Building Strong Families

Trauma-Informed Parenting

This article was written by: Shereen Sohan-Khan, Wellness Therapist [Intern] on October 16, 2021, and edited by: Nicole Perryman

Being a trauma-informed parent

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Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT) speaks to the importance of including parents/caregivers in the therapy sessions when working with children. The inclusion of parents/caregivers in sessions provides adequate parent training that can be used outside the therapy office to manage their child(ren) challenging behaviours.

One of the essential aspects of parent training is reinforcing good behaviour and ignoring unacceptable behaviour to reduce problem behaviours in children.

How does this [trauma-focused approaches] measure up when African American parents/caregivers are challenged by a racially oppressive society?

Adkison-Bradley et al. (2013) state that “child discipline in African American homes is defined as a teaching process in which African American parents socialize their children to make meaningful life choices and to thrive in an environment that has historically been hostile toward African Americans” (p. 1). In some instances, Black parents/caregivers may resort to physical discipline, a form of punishment used by their parents/caregivers when they were a child. 

Choosing positive parenting

The use of physical discipline such as spanking functions to instill fear and respect for authority. This learned behavior stemmed from the institution of slavery, where enslaved Black people were beaten by their slave owners. In turn, enslaved people had to use similar forms of discipline as a way to protect their children. According to the author, [Black people used physical discipline] as a means of teaching obedience, survival in racially hostile environments and protected them from more significant harm for defiance or violation of the social rules. Although slavery was abolished years ago, physical discipline is present in the cultural attitudes, values, and child-rearing practices of some Black parents today (Kelch-Oliver & Smith, 2014). Now, Black parents are challenged by a system that views physical discipline as an abusive form of punishment which can cause challenges with the law and local child welfare authorities. However, at the same time, Black parents recognize that they are still raising children in hostile environments, and have similar concerns for their children. Thus, providing Black parents support with navigating their child’s experience of racism and shaping healthy behaviours may require additional support and guidance.

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Parent training effectively teaches Black parents/caregivers healthier ways of managing problematic behaviours children may exhibit. Further, by reducing behaviour difficulties in the home, parents may experience reduced stressors. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on training the parent/caregiver on approaching their child(ren)’s behavioural challenges as part of the treatment plan. Parents/caregivers can also be trained using Psychosocial parenting education and training programs. Kelch-Oliver & Smith (2014) points out that “parenting programs are typically delivered in a group format versus individualized therapy, which is cost-effective, expands access, decreases stigma and social isolation promotes peer support and optimizes provider resources” (p.3).

The power of group

Group therapy is a component of the TF-CBT approach. Group therapy allows the parents/caregivers to meet other parents experiencing similar challenges and provide them with a safe and empowering space to connect and learn from each other. Kelch-Oliver & Smith’s (2014) research study showed that using the psychosocial parenting intervention, Triple P-Positive Parenting Program with a Black single mom, helped her become more authoritative in dealing with her child’s problematic behaviours. The parent was recommended to encourage her child to behave in appropriate and adaptive ways and increase the opportunity for quality time for mom and child to improve their relationship. After six weeks of follow-up, the mother reported improvements in her relationship with her child, reduced her child’s problematic behaviours such as tantrums, and improved confidence in her parenting ability to manage her child’s behaviours.  

Tips for Parents

-Understand how anti-Black racism may impact your child, and how your child responds to this experience

-Seek support to enhance your parenting skills when your child’s behaviour becomes difficult to manage

-Consider positive discipline as opposed to corporal punishment or punitive measures

-There are many therapeutic models and supports available for Black families and children to help improve the home environment.

The Parenting/caregiving role can be a difficult task at hand. However, understanding where the parent/caregiver’s cultural values are rooted can be a helpful tool for counsellors working on training the parent/caregiver to adapt new behaviours when working towards reducing the child(ren) problematic behaviours. 

References

Adkison-Bradley, C., Terpstra, J., & Dormitorio, B. P. (2013). Child discipline in African American families. The Family Journal, 22(2), 198–205. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480713513553 

Kelch-Oliver, K., & Smith, C. O. (2014). Using an evidence-based parenting intervention with African American parents. The Family Journal, 23(1), 26–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480714555697

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