Working Through “Blocked Care”
This post was written by FamilyWorks Together Master Clinical Trainer, Erica Moltz, MA, NCC.
Being a parent is hard work and it is especially hard if a child is challenging and exhibits oppositional behavior. The reason that some children are so challenging is because of what has happened to them in abusive or neglectful relationships with other adults. The result is that they often have “blocked trust” that prevents them from feeling safe with a foster or adoptive parent.
If a parent is struggling, they will often feel guilty, carry a sense of shame and fear, and worry that they may be harshly judged by professionals. For a parent to hang in there with an extremely difficult child and teach the child to trust them, then the parent has to trust the professional and believe that that things will get better. For the parent to get through their own “blocked care”, they have to feel safe enough with the professional to talk with them about their vulnerable parent feelings of sadness, anger, exhaustion, incompetence and worry. The parent needs to trust that the professional understands that they are good parents who are doing the best they can, and are deeply committed to their children. If the parent can learn to engage with a professional in an open way without feeling shame, then they will be more open to exploring new strategies to engage with their child and help their child learn to trust the. .
On May 5th in Silver Spring, Dr. Jon Baylin will be presenting an all-day conference, “Building Attachment through Trust: Brain-Based Interventions for Connecting with Mistrustful Children”. He will be teaching professionals and parents about the core therapeutic attitude called PACE. Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy are effective strategies that professionals can convey to parents to build a trusting relationship between them. At times, parents need professionals to be playful, to generate laughter and lightness, and a sense of hope that things will get better. Parents need for professionals to accept that they have good intentions, wishes and goals for their child, so the parent will be open to the professional’s interventions. When a professional expresses an attitude of curiosity with a parent, it will help the parent cultivate their own curiosity about what is behind their child’s behavior. For example, a therapist could convey curiosity by asking a parent, “How do you feel the strength to keep hanging in there with your child?” Empathetic professionals will give more than information and advice, they will be a supportive presence so the parent will feel alone in the hard work of teaching a child to trust them.