Assessing and Planning for Complex Families (Session B)
The breakout session will explore my assessment and intervention planning model in greater detail. Using examples from my practice and videos, I will describe how to assess:
Child characteristics –health, temperament, developmental progress (infant/preschool) or academic progress (school age) and behavior. (video of children with sensitive temperaments). When taken together, these data sources can provide a useful proxy measure of child well-being.
Parent Strengths and Challenges – The characteristics that are associated with secure parent/child relationships are:
a) Parental Mindset – or flexible thinking. This refers to the ability to consider and empathize with the perspectives of others, especially the ability to consider and separate the child’s point of view (needs, preferences and feelings) from one’s own.
b) Effective Emotional Regulation – especially when under pressure or frustration. We can learn about emotional regulation from history and interviews.
c) Capacity to Self-Reflect – or accurately appraise one’s own parenting challenges and parenting skills. We can probe for self-reflection by asking about mistakes, regrets, missed opportunities. We can ask questions about the child that require parental self-reflection, such as, behavioral challenges, mistakes and regrets.
We can interview each parent about their own family history and about their attitudes, feelings and beliefs about the child and their relationship with each child. We can explore how rich and detailed their descriptions of the child are, how well their understanding of the child’s thoughts and feelings matched the reports of other informants, observations, or the child’s own reports. We are especially interested in whether they are able to separate the child’s feelings, preferences and needs from their own during interviews. Excerpts from interviews demonstrating healthy and problematic responses to questions will be shared.
Parent Child Relationship –
• Does the child give accurate cues (play with me, cuddle me, I’m hungry, etc.), and does the caregiver read and respond to the cues?
• Does the child make eye contact and engage in joint attention with the adult? Does the child initiate interactions with the parent?
• Can the child and parent stay with an activity for a period of time? Does the caregiver ‘scaffold’ or support the child’s play, allowing the child to use their skills without the caregiver taking over? (I have a nice video demonstrating this skill) Does the caregiver follow the child’s interests? (another video)
• What does the child do when hurt or upset or when they are in need of an emotional connection? Are they soothed and regulated by the parent quickly?
• Who initiates hugs and expressions of affection? How does the child or caregiver respond to requests for affection?
• How are the transfers between caregivers?
• How do the child and parent negotiate tasks (clean-up for example) or transitions (bedtime for example).
Context Factors – I consider sources of household stress and support, the community and cultural risk and protective context, and other factors as they arise.
The session will conclude with small group discussions of a case example – participants will be asked to construct a plan using all of the above information.