“After everything I have said and done, why don’t they trust me?!” Dan Hughes explains why.
Its so frustrating, when your foster child doesn’t trust you – after everything you have done for them. Even after being with you for years, and you constantly proving that you are trustworthy, and you mean what you say, and you do what you say, they still don’t trust you. It can be the most disheartening thing when trying to look after a foster child.
Psychologist and therapist Dan Hughes Ph.D helps us understand exactly why these kids find it so hard to trust us, and more importantly what we can do about it.
In this video course, you will be introduced to the founder of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), Daniel Hughes, Ph.D. After spending a large amount of time working with children placed in foster and adoptive homes, Dr. Hughes noticed these children shared a similar characteristic of mistrust towards their parents and caregivers. Throughout the video, Dr. Hughes explains his efforts to understand this characteristic and the interventions used to help the children establish new lives from an attachment-focused theoretical background.
It is understood that all trauma is not experienced similarly and children who experience trauma at a young age, are at risk of pervasive problems. These problems include issues with attachment, trouble regulating basic physiological states, cognitive problems, learning disabilities, dissociation, poorly developed sense of self, and impulsive behaviors. Another issue experienced by these children, is constant hypervigilance that helps them identify threats in their environment. This results in missed opportunities for them to learn about the external world and how it impacts them, because their focus is on their own safety.
Children who have experienced trauma by their primary caregivers, learn to dissociate, or not allow themselves to experience emotions, such as sadness. They rely on themselves, so they do not have to deal with potential rejection by others. This is described as blocked trust. In addition, children who rely on themselves due to mistrust, tend to mature quickly, and are not able to learn the normal activities of childhood that safety would have provided them, including playing and how to make friends. Blocked care is when a child repeatedly rejects comfort and support by their parent, and the parent learns to stop caring for the child emotionally. Parents who experience blocked care often have a difficult time keeping an open mind, and do not focus on the meaning behind the behaviors. In order to work on correcting behaviors, the child must be able to trust their parent and turn to them for support.
In terms of the brain, connections between the frontal cortex, the amygdala, areas around the hippocampus, and deeper regions of the brain, are weak in children who have experienced trauma. These connections are important to enhance the ability to identify and regulate emotions, as well as managing the fight/flight/freeze defensive response. These connections must be facilitated if children are going to be able to not only regulate their emotions, but also turn to their caregivers for safety.
Comfort and joy is discussed as playing an important role in forming a trusting and safe attachment. It is the professional’s job to support the parent with finding ways to provide comfort and joy in the relationship. A mental state, neurologists term “open and engaged,” is discussed, which helps allow comfort and joy to be experienced. The professional and the caregiver must learn to stay open and engaged and not become defensive or reactive to the child, so the child can learn to be open and engaged themselves. Dr. Hughes describes the strategy of PACE (Playful, Accepting, Curious, and Empathetic) that he developed to promote a reciprocal open and engaged relationship between himself and the children he works with.
To combat the combine blocked trust and blocked care experienced by children and their caregivers, Dr. Hughes describes the importance of utilizing “intersubjectivity” where children can begin to experience positivity within themselves. This will help to create a relationship based on connection and not mutual defensiveness. He reminds parents and caregivers that mistakes will be made, and that it is important to remain approachable, empathic, and patient to help children rebuild trust.
For a full transcript of the video’s this course is based on, click here.