Parent Mental Health Day

Parent Mental Health Day is a good time for more candour & unashamed conversation about how hard it is to parent a child with relational trauma. How misunderstood such parents & carers can be, & how hard it often is still, to access timely & appropriate support.

All parents can struggle & family life is challenging, but there are added challenges if you are caring for a traumatised child. Re-parenting is not ordinary parenting. Therapeutic parenting is emotionally & physically demanding & require lots of self-awareness, patience, commitment & support. There will be many times when therapeutic parents feel that they’re not good enough & can’t do it, or don’t want to do it. 

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Love is like Bread

Growing a loving relationship when your child has experienced relational trauma in the past takes patience, care and attention, doesn’t it?  Persistent PACE-fulness is like the yeast in the dough of love – you knead it to help it rise!

Creating love is a dynamic process – there is a hopefulness isn’t there, to the idea that it can be remade constantly, growing & changing over time. Just as re-parenting is an active commitment to developing trust & creating safety & connection. It is said that when you help a child to heal from trauma, you are participating in a rebirth. This is loving actively; providing food for the soul.

Hugging Day

It warms our hearts that this year we can once again do a lot more hugging of our friends & families, if we want to! This time last year we were living in lockdown in the UK, & not being with loved ones was one of the biggest hardships. Hugs can be amazingly good for us – as well as simply being enjoyable, they can help to reduce stress, protect against illness, & reduce pain & anxiety.  

Children who have experienced relational trauma can sometimes struggle to give or receive comforting hugs. As parents & carers, you can help your child learn that it can be safe and enjoyable to experience hugs and nurturing touch. Giving clear messages about respecting personal boundaries, exploring what this means and moving at a pace that is comfortable for your child is very important. So too, is giving them opportunities to practice ‘good hugs’ and ‘safe touch’, acknowledging that they may not have had much of this in the past. This can made fun, for example by using a stopwatch to have ‘ten second cuddles’ or using structured play therapy to introduce games involving touch, like ‘pass the hand squeeze’.

Happy hugging – & happy practising hugging, too!

Hope

When the January blues hit, see if you can honour your emotions just as they are. See if you can greet them & welcome them in, like an old friend.

Can you allow yourself to see how it feels to be blue? Feel the weight of it & the movement of it. Ask it what it needs from you?

If we can explore any sadness, hopelessness, fear – or whatever emotion we discover – with some curiosity & kindness for ourselves, we might see that it’s ok to be blue. We can let ourselves know that it will not last. We can be present with it, instead of adding resistance & suffering on top. We can open up some room for hope.

Drop Fear

Children with relational trauma struggle to trust in new relationships with caregivers. Without a secure foundation of trust & belief that you are loved, it is hard to be open to relationships & so the world can seem a very frightening place. One of the biggest challenges in reparenting a traumatised child is to help them to feel safe again, or sometimes even to feel safe for the very first time.

Only when a child feels some physical & emotional safety might they take the risk of being vulnerable & drawing near to us. Only then might they risk allowing themselves to be touched by an emotional connection.  It is a daunting step for a child whose heart has been hurt in the past. When we care for them with PACE as a way of being – playfulness, acceptance, curiosity & empathy – we can help them to feel more secure & to drop their fear. We can help them to become more open to the happiness to be found in being cared for, & more confident that they deserve this love.

Billy Moffle coming soon!

January 13 is National Rubber Duck Day & who doesn’t love a rubber duck? We took the opportunity to share a picture of Billy Moffle in his bath, lining up his ducks. This is one of the illustrations from the forthcoming picture book, Billy Moffle’s Straight Lines.Here is a short excerpt from the story, which follows Billy’s move to live with new parents. Lining everything up is part of Billy’s efforts to cope with his experiences of neglect & witnessing domestic violence in his birth family.

‘Little Billy was confused. He thought to himself – when is this daddy going to get very angry? And when is this mummy going to leave me all alone? Perhaps they have not realised yet what a bad, little Moffle I am. Then Billy Moffle would scamper around even faster, lining up his teddies on his bed and lining up the acorns on his bedroom floor. If he just concentrated on keeping everything tidy and straight he thought, maybe he would not feel so frightened and worried.’

We are excited to let you know that Billy Moffle is going to the publishers this month & we hope to be able to give you a release date very soon.

Self-compassion can be life changing.

It can feel so much harder to be compassionate to ourselves than to others. When we struggle in our parenting, we are often our own harshest critic – beating ourselves up for not meeting exacting standards. Here’s an invitation next time you mess up, to speak to yourself as you would to a dear friend who is struggling. This is an invitation to approach your imperfection with kindness & to see the opportunities for trying again.

There can never be too many times to remind you to act like a Moffle.

M Make moments matter. Just pausing now & then for a few deep breaths & observing your thoughts, feelings & body can develop your self-awareness.

O Offer yourself some kindness, as you would to a friend who is struggling. Self-compassion isn’t always easy, so notice this, too & take your time.

FFocus on one step at a time, as you work at self-care. Set small, achievable goals. On the days even these goals are too hard, again, try to offer yourself kindness.

FForgive yourself when you mess up. Conflict is an inevitable part of family life. Focus on repair & show your child that you’re invested in reconnecting with them.

LLook for the sparkling moments & celebrate small successes. Try to hold them in your heart. They can help to lighten the hard times.

EEmpathise with yourself, not only your child. Empathy grows when we’re curious about our thoughts & feelings, rather than rushing to judge ourselves.

SSlow down. Whenever you can. We rarely need to respond immediately to anything. Go back to ‘M’ & make moments matter.

Ordinary acts of love & hope.

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.

This quote from Desmond Tutu reminds us that though we are small, we can be mighty. It is so easy to forget that we can make a difference, but he reminds us of the power of kindness. Desmond Tutu understood that our humanity is experienced in caring relationships with others & that we can be better together.

When we try to hold PACE in our hearts & minds – playfulness, acceptance, curiosity & empathy – & adopt it as a way of being, we are actively reaching out to connect with others in a loving way. Even in the face of hostility or rejection we can choose to respond with PACE. Of course, we will not always achieve this, but ordinary acts of love involve acknowledging our mistakes or failures & then trying again. Keeping on trying, with compassion for ourselves as well as others. I like to think of this as persistent PACE-fulness. I really do believe it has the power to help us connect & change the world, one relationship at a time.

Seeing ourselves in the books we read

As Toni Morrison said, ‘If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it’.

We created the Moffles for children living with trauma & loss, because every child needs to see themselves reflected in the books that they read, especially when their early lives have been very hard.

Picture books can help children make sense of their lives, build self-esteem & find their place in the world. For children with relational trauma, stories that speak to them of their experiences create opportunities to safely explore difficult thoughts & feelings. They learn that their story matters & that they can share it & explore it with the caring adults around them.  

Trauma is a great silencer & it creates shame. Children may not understand why they struggle to trust & they fight to be in control. They can believe that they were responsible for their hurt & that they are bad. We need to give them more stories that break the silence & create different meanings where they are not to blame. When we help our children to hold a kinder, more coherent narrative, they can learn, grow & recover.