When you’re a parent, there’s nothing more heartbreaking…
… than to hear our kids say they feel stupid, invisible, or like no one likes them.
Some will cry as they tell us they don’t have a single friend. Others will get very quiet when you ask them, turn their heads, and talk about something else. But you see the hurt as they hang their heads.
Still, other children might tell us, “My teacher hates me. I’m always on red,” or “No one lets me play with them. They tell me I mess everything up.” Maybe they’ll even ask you, “Mommy, am I really dumb?”
My son once told me it felt like a therapist was “stealing his words.” Some children feel everyone is always trying to tell them how to talk and what to say.
They hurt as it seems no one wants to hear THEIR voice. We never went back to that therapist. We knew that support did not mean a lack of mutual respect. But not everyone knows the options that will support their children; sometimes, we might know what we’re looking for but not know how to find it. There are so many contrasting approaches and so little availability.
As parents, we want to guide our children and keep them safe.
But we don’t always know how much to support or leave alone.
We don’t want them to be hurt or judged by others, and sometimes that can mean wondering if we should help them “fit” a societal mold that may not seem to have space for our child’s intensity, concreteness, directness, or sensitivity.
Children can feel constantly corrected through a parent, therapist, or teacher’s attempt to “help” them have friends or participate in traditional group settings. As these children grow, they may feel silenced and uncertain about who they are.
Some children may feel they’re “bad” or have “wrong parts” if they don’t like the same things as their classmates. They may learn to “mask” or “fake” expected social behaviors but feel drained and overwhelmed by their efforts.
Being a kid is hard.
As adults, it’s been a while for us, so it’s easy to forget what it feels like to have no control over so many choices. Or to seek your parents’ approval because they’re your world.
Can you remember a time when a single person could make the entire universe feel safe or in another moment like that universe was crashing down around you?
This is the roller coaster that our children live with us as parents, especially when they are at their youngest and most vulnerable.
We make miracles happen or make life inconsolably horrid for them with a simple yes or no. And it doesn’t take much because we have that much authority over them – as infants, it’s whether they eat, sleep, and even move. As they grow, we continue to add more power over what they’re able to play with, what they need to do or not do, and sometimes even who they can spend time with.
We guide them in grooming habits and how they attend school… our moods dictate the tension or peace in the home. Even when we provide choices, those options come from us… our words and body language, the way we view our children, and what we tell them we believe about them is the mental template they grow up with. Children are so tuned into us because we shape the container they are raised through…
As a child, your self-worth and identity are SO wrapped up in how caregivers perceive and react to you. Our engagement, disappointment, and nurturing mean everything to our children.
And that makes them sponges!
It’s not even intentional, but they will receive and absorb the emotions of their parents and caregivers, and sometimes those feelings are REALLY intense. Children can start to embody your greatest fears, anxieties, and insecurities. In fact, if you look hard enough, you can probably see your childhood traumas reflected in them. And that’s a hard thing to live with!
They’re also outside of you and their own person, which means you don’t have the control you’d need to quiet all those big emotions or protect them from feeling them. You can’t squash those feelings like you maybe can inside your own self either. Instead, you may feel helpless, watching your little one walking around broadcasting raw emotions at the highest volume. This can leave you perpetually outside your comfort zone, coping and doing your best with what you know works for you but may not work for them.
Unfortunately, there is no parenting manual.
We don’t get a handy rulebook telling us how to raise a well-balanced little human.
In fact, it’s the opposite. Just because you are a parent, you wield too much power and can become a never-ending symbol of authoritarian injustice.
There are MILLIONS of parenting manuals, some completely contradict each other.
How do you know which ones to trust?
At Nurtured Hope, we can help you sort all this out.
We’ve worked with children and their families for over 20 years.
We learned the classical approaches and have been passionate about continuing our education and research.
We have seen incredible leaps in infant mental health and trauma research and learned the best ways to support child feelings and behaviors.
The critical role of emotional regulation and safety…
We now understand how these two factors affect so much of child behavior. Children have their best outcomes when they AND their parents are emotionally regulated and feel safe.
We’ve learned that “problem behaviors” are often stress-induced attempts to express core needs when a child feels out of control, not the blatant disrespect “grown-ups” often perceive.
Here’s the challenge: Parents and children often trigger each other in their attempts to regulate themselves and feel safe.
How do you help each side meet its needs while ensuring everyone feels supported?
We know the models, approaches, and strategies…
… you’ll need to meet that challenge. At Nurtured Hope, we focus on attachment-based, trauma-informed, inclusive, and neurodivergent-affirming approaches.
We know that parents and children must co-regulate before their children ever learn to self-regulate.
Here’s how we support you and your child so that you can communicate your emotions and needs in a supportive environment… before you need “louder” and more explosive ways to connect:
Conscious Discipline focuses on supporting parents to be “Conscious Adults.” It helps to strengthen a parent’s assertive voice (versus passive or authoritarian), stresses the importance of validating a child’s feelings even during the most challenging moments, and demonstrates how to deliver limits that build skills instead of shame. Conscious Discipline helps us see our children through the positive lens of competence and connection versus the sometimes hurt filters of our childhood.
Beyond Behaviors is a developmental, attachment, and brain-based approach that reflects current research on trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming models.
It focuses on understanding the underlying cause of behaviors and viewing behaviors as attempts to communicate needs versus avoid demands. It is a relational, body-based framework that ultimately moves away from a rewards/punishment dichotomy and instead focuses on how a regulated child will be best able to manage their emotions and behavior.
Autplay is an all-inclusive, neurodiversity-affirming, trauma-informed, collaborative family play therapy approach designed to support neurodivergent children and their parents.
“Child-Parent-Relationship Therapy (C-P-R-T)”
We use a Child-Parent Relationship Therapy curriculum to guide parents in using “play therapy” skills with their children to understand their world, connect mindfully, and increase frustration tolerance on both sides!
Parents will work through a manual and learn to engage in a child-led “special playtime” each week, as well as practice a three-step sequence for validating feelings and setting limits without the “Don’t do that!” default approach that so often triggers both children and their parents.
Play Therapy is an approach for the whole family, but it is the only approach for children. Play therapy allows children to communicate in the way that’s most natural to them. It shares a space of a million symbolic words so that children don’t have to come up with their own. It offers the safety of protection, where a child can speak their feelings behind a puppet’s face or change their mind about sharing deep thoughts that surprised them in a drawing.
Through toys, art, building materials, and sand trays, children can explore thoughts and feelings through their first language while at the same time, feeling joined, accepted, and understood.
We’ll look at your entire family and child. We won’t just focus on behavior in isolation. We will look at patterns, prevention, what happened first, the parenting team, and the back-and-forth dynamics that set everything off.
Challenges never happen in a vacuum. Still, when only one person is targeted with making a change for the entire family, the effort can feel unbalanced, therapy can feel like a punishment, and defensiveness can grow.
When all members are actively working on their contributions, change is shouldered by the entire family. Accountability by all is modeled as an ongoing life skill. At Nurtured Hope, individuals have their own “safe spaces” in therapy, but the whole family is involved. Individuals have authority over their sessions, including children, but they are always invited to incorporate parents or siblings when they feel ready. If a child benefits more from having a separate space for themselves, then the way support will look for other family members is explored as a team.
We believe mutual respect and connection are the foundation of any collaboration or change within the family unit. And we work to support every family to strengthen that foundation throughout our therapeutic process. The models, approaches, and skills we utilize are trauma-informed, inclusive, neurodiversity-affirming, and complementary to one another in their unified goals toward mindful connection, co/self-regulation, and collaborative communication.
Let us help you and your child.
At Nurtured Hope, we support the entire family, identify unmet needs, and help regulate the “big feelings.”
Reach out for a 15-minute consultation: (786) 401-5603.
Let’s work together to consider the best options for your family!