Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 2020
Published online 24th April 2020 Taylor and Francis
The Taboo of Love for children in care: its emergence through the transference relationship and in the system around the child
This version of the paper presents a more in depth look at relevant psychoanalytic theory and the transference relationship.
Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 2019
Vol. 18.1, 7-28
The Taboo of Love for children in care: its emergence through the transference relationship and in the system around the child
This paper explores the taboo of love for children in care. The author proposes that love is not a central theme in the care system, despite its direct relevance to children who have not experienced adequate love in crucial developmental months and years.
Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 2013
Vol. 39, No. 3, 286-302
From exclusion to inclusion; supporting Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators to keep children in mainstream education: a qualitative psychoanalytic research project
This paper draws on Doctor Evans’s doctoral research study based on consulting work with three primary school SENCOs that took place in 2008.
Angela Evans, together with Sara Whatley, writer and editor, has published a series of therapeutic stories specifically for traumatised children and young people, including a manual for parents, carers and therapists.
FAMILY DYNAMICS AND PARENTING
This series of articles was published with the aim of helping parents and carers to understand and resolve the challenges of everyday parenting.
Clicking on the headings will take you to the full article.
Self-harming is often the thing that puts fear into the hearts of parents. It is a sign of distress and should be taken seriously but it is important to try to see beyond the behaviour to the thoughts and feelings underneath.
Many children experience anxiety at some some time over going to school and it is often hard for them to identify and express what lies behind it. Parents can also be affected by this anxiety if they don’t understand what may be driving it.
The first thing parents do when they discover that their child is in any way disabled is to blame themselves. Sometimes this happens at birth but some disabilities are not discovered until later in a child’s life. Disabilities range from the more extreme to the less extreme but wherever your child is on the spectrum it can be really hard as a parent to accept it.
Stillness seems impossible when you’re a busy parent. Parents often yearn for it, and even when they get it after children are in bed, their minds are over-active but their bodies are exhausted, and stillness cannot be easily found. Apart from the non-stop juggling and energy required to be a parent, there is a need to be as fast and as active as your child in order to keep up.
When we closely observe babies with their parents, we can see them mirroring their parents’ faces. Psychological tests have shown that babies will seek out a face and will hold their gaze on the face. If the parent screws up his or her face, the baby will do the same. If the parent smiles, so will the baby. It is in this way that the baby’s security is laid down. He will continue to mirror and imitate the close adults around him. He wants to be like them, to be part of the group. He is programmed to find delight in others, and to be the source of delight too, for that ensures his survival and well-being, in every sense of the word.
In early years, children generally have no concept of death. They often know about birth – a new baby brother, sister or cousin arrives and suddenly the child who was the baby becomes the big one. Or they know about baby animals and buds every Spring. When loved grandparents or older relatives pass away, little children can feel terribly sad, but still it might not have sunk in that this thing called death will happen to them one day. It is often not until they are able to reflect on themselves as quite separate human beings to their parents that children will suddenly realise the full impact of their mortality. Some children have this realisation thrust on them early, with parental or sibling loss. It can be experienced with extreme cases of parental separation too, where contact with parents or grandparents is suddenly severely limited. Experiences of extreme loss throw children and adults into a state of mourning.
Boundaries and Consequences
Boundaries and consequences are essential to our survival. A society without rules and boundaries would be chaos and confusion. We would walk down the high street keeping a hypervigilant eye out for cars, and we would drive down the road either with fear and hesitancy or perhaps risk-taking recklessness. Equally, a toddler without boundaries would begin to feel frightened and out of control. His power to be destructive would terrify him. It might feel perhaps too authoritarian and strict to give boundaries. We might try to rationalise why the child is hitting or breaking things. We offer meaningful discussions with the child. The reality is that we need both – boundaries and understanding. That leads to a child who feels safe and loved.
Research shows us that children respond well to praise from an early age – it is good to praise and results in parent and child feeling good. So what happens to make children, and subsequently adults, struggle with praise? Some children are naturally more self-conscious than others and will feel embarrassed at any attention that makes them stand out from the crowd. Other children might have had difficult experiences that could affect their self-esteem. Those children need praise in a more thoughtful way.
Bullying takes many forms. It can be verbal or physical, subtle or overt, mild or extreme. Bullies will often choose as their victims children who are as insecure as they are. It is painful to see your own insecurities mirrored in someone else. When bullies see their own insecurities reflected back at them they are overwhelmed by their unconscious painful feelings and they stop thinking. They hate what they see and they attack it. This may sound cruel, and that is why bullying is hard to manage for many of us. It emerges when more primitive and savage instincts are not balanced with more thoughtful, loving ones.
Holidays with Adolescents
Holidays from school, whether at home or away, are often challenging with adolescents. Adolescents have that difficult conflict of wanting to be with their family whilst simultaneously wanting to be independent. It all seems to be about negotiation at this stage. What do you do if your adolescent just won’t negotiate? There are many times when you do need to stand firm as a parent, for you do have the greater experience. Often this works and your adolescent will begin to see the sense of talking with you, but sometimes it is more of a struggle and the holiday can be a less pleasurable experience than hoped for.
First Babies – Teething Problems
The excitement of a new baby is like no other feeling. However, even with a ‘normal’ pregnancy and birth, things can feel difficult for a while. If things are not as smooth as planned, things can feel difficult for more than a while and extra steps might need to be taken to help.
The excitement of a new baby is like no other feeling. Even if the baby is not planned, the prospect of a new little being who will need you and be yours alone can be overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Much time and effort is put into preparation. Plans for the child-birth are often made – in hospital, at home, who will be there. And when the baby arrives, family and friends continue the excitement for the mother or couple. If a difficult or long labour makes for exhausted parents, the glow of the new birth carries them through. Gradually the professionals disappear and leave baby and parents to their new life together.
We all look forward to our holidays – a break from routine, relaxing and fun. Six weeks or more of holidays with children are to some parents a joy, to others a challenge and generally a bit of both.
The Child in the Adult
What was your childhood like? How was your relationship with your father? With your mother? Do any significant events stay in your memory? How was your early childhood? And your adolescence? Sibling relationships? Friends? If you’re a parent, I expect you’ve asked and answered these questions to yourself, even without being aware of it.
Some children are more naturally fearful than others. This is regardless of their experiences. Some of us are risk-takers and others are more cautious. There are shades of grey along that spectrum, with the more extreme end being very cautious and not wanting to take any risks. Children who are nearer this end of the spectrum often struggle socially, and school playgrounds can seem like frightening places.
Settling into the new term
It can be a shock each year when children return to the school routine. Often, especially for children new to school or subject to a significant change of class members, it can take a whole term to settle in. Parents and children can find themselves yearning for those summer days.
Stories for children
Stories form part of our cultural heritage. They existed verbally before we became literate, passed down from generation to generation. Our traditional fairy stories, packed with symbolism and metaphors, provide us with an outlook on life that is available to children. They are full of wisdom about the world. And children love hearing them, again and again.
Severe bullying can occur either as an isolated event eg. a gang physically or sexually assaulting someone, or as part of an ongoing attack of a verbal or physical nature that can destroy confidence and self-esteem. It is a subject that we all would prefer to ignore, especially in our own communities.
Siblings – when conflict hurts
What if siblings can’t get on when they are children? What do you do when rivalrous feelings don’t diminish and resolve? It can be very difficult for parents and can affect the functioning of family life. A rule of thumb is that the parents need to take charge and make the children feel safer. However, this needs to go alongside empathic feelings for the children involved.
How can such powerful and conflicted feelings exist for siblings? We are all delighted when our children get on well and play together in harmony, then we are equally appalled when they argue and fight.
Children can refuse to go to school at any age, and we are all familiar with adolescents ‘bunking off’ school. What are the underlying reasons for this behaviour, and what can parents do?
The Peaceful Years?
The years in between toddlers and teenagers, ages 5 to 12, are supposedly the peaceful ones, not in a physical sense, as children of this age are often very boisterous and noisy, but peaceful in an emotional sense. By this I mean that they have negotiated the difficulties of establishing themselves in the world as separate little beings, and haven’t yet hit the turmoil of adolescence. However, these years are not without their anxieties.
Sometimes it can feel really hard for a parent and a child getting through the early years. What can you do when your toddler really tantrums? When the tantrum is so big that your child can’t hear you?
From Toddlers to Children
When do toddlers become children? Often, parents suddenly look at them doing or saying something in a certain way and realise that their little toddlers have turned into ‘proper’ children, who can run and jump, talk with confidence and play with other children. At this time of year, it is often the beginning of school that prompts that realisation. And with that realisation comes a sense of pride, but also perhaps fear for your child managing in the big world, and even a sense of loss.
Children in Transition
Children have many transitions in their lives; probably the biggest transition is from the safety of the womb into the outside world, with the momentous first experience of breathing air into new lungs.
Teenagers – how to manage
A number of people have asked me for thoughts about parenting and teenagers. It is in laying down boundaries and trying to get the balance with boundaries and freedom that parents often struggle. Step one has to be to talk with other parents and ask for their advice.
The changes our children go through as they move through their teenage years are a preparation for their move into independence. The teenage years are an in-between stage, where maturity is partial and the full responsibility of adulthood has not yet been assumed.
Projection and Projective Identification
We all have a tendency to project our feelings or attitudes onto others, and it subtly affects how we relate. This can be positive or negative, and often we’re not even aware what has happened.
In classic fairy stories step-mothers are wicked and witch-like. Why is this such a powerful image, and how can real-life step mums hope to overturn it when the step-child’s loyalties are naturally with his or her birth mother?
As step-parents we are faced with many challenges and complications. We have to be honest about the negative feelings, as well as the positive ones. Four golden rules can help to bring about a settled and stable family life.
Families where parents have separated or divorced
When parents separate, every family member has to rebuild an internal world as well as an external one. Although it can be painful, with work recovery is very possible.
We probably all feel guilt about not being good enough as a parent; it’s the source of a lot of parental anxiety. But perfection is unattainable – and our children need us to let them experience frustration.
Parenting – The Joys and the Challenges
Being a parent is one of the most important jobs we ever undertake. As parents we are the guardians of the next generation of adults. We guide our children’s thinking and their values. Because of this enormous responsibility, an amount of anxiety inevitably accompanies the joys of being a parent.