running high and we had certainly got excited about the prospect of continuing the adoption journey and for next weeks session.
If you do have any questions or would like to ask us anything then please do send us a message via the contact page on this blog.