Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tips on How to Help a Child Cope With Parental Separation

The specific example situation here is where there are two children in a family and the parents have separated. The kids are Jack a boy of 8 and Kate a girl of 5. Jack is acting up and Kate is copying Jack's behaviours. This advice is for the mother who is raising the kids. In particular it is geared towards helping Jack. The suggestions are generic and must be adapted depending on his personality and the particular issues that arise.


The overall aim is for the mother to help Jack manage his emotional turmoil.

This is best achieved by the following:

  • Giving him the language to express what is going on for him.
  • Allowing him to express it, in a constructive way.
  • Managing the spill over onto the other child.
  • Nurturing the continued development of his self esteem.

One of the first things to do is to  inform the school that the parents have separated. Ask his teacher to send a note home if he behaves in an inappropriate way. (This means that the mother can deal with it in a timely manner). However, it is not unusual for children at this stage to be well behaved in school and not at home.

Strategies to achieve the above aims:


Giving him the language to express what is going on for him:


Talk to him when the “iron is cold” when he is not acting out. He is more likely to take in what you say then, than in the middle of a row.

Use these types of statements:

“Jack I know you are angry that Mum and Dad are no longer together, however, we still love you and are always here for you”.

“Jack, I have the feeling that you are unhappy, is that true? How can I help you? “I want to make it better for you”.

“If you can tell me what is going on inside your head, then I can do my best to help you, however I can’t read your mind”.

“Just because Mum and Dad are not together it does not mean that we love you less”.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Guidelines for Parents to Ensure their Child’s Online Safety

What should my child do to remain safe on line?

  1. Sit down with your child and go through the privacy settings for the App or Website they wish to use. Prior to this, do some research such as Googling “Privacy Concerns with Instagram”.
    • This will help you discover information such as Instagram reveals the location (Geo Tag) of every photo taken by all Instagram users. So any photograph taken at home can reveal the user’s address.
  2. Advise your child not to give out their online passwords to anyone and to change it periodically.
  3. At night keep devices in your bedroom, not in a central place downstairs. (Children have been known to go down stairs at night and to retrieve them).

Who Should your child friend online?


  1. Remind your child only to be friends with children that they would be friendly with offline.
  2. Go through your child’s account with them and filter friends to be only those with whom they spend time offline. Have a ‘delete day’. Inform your child that you expect them to do this also. 
  3. Inform your child that it is okay not to accept friendship requests from people they do not know. Tell them you expect them to do this and that you will be monitoring to ensure that that is what happens.

What Information is okay to share?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Social Media Guidelines for Children and Teenagers

Here are some guidelines for students, which can help them stay safe when using social media.


  • When taking, texting or typing apply T.H.I.N.K. This stands for the following:


T. Is it true
H. Is it helpful
I. Is it interesting
N. Is it nice
K. Is it kind

If what you want to talk, text or type is all of the above, then go for it. If it is not what you would say when face to face with your friend then think twice. Pause. Take a moment.

  • Keep a healthy/ life balance. Your online activity should enhance your offline life not replace it.
  • Everyone is entitled to their view both online and offline. Seek to understand not to be understood.
  • Bullying online often has its roots offline. Bullying can move easily from the classroom or the football pit to a smart phone. If it happens to you, talk to an adult you trust like a family member or a teacher who can help you handle the situation.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A 10 Step Approach to Create an Attachment Toolkit for Parents Dealing with a Sub-Optimal Relationship With Their Child

Over the past few years I have worked with a number of families where the relationship between the parent(s) and their child had been sub-optimal. Often the underlying reason for this was due to attachment issues. Typically what I have done in these cases is worked with the clients to understand the issues and eventually develop what I have been calling an Attachment Toolkit.

Based on feedback from clients, I have now developed an easily understood 10 step approach aimed at creating and implementing this Toolkit.

The Attachment Toolkit outlines a number of approaches and ideas for how the parent(s) can better manage their relationship with their child. These are focussed on either reinforcing a secure attachment relationship, or repairing an insecure one.

The Toolkit is developed based on client specific examples of interactions between parent(s) and child that will have been identified in my intake form and discussed with the Parents. It will outline suggestions for how to handle these differently in the future.

The 10 step approach is outlined below.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What to Do When You Have A Row With Your Child


Fostering a good parent-child relationship is as important, if not more important, than tending to the practicalities of parenting. Attachment Theory has taught us that this relationship is the cornerstone of the child’s personality. The originators of the theory hypothesised that a child would develop the following three core skills in a secure attachment relationship with its primary carer. The first of these is the ability for a child to be in control of their own feelings. They termed this emotional regulation. The second is self-reliance or a sense of independence. The third is social competence or an ability to manage relationships and in particular, peer relationships. (I will return to these in a future blog post).

It is therefore important that the relationship between a carer and a child fosters development of these skills. We also know from the theory that personality formed in infanthood, typically endures into adulthood. Another significant feature of this relationship is that patterns of parent-child communication developed in the early years of one generation tend to be passed down unchanged to the next generation. (This is another subject I will return to in another blog post). 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ghosts In the Nursery 1: Primary Carer Behaviours And Subsequent Infant Responses

One of the questions that is often asked with regard to Attachment Theory is - what are the Behaviours in a Primary Carer that Contribute to fostering a Secure Attachment in a Child. The question is also often asked in reverse also, i.e. what are the behaviours that contribute to an Insecure Attachment. A related question is what are the corresponding behaviours in the child that are triggered by the various behaviours of the primary carer.


This article attempts to answer these questions.

As with much of Attachment Theory, The Strange Situation is one of the best tools there is to understand the dynamics of attachment and to answer the questions posed above. The Strange Situation experiment begins with a Primary Carer sitting near a child in an unfamiliar room filled with toys. It looks at a child's responses when a) a stranger joins the primary carer in a room and attempts to interact with the child b) when the primary carer leaves the room with the stranger staying and c) when the primary carer returns. This experiment has taught us that it is a child’s response to its primary carer at reunion, rather than separation, that reveals the most about attachment security and insecurity.  Let us begin by analysing the responses of the child in the Strange Situation.

In the experiment, secure children are immediately reassured by reconnecting with their primary carer no matter how distressed they had been by their original separation and are rapidly able to resume play.

Avoidant children do not seek the primary carer out when she returns. The avoidant child appears more interested in the toys and does not appear to miss her.

Ambivalent /resistant children are not comforted by the primary carer’s return at all and remain distressed. 

Disorganised/disorientated children appear afraid of the primary carer upon her return.

So with a basic understanding of the child’s responses, let us look at the carer’s behaviours that contribute to triggering these.

In essence, it is the quality of communication in the relationship between the primary carer and child, that determines the difference between a secure and an insecure attachment relationship. Below are some of the things that contribute to these relationships.

Children who are securely attached are picked up quickly by their primary carers when they cry and they are held with tenderness and care. They are only held for as long as they want to be held. Their primary carers tend to blend their rhythms’ with those of their child. According to Ainsworth(1978), “these mothers’ behaviours reflected sensitivity rather than misattunement, acceptance rather than rejection, cooperation rather than control and emotional availability rather than remoteness”.

These primary carers read the child’s nonverbal cues and respond. Secure infants communicate their feelings and needs directly, safe in the knowledge that their communication will evoke an attuned response.

The primary carers of avoidant children are generally uncomfortable with physical contact rand tend to be emotionally unavailable. These children, as a result react with anger to their mother’s rejection and their own attachment needs tend to be sidestepped. 

The primary carers of ambivalent infants tend to be inconsistently responsive to their infants attachment signals. This is due to the primary carer’s own state of mind intruding on her ability to tune into her children. Consequently, these children learn to communicate their attachment needs in a persistent way in the hope that keeping up the pressure would keep up the care. 


The primary carers of disorganised infants tend to be frightened, disassociated or to frighten their children. These children as a result are fearful of the parent but have no coherent strategy on how to manage their attachment behaviours.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Attendance at a Course On Mentalisation at the Anna Freud Centre in London


I was fortunate enough to attend a course on Mentalisation Based Theory (MBT) at the Anna Freud center in London.

The course was given by Peter Fonagy and Anthony Bateman, the two originators of Mentalisation Theory. MBT is one of the more recent developments in the overall Attachment Theory area. Fonagy and Bateman are the authors of the seminal text on the subject. Handbook of Mentalizing in Mental Health Practice.

I will return to what I learned on the course at a later date.


However, this post is just to share some of the photos I took at centre. The center is a few doors away from where Anna, and indeed Sigmund himself, lived.

It was nice to be in a place with these kind of historical links

See the photos below.
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The Home of Sigmund and Anna Freud

The photos below are from the walls inside