Clinical Expertise

Development of empathy

This information from Zero to Three explains the ways that children develop empathy and what parents can do to help that process.  Children with developmental trauma sadly do not have a caregiver that responds to them with empathy. They may also have watched other family members treated coldly as in domestic violence or abuse situations.  It is no wonder that adoptive parents often see little empathy in attachment disordered children. 
The good news is that empathy can be developed. The article also gives suggestions to parents. Though they are geared toward younger children they also work well with older children that are emotionally young.

Oxytocin Therapy and Attachment

Problems with oxytocin therapy
This is a study about the use of oxytocin to help children attach.
It makes sense that the feel good hormone should help children feel good about their adoptive parent. The problem is that it was actually found to exacerbate problems if the person had a negative experience with an early attachment figure.
One of my long term clients became much worse after being given oxytocin therapy. He regained lost ground when it was discontinued. I guess there is really no quick fix when it comes to building attachment.

The Problem with Time Outs

child time outDan Siegel talks about the problems with using time out for discipline in this Time magazine article. I agree with the concept of time-in. “Come here and calm”. Most attachment disordered children are not affected by being sent away. Closeness for them is more therapeutic. They also need the presence of the parent if they have any hope of pulling things together. They need a co-regulator; the parent is the co-regulator.

Manipulation and Control

How Do I Handle Manipulation and Control?
This video by Karyn Purvis focuses on a child’s need for control. Children that have experienced abuse and neglect learn unhealthy ways to get their needs met. This behavior may have been the only way the child was able to survive or it may have been modeled for them by unhealthy caregivers. It is extremely difficult to give up a survival technique. Karyn shared some ways parents can teach children to experience appropriate control.

Child Trauma Academy

Don’t forget to check out The Child Trauma Academy’s YouTube channel. Bruce Perry’s Seven Slide series on the brain and it’s response to stress is especially helpful to all people trying to figure out how to respond to traumatized children. To date four of the seven series trainings have been posted. Here is the link to the Child Trauma videos.