Cherish their parents

Notwithstanding the best intentions of all involved, children and young people can still be unsettled after contact with their birth parents. This is especially so in circumstances where the parent is struggling to manage their own feelings of hurt and shame about the circumstances of the family, or when the child does not have the opportunity to experience their parent responding to their dependency needs at each contact visit. Children can easily be triggered into the same feelings of fear, hurt, and inadequacy that pervaded their experience prior to their placement in out of home care. These are anxiety-based reactions most akin to a phobia response. The best treatment of a phobia is to gradually expose the person to the object of their phobia in circumstances that nothing bad happens until such time as their fear moderates. The worst thing to do is to avoid the object of their phobia. In such circumstances the fear will never be resolved.

With children and young people in out-of-home care the same holds true. Unless and until there is some resolution to their feelings of fear, hurt, and inadequacy associated with their birth parent connections, they will maintain an enduring sensitivity about themselves and close connection with others that, notwithstanding our best endeavours on their behalf, can result in a lifetime of low self-worth, self-devaluing decision-making, and failed relationships.

John Bowlby, the initial architect of attachment theory, said it best:

If a community values its children it must cherish their parents[1].

Difficult to conceive of, I know, but necessary, nonetheless.


What do you think Bowlby meant by this?

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[1] Bowlby, J. (1951). Maternal care and mental health. World Health Organization Monograph (Serial No. 2), Cited in Bretherton I. The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology 1992;28(5):759-775.