A time of reflection and redirection

It has been more than a month since my last post. This has been a period of significant reflection about career direction and what is both professionally and personally important to me. This period of reflection has been prompted by personal and world events and supported by highly valued engagement with colleagues.

My career has cast me in a number of roles. I have been an applied researcher in child and adolescent mental health, a clinical psychologist, teacher, trainer, and author. I have worked in public, private and higher education sectors. I have worked in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. I have held (and hold) statutory appointments, and have worked continuously in highly scrutinized environments across the last twenty-five years.

For the past few years I have focused on developing and implementing evidence-informed, therapeutic caregiving programs in foster- and kinship care. An especial highlight has been the implementation of the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care in the TUSLA Fostering Service in Donegal, Ireland, and the training of 12 local trainers.

In the past two years much of my time and energy has been devoted to developing and implementing a model of care and practice in statutory kinship care in South Australia – the Kinship CARE Curriculum. This has necessitated me maintaining a much smaller caseload of psychotherapy clients, among whom the largest proportion is children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life.

As my career has developed I have gone through role transitions before, where I have moved away from endeavours that have been personally and professionally rewarding. This includes moving away from roles in the provision of psychological assessment in child protection and family law, and developing clinical psychologists through supervision and training clinics. I have done so with some some sense of loss, but my biggest feeling of loss has been in relation to the provision of psychotherapy services.

So, in the past month I have moved back into this role and appreciated the support I have received in doing so. I will continue to deliver some training, including in Statutory Kinship Care with Australian Aboriginal Children. I will also be training local service providers in the delivery of trauma-informed, psychotherapy services to children and young people recovering from a tough start to life. This latter role is particularly exciting for me as it will facilitate my return to writing about psychotherapy.

In terms of what this means for this blog, which has mostly focused on therapeutic (re)parenting, I am not sure yet. There will likely be a further period of reduced activity. I am considering starting a new blog dedicated to psychotherapy. You can find out more about my psychotherapy approach in the second edition of A Short Introduction to Attachment Disorder.

I want to thank my subscribers and regular visitors to this blog for their interest in, and support of, my work. I wish you all well and hope you have access to time and places for meaningful contemplation of what is important in your life, and the opportunity to pursue these things.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connected Classrooms that CARE: Supporting children recovering from a tough start to life in an era of COVID-19

In this, my third major release during this COVID-19 period, I have turned my mind to the support of children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life at school.

Written for teachers and other education personnel who interact with these children in a care and management role, this 51-page resource is packed with information and reflections that support the development and implementation of a therapeutic CARE Plan and optimal functioning at school.


Drawn from the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care and the CARE Curriculum, this resource offers both what teachers and other education personnel need to know and do in support of maintaining a trauma-sensitive and responsive school and classroom, and consistency with therapeutic endeavours in the home.

The resource is available to download here. Alternatively, you can pay/donate via the button below. All money raised supports my capacity to continue to provide practical and user-friendly resources in support of children and young people’s recovery from a tough start to life.

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Colby Pearce is a Clinical Psychologist in Australia and author of A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder, and A Short Introduction to Promoting Resilience in Children. He is also the author of the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care, a comprehensive training program for general and relative foster carers which is in its fifth year of implementation in the TUSLA Fostering Service in Donegal Ireland. Further, Colby is the author of the CARE Curriculum, which was delivered as part of the Kinship CARE Project to statutory kinship carers in South Australia over the past two years.

See Also:

Video series with handbook
Howto guide with infographics
Posted in AAA Caregiving, Schools, Trauma Informed Schools | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our own response to the pandemic reflects the experience of maltreated children

Uncertainty, including in relation to our health and the health of our loved ones, our access to basic needs, and what the future holds, is anxiety-evoking. It can leave us preoccupied with accessing basic needs and lead us to behave in ways that increase our chances of being able to achieve needs provision, and feel safe. Uncertainty, coupled with the media coverage of the pandemic, can leave us experiencing ourselves as inadequate, others as threatening and dangerous, and the world as unsafe.

The current uncertainty, and its psychological impacts on us, provides an insight into what life is like for children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life.

Pearce, C (2020), Preserving Placements during a Pandemic. Secure Start Publications: Adelaide

Video series and handbook.

Click here for more , or on the image below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preserving Placements during a Pandemic – Video Series with Handbook

I am very pleased to make this series of short videos available to foster and kinship carers, to assist them manage the impact of the current pandemic on the children and young people in their care, and themselves.

I am aware that all parents and caregivers are currently being deluged with information and advice about child-rearing. It is not my wish to further burden foster and kinship carers with such advice. Rather, I anticipate that foster and kinship carers will find this video series, and the accompanying handbook, reassuring and validating of their endeavours. It is my hope that the videos and handbook, and the content presented, will make life a little easier.

In the first video I briefly introduce the Triple-A Model and how it explains what is happening for children and young people, and ourselves. I go on to introduce the CARE Model, a framework for understanding what a therapeutic care environment looks like.

In the following videos I further explain why CARE is important and how it is able to be enriched by following a straightforward and practical method.

I finish up with a video about a straightforward approach to looking after ourselves that does not require extra time and money and is achievable in this time of restriction and confinement.

I do hope that foster and kinship carers find the videos helpful and practical, and I welcome feedback. To access the videos, simply click on the links below.

I would encourage you to also access the handbook that accompanies the video series. The handbook can be accessed via the “Buy Now” button below and is made available to individual purchasers. If you are a representative of an organisation who would like to access the handbook for the foster and/or kinship carers you service, please contact me to discuss.

 

Finally, though the video series and handbook are based on the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care and the CARE Curriculum, my two programs that have been implemented in general and relative foster care and statutory kinship care in Australia and Ireland, they are not intended to be a substitute for engagement with foster and kinship care support services, and professionals who work with foster and kinship carers. Rather, they are intended as a little extra practical guidance and, as such, I would encourage foster and kinship carers to continue to access existing supports during these difficult times.

Video 1/5: Preserving Placements during a Pandemic – Introduction (9:50)

Video 2/5: Preserving Placements during a Pandemic – Consistency & Accessibility (5:26)

Video 3/5: Preserving Placements during a Pandemic – Responsiveness (9:03)

Video 4/5: Preserving Placements during a Pandemic – Emotional Connectedness (6:09)

Video 5/5: Preserving Placements during a Pandemic – Self-Care (7:08)

Posted in AAA Caregiving, Fostering, kinship care, trauma informed, trauma informed care | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parenting in Tough Times

In these tough times, it is important to reflect on these truths:

  • It is human nature to focus on what is going wrong more than what is going right. You are performing better in the caregiving role than you might think.
  • Not all behaviour exhibited by the children in your care is abnormal or a sign of a disorder. All children misbehave. It is part of growing and learning boundaries. Normality and abnormality are differentiated by frequency, intensity, and duration.
  • Children communicate through their behaviour. If we focus too much on what they are doing and not why they are doing it, we may miss something important they are trying to tell us.
  • Children see themselves as they experience others to see them. Look for their strengths and evidence that they are doing ok.

Eyes are mirrors for a child’s soul. What do children see in your eyes?

Posted in AAA Caregiving, Attachment, Fostering, kinship care, Parenting, trauma informed | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preserving Placements during a Pandemic

Very few people will get through this global pandemic without being affected in some way. Some will cope better than others. Our prior life experiences can be a help, or a hindrance. Those who have experienced adversity in the past, and overcome it, will likely fare better during these difficult times. Those who have experienced overwhelming adversity, from which they have not or are yet to recover, are likely to be particularly impacted.

Children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life are vulnerable to being particularly impacted by the current pandemic, and measures to control it. The pandemic has suddenly, and with little or no prior warning, made uncertainty, confinement, and restriction (including in relation to access to basic needs) salient aspects of our day-to-day experience. While this is stressful for most of us, it can be particularly stressful for children and young people in out-of-home care. It can put (additional) strain on their foster and kinship care placements at a time of reduced capacity to absorb additional pressures.

Uncertainty, including in relation to our health and the health of our loved ones, our access to basic needs, and what the future holds, is anxiety-evoking. It can leave us preoccupied with accessing basic needs and lead us to behave in ways that that increase our chances of being able to achieve needs provision, and feel safe. Uncertainty, coupled with the media coverage of the pandemic, can leave us experiencing ourselves as inadequate, others as threatening and dangerous, and the world as unsafe.

Our current uncertainty, and its psychological impacts on us, provides an insight into what life is like for children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life. It affects the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and our world that influence our approach to life and relationships. I refer to these as attachment representations. They are also commonly referred to as internal working models, or schema. It leaves our motor (that is, our nervous system) running too fast, or too highly activated, and vulnerable to blowing up. It is shaping our learning about our access to needs provision and what actions are required to assure access.  Our own response to the pandemic reflects the Triple-A Model (Pearce, 2010), which I developed to explain what I have observed across a long career about the impact of a tough start to life on the the psychological functioning of children and young people and their approach to life and relationships.

If we are vulnerable to becoming a little (or a lot) like children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life in these troubled times, imagine what it is like for them. In these difficult times there is a heightened vulnerability to regression to approaching life and relationships under the influence of negative beliefs about self, other, and world, heightened arousal and anxiety proneness, and a preoccupation with accessibility to needs provision.  

The current times, with its change and uncertainty, restriction, and increased physical closeness to stressed adults are likely to be trauma-triggering for children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life. Foster and kinship carers, you are likely to see emotional displays and behaviours you have not seen in some time, or a heightening of those emotional displays and behaviours. Managing these trauma-related emotional displays and behaviours can leave you feeling below your best and negatively impact your performance of the caregiving role. A problematic cycle can emerge where stressed children and young people and stressed adults heighten each other, leaving placements under pressure and vulnerable, notwithstanding our best intentions in less troubled times.

What is needed now, more than ever, is a plan for how foster and kinship carers can reduce the impact of these troubled times on the children and young people they are caring for, and themselves. The CARE Curriculum offers such a plan.

Preserving Placements during a Pandemic offers a practical approach to looking after the children and young people in your care, and yourselves, during this difficult time. The package includes a series of short videos and a an accompanying handbook. The package is based on the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care, a comprehensive training program for general and relative foster carers which is in its fifth year of implementation in the TUSLA Fostering Service in Donegal Ireland, and the CARE Curriculum, which was delivered as part of the Kinship CARE Project to statutory kinship carers in South Australia over the past two years. 89% of local statutory kinship carers who completed the Kinship CARE Project training and a post-implementation training reported feeling more confident in performing the role, and 84% reported experiencing improved relationships with the child or children in their care.

Preserving Placements during a Pandemic is due for release on 17/4/20. If you are looking for guidance in the meantime, I refer you to my recently release resource Practical Parenting during a Pandemic. As with the Preserving Placements, the strategies in Practical Parenting are based on the CARE Curriculum and the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

References

Pearce, C.M. (2010). An Integration of Theory, Science and Reflective Clinical Practice in the Care and Management of Attachment-Disordered Children – A Triple A Approach. Educational and Child Psychology (Special Issue on Attachment), 27 (3): 73-86

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Providing a psychology service to children and young people in an online medium

A short video I have made about my initial experience delivering a psychology service to children and young people via an online medium in this time of social distancing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practical Parenting during a Pandemic

There is a lot of advice for parents and caregivers being shared in these extraordinary times. If you or your client group are looking for something simple, practical, and do-able, something which will not take hours to read, and something that is drawn from a large-scale implementation project (i.e. it has been tested), why not consider our resource? Includes practical strategies, drawn from science, and applied in homes.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A little extra emotional connectedness

Emotional connectedness is a by-product of interaction. When you are interacting with a person you are likely to feel an ‘echo’ of their emotion. This is a form of empathy that is instinctive and, with few exceptions, we all have the capacity to experience this instinctive empathy.

The ‘echo’ a parent feels of their child’s emotion played an important role in supporting the child’s emotional development, including:

  • the child’s emotional awareness – their own and the emotions of others
  • the child’s capacity to regulate their emotions
  • the child’s capacity to regulate their emotions in consideration of others.

Emotional connectedness is important!

Co-regulation refers to a form of emotional connectedness whereby you express in your tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures your ‘echo’ of an emotion that is congruent with that of the child, and return to calm. Co-regulation is instrumental in supporting children to develop the capacity to self-regulate during their formative years as they ‘follow’ the adult back to calm via the established emotional connection. As the child returns to calm, we feel calm too. Hence, the term ‘co-regulation’.

Emotional connectedness and co-regulation support experiences for the child:

  • that their experience is important
  • that their caregiver is accessible to them
  • that their caregiver understands them
  • that their caregiver can be relied upon as a source of comfort and restoration of feelings of wellbeing.

Emotional connectedness and co-regulation are reassuring.

When emotionally connecting with a child intentionally it is important to be aware of the dose. Too much can heighten the child’s emotions. Rather, match their level or, in the case of anxiety, anger and distress, briefly express a toned-down version of the emotion (thus allowing an emotional connection to be made) before returning to calm.

More generally, play and other activities done with the child support emotional connection. As referred to above, emotional connectedness is a by-product of interaction. So play with the child or children in your care, allow yourself to feel what they feel, and regularly return to calm. In doing so you are supporting them to experience emotions as part of the richness of life and not something to be avoided due to their potential to overwhelm. You are also supporting smaller emotions more generally and the child’s own capacity to regulate themselves.

To assist you in this endeavour I have prepared the resource below. You can access a PDF here. Emotional connectedness is the ‘E in the CARE Model. To read more about the CARE Model I would refer you to A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder. This book is particularly suited to those who are caring for children who are recovering from significant relationship trauma. For a general audience (as well as foster carers, kinship carers, adoptive parents, social care workers, youth workers, social workers) I will be releasing a short handbook comprising the CARE resources I have been releasing and some further explanation very shortly.

To purchase A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition), and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the Amazon sites below by clicking on the caption in the bottom of each image:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One thing that reduces a childs clinginess during a coronavirus lockdown

As the Coronavirus (COVID19) continues to impact how we go about our lives, a common concern is how parents will work from home or perform other daily tasks when the children cannot attend school or childcare. This concern is particularly salient as, due to their sensitivity to the emotions of others and their own knowledge and experience of the Cononavirus, children (and young people) are likely to experience a heightened proneness to anxiety at this time.

Most children, when they are anxious, will seek comfort and support from, and closeness to, their parents or other adult caregivers. This proximity-seeking behaviour is meant to relieve stress and restore feelings of wellbeing for the child. During times of heightened anxiety most children will naturally engage in increased proximity-seeking behaviour.

Unfortunately, a number of complications that can arise when children engage in increased proximity-seeking to relieve their anxiety and restore feelings of wellbeing:

  1. One complication is that the children can be so preoccupied with attaining and maintaining proximity with a caregiving adult that the adult simply cannot always respond to the child. This is especially salient when a single adult is caring for more than one anxious child.
  2. Another complication is that a child’s preoccupation with attaining and maintaining proximity to a caregiving adult can be so pronounced that, notwithstanding their best intentions, the adult feels overwhelmed and withdraws from time to time in order to restore their own equilibrium.
  3. A further complication is that, due to their own heightened state arising from anxiety about the coronavirus and the child’s proximity-seeking behaviour, adult caregivers can become less effective at relieving a child’s anxiety.

The net result is that the child experiences the adult as inconsistently available to them as a source of needs provision, where the need is closeness and restoration of feelings of wellbeing.

In and of itself, inconsistency is stressful for children, further heightening their need for a proximate adult. Inconsistent responsiveness typically results in a preoccupation with needs provision and a high rate of, and great persistence in, behaviours to secure access to needs provision; in this instance, the attention and responsiveness of a caregiving adult.

This can leave adult caregivers feeling totally overwhelmed and with a sense that they are being controlled and regulated by the now ‘overly demanding child’.

So, how does the adult caregiver reassure the child that they are accessible to them, thereby reducing the child’s anxiety and excessive proximity-seeking?

The short answer is to enrich the child’s experience of the accessibility of the caregiving adult. To do this, the caregiving adult must check-in with the child without the child doing anything to achieve proximity.

The challenge here is that these are the times when the adult is hungrily trying to attend to all the tasks that need attending to and are being impacted by the anxious child’s heightened need for attention. However, if the caregiving adult can initiate contact with the child proactively the child has the experience that their caregiver is thinking of them and is accessible to them without them having to do anything to make it so. Implemented on a regular/consistent basis, this one aspect of caregiving can have the effect of reducing excessive proximity-seeking and promoting acceptance of temporary separations.

After all, this is how the child learnt in the first place that their adult caregivers were accessible to them without the child having to go to great lengths to make it so. That is, during infancy their caregivers attended to them whether the child was crying or quiet.

So, how to put this into place? Well, I recently released a resource to assist parents and caregivers of children to develop a plan to enrich a child’s experience of their accessibility. You can view the resource below and access a PDF here.

For more information about enriching accessibility, keep an eye out for a further resource I will be releasing in the coming days. Please also keep an eye out for a resource I will be releasing in relation to self-care.

Good luck, and do leave a comment with any suggestions about other topics you might like me to address.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment