Children who have experienced trauma early in life often present puzzling and frustrating behaviours to those closest to them. Coming to this book as both a social work educator and as an adopter myself, I have seen at first hand how important it is that social workers working with parents, adoptive parents and foster-carers are in a position to understand and support parents taking on these challenges (Selwyn et al., 2014). It is now well established that standard parenting advice and behaviour techniques are often of little use or even counterproductive with children who have experienced trauma early in life (Elliot, 2013). In this excellent book, Kim Golding encapsulates a whole range of issues faced by those caring for children who have suffered developmental trauma and offers realistic and practical strategies for building safe relationships. Written to complement the Foundations for Attachment Training Programme, the book also works as a stand-alone text. Aimed at parents (defined as anyone who is looking after and providing parenting), the book focuses on therapeutic parenting using the attitudes of PACE (playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy) underpinned by the dyadic developmental therapeutic model developed by Hughes (2009, 2017). The book is grounded in theory and research including neurobiology, reciprocal engagement and the latest developments in attachment theory but, above all, it is grounded in the reality of parents’ daily lives and the children’s world view. This book uses the broad concept of ‘developmental trauma’ to describe the trauma that children experience from ‘fear of parents or the absence of safe caregiving early in life’ (p. 13). It highlights the impact of caring for a child with developmental trauma on family relationships, and looks at ways in which parents can be supported to practice self care and maintain their emotional and practical resources. One of the strengths of the book is that it explores the day-to-day experience of the parent raising a child whose ability to connect has been compromised and offers guidance on how to understand and develop relationships, rather than focusing on specific interventions or behaviour techniques. Written with case studies of different kinds of families including birth children, children in foster-care and adopted children in mind, the book is an accessible and useful introduction to therapeutic parenting using the PACE approach. This book is divided into three sections. In the first section, ‘Understanding the challenges of parenting’, Golding explores four of the most significant challenges that parents may experience when parenting a child whose capacity to emotionally connect has been compromised. The identification and understanding of these challenges underlie the PACE approach to therapeutic parenting. Golding suggests that these four challenges are: the child who experiences blocked trust; the child who fears intersubjective connection within reciprocal relationships; the child who experiences high levels of shame; and the child miscuing attachment needs through a pattern of expressed and hidden needs (p. 17). These challenges will be familiar to anyone who has parented a child with developmental trauma or supported a parent to do that. These challenges are explored in depth in the first section. Golding, in this section, discusses ‘blocked trust’. This term is used to refer to how parents parenting children who have learnt not to trust in early life can find that their child’s day-to-day behaviour has become organised around a lack of trust that they will be looked after and cared for. The children constantly anticipate danger rather than safety. Even when present-day parenting is consistent and adequate, it can be hard for children to trust parents and let go of the patterns of self-reliance and suppressing their own needs. The explanations of behaviour in this section will come as a welcome relief to anyone who has parented a child who has experienced developmental trauma. The day-to-day dilemmas she describes in developing and maintaining a sense of connection to a child who has suffered early neglect, alongside setting appropriate boundaries and structures in the present, will also be familiar to parents. Section 2 of the book, ‘Building connections’, explores what is meant by each of the PACE attitudes of playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy in more depth and how these can be put into practice. For example, Golding discusses play as being protective because the child cannot experience shame while being happy and joyful. She suggests that acceptance is perhaps the hardest attitude to put into practice and parents need to be aware of the inner life of their child without trying to change it or else the child can experience that part of themselves as bad and unacceptable. This particular chapter (Chapter 6) in this section also discusses the difference between trauma-informed and trauma-organised parenting (p. 111) and has a useful discussion on how to stay an ‘open and engaged parent’ in often frustrating situations. It explores how the child can be encouraged to be curious about their own mental state with the parent and how the parent can help the child come back to emotional regulation. Chapter 8 is a helpful chapter covering frequently asked questions that bring the reader back to the day-to-day experience of putting the PACE approach into practice. In Part 3 of the book, ‘Looking after self’, Golding acknowledges how ‘continually offering a relationship without it being reciprocated can have a profound effect on the parent leading to “blocked care”’ (p. 206). She explores the support that can be offered to help unblock ‘blocked trust’ in children and ‘blocked care’ in parents and how parents can look after themselves. One of the limitations of this book is that it covers the underpinning theory and strategies on which the PACE training is based, but does not cover in any depth the practical play exercises that parents and practitioners can use; these are embedded in the actual training programmes themselves. However, there are useful examples throughout of dialogue that might be helpful to parents and examples of strategies that parents have used to help reflect on what is happening in a given situation. In the daily pressures of family life, the principles of PACE can also be hard to put it into practice on a consistent basis and this could be explored further. This book is a world away from the lack of understanding and judgemental attitudes that those parenting children with developmental trauma sometimes experience from professionals (Donovan, 2013, 2015). Specialist services to support parents caring for children with developmental trauma are patchy and this is an excellent book for parents, practitioners and students to read and keep as a resource to revisit. The focus on relationships within an affirming book which avoids jargon and judgement can help practitioners and students to understand and stay alongside parents in their day-to-day efforts to establish loving family relationships. References Donovan S. ( 2013) No Matter What: An Adoptive Family’s Story of Hope, Love and Healing , London, Jessica Kingsley. Donovan S. ( 2015) The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting , London, Jessica Kingsley. Elliot A. ( 2013) Why Can’t My Child Behave? Empathic Parenting Strategies that Work for Adoptive and Foster Families , London, Jessica Kingsley. Hughes D. A. ( 2009) Attachment Focused Parenting , New York, W.W. Norton. Hughes D. A. ( 2017) Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children, 3rd edn , New York, W.W. Norton. Selwyn J., Wijedasa D., Meakings S. ( 2014) Beyond the Adoption Order: Challenges, Interventions and Adoption Disruption , Bristol, University of Bristol. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.
The British Journal of Social Work – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 2, 2018
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