The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting, by Sarah Naish (JKP Publishing) is one of those books where the title doesn’t do it justice. It’s aimed at the parents and carers of adopted and looked after children, with an assumption that there is an underlying attachment disorder. That said, it’s also a tremendously practical book for anyone facing parental challenges; this is the book to reach for, when it’s all kicking off.
So many child-centred books appear to take the view that discipline and compliance are the marks of good parenting. Sarah Naish, with five adopted children of her own, is much more realistic. There are no demands for absolute truth, no reward charts, no time out. Instead, there’s a totally implementable guide to how to reach engagement, and connection.
The author really has seen it all, and this experience shines through. Very importantly, the book tackles the taboo subject of ‘compassion fatigue’. We don’t really talk about that, do we? About the frustration and running out of steam? Thankfully, this is tackled head-on, with ways to overcome it, and of course the associated guilt of losing patience with a child who already has so much to deal with themselves.
There’s also, helpfully a 'what not to do' chapter, which as well as making complete sense, is one in the eye for the, “he just needs a firm hand” brigade. Most of the book is written as a handy A-Z guide, which I’m pleased to report, covers most things we deal with as SEND carers. “Refusing to Hurry” would have been written on my headstone, but for this publication. 'Running Off', 'Sexualised Behaviour', 'Toileting', it’s all in here.
The best bit about it though, is that each subject is explored properly. There’s an outline of what the behaviour looks like, then why it might happen, ways to prevent it in the first place, what to do, and once it’s all over, what to do afterwards.
There is also the recognition that we as carers have our own buttons that children can have a knack of finding. The author also recognises the very real need for self-care, and this is built into her simple, yet robust, parenting model which she outlines early on.
As SEND parents and carers, we are often forced to interact with our children in ways which to the outside, neurotypical, disciplinarian observer, may seem like capitulating and mollycoddling. I’d bet that there isn’t one person reading this that hasn’t second-guessed themselves on a regular basis. Yet this book confirms what our instincts have always suspected - that engagement and empathy are the true ways to reach children, all children.
Once I’d finished this book, I was left with a feeling of having found somewhat of a gem - a bit like an essential cookbook - Delia for SEND kids maybe, plus a reassuring sense that probably we are on the right path anyway.