The Connected Child (Chapters 1 & 2)

This is my first post in a series on The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis. Thanks to Sarah for organizing this online book club community.

The first chapter, Hope and Healing, is an introduction to the method that Purvis is advocating. This quote jumped out at me immediately:

If, out of fear or embarrassment in admitting there is a problem, you wait too long to take corrective action with your child, you risk becoming too depleted and worn-out to be effective when you finally do take action.

I think this speaks to a couple of issues that adoptive/foster parents can have. First of all, there is a tendency among women (maybe men too) to compare children. In admitting a child needs help, we are saying our child is not perfect. As adoptive/foster parents we need to be adamant in our efforts to not compare our children with others. The risk is too great and the child will ultimately suffer if we let our embarrassment stop us from seeking help.

Secondly, sometimes the efforts that adoptive/foster parents take with their children may seem extreme or unconventional. This quote is a good reminder to those who observe adoptive/foster families. What may look “unconventional” in their parenting is truly them seeking to help their child the best they know how and as early as possible. A good example that comes to mind is that often families who first come home with a young child will not permit anyone besides mom or dad to hold that child for an extended period of time. Yes, this seems extreme and it is hard to other family members who may be excited about that child, but those parents are working to fill in the gaps that the child may have missed early on. They are not trying to be rude, they are just trying to give that child concentrated time to bond with them.

Dr. Purvis asks parents to use compassion as their guide in approaching their child…

Compassion helps us to have more realistic expectations and understand that the child isn’t necessarily being willful or belligerent – he is just trying to survive the best he can within his mental limitations and social understanding.

…and to always remember that you are on your child’s team.

We encourage families to have the mind-set that it’s you and your child facing the world, ready to resolve whatever problems arise. Convey your deep alliance not only in words, but through body language, posture and voice.

She also asks parents to observe their child’s behaviors closely, even journaling over an extended period of time to see if there are common triggers to behavior. Additionally, she asks parents to support healthy brain chemistry with healthy eating habits as the emotional and the physical are linked. Purvis also takes a very conservative approach towards medication which D and I really appreciate. She states that most times medication will only get you 30% of the desired solution you want to see in your child.

Dr. Purvis asks parents to Engage, Play and Praise. It seems simple enough but it is not always. A hurried lifestyle, television and video games can all hinder engaging with your child. Parents must make an effort to make eye contact with their child as often as possible throughout the day.

Playing can be a tough one for me. Certain childhood activities, like reading, are appealing and fun for me. I could have read to M for hours but she was two and did not have the attention span for that. Playing tea party or trucks are often things I would encourage a child to do alone and I need to make a better effort to stop whatever it is I am doing and play with them.

Praise can come easily when you take time to engage and play with your child since you have all that opportunity to observe what they do well and point it out to them.

Chapter Two, Where Your Child Began, is all about what may have effected your child before they were even born or in their first few years of life.

A child who missed out on nurturing from the start has an entirely different developmental trajectory than a youngster who never faced prenatal toxins or early starvation, isolation, neglect, abuse or trauma.

Obviously, this is of great importance to us as foster parents. Sometimes we will never really know what happened in the first years of a child’s life. It is up to us to take the limited information we have and work to fill in the gaps that the child has missed.

Your job, as parents, is to help these children get what they missed before they came home, so they can heal and make the most of their own magnificent potential.

What I am enjoying most about TCC is that Dr. Purvis is hopeful. No child is a lost cause or too far gone.

*The Connected Child book club is hosted by Sarah Thacker.

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