Parental presence: A child’s or young person’s sense that their parent is there for them, that the parent is a safe, solid and dependable person who can be relied upon. A child’s sense that their parent knows their whereabouts and cares what they are doing. The child knows what their parent’s values are and what they believe about right and wrong.
Loss of Parental Presence: Parents are supported to acknowledge fluctuations in their levels of involvement and presence they have in their child’s physical, emotional and social life and how they relate to the development of unacceptable behaviours. By exploring their own experiences, unmet needs and developing an inter- and intra-personal awareness, parents affirm their parental values and become conscious how they communicate them. This helps them to (re-) build their parental presence.
Rebuilding the relationship: When relationships have become characterised by challenging, harmful and self destructive behaviour there are very few opportunities for people to relate more positively. The relationship needs to be rebuilt based on acknowledging the negative, escalatory patterns and committing to learn to adopt connecting ones.
De-escalation: Parents learn to identify when things are escalating and to step out of the pattern. Two types of escalation tend to occur: one where both sides escalate and the escalation may end in violence and another where the parent chooses to give in. Parents often do both. In NVR parents learn to wait until things are calm and respond instead of react using the maxim ‘strike when the iron is cold’.
Supporters: Parents identify individuals who can support them and their child; they are specific about how they want these people to help them resist the young person’s challenging behaviours.
Breaking the silence: Parents tell others about the child’s difficult behaviour and how they feel hopeless and helpless about it and need help
Helping siblings and others: By taking time to listen to their experiences and explaining the changes in approach, parents support siblings and others, who have been impacted by the child’s destructive behaviours.
Sit-in: If the child repeats the behaviour/s that were addressed in the NVR Announcement (for example, punching a sibling), parents will plan a sit-in. They will enter the child’s bedroom and sit down and tell them in a calm and quiet way, that they are there to assist the child in thinking of ways forward and to change things. They offer to assist the child in thinking about ways forward. Then they sit quietly or silently for a period of time, to demonstrate their love and their commitment to working towards change in a peaceful way.
Campaign of Concern: Originally called ‘message campaign’ by Haim Omer, concern is the attitude or mindset in which we would like the family to communicate with the young person after a problematic or positive incident. The support network is informed by parents or other caregivers of such an incident, and the parents nominate certain supporters to approach their child by text, email, letter, video call or in person. In case of a problematic incident (a ‘small basket behaviour’), each supporter expresses their concern for everyone affected by the incident, including the young person who has instigated it. The messages should be neither blaming nor minimising. There should be at least as many ‘positive incident’ messages as ‘problematic incident’ messages. Positive incidents are exceptions to the problem – e.g. when the young person has controlled themselves during an argument rather than resorting to aggression as in the past – or an example that shows the young person beginning to thrive or reconnect with other family members, e.g. when they have become able to sit through a maths lesson which they had previously been unable to, or when they have sometimes taken a meal with their parents again as in the past. In the campaign of concern, the support network becomes a containing social environment for the child or young person.
Tailing and Telephone Round: When young people run away from home, truant from school, or stay out at night rather than returning home at an appointed time, risks that present themselves to them increase. Some of these risks are drug misuse, gang involvement, child sexual exploitation and rape, use in drug dealing and trafficking. The physical and psychological harm to the young person tends to be significant, and parents or other caregivers lose parental presence when the young person withdraws from their sphere of influence. ‘Tailing’ reverses this process. By ‘leaving footprints in dangerous places’, caregivers strategically raise their presence with people and in places the young person frequents, e.g. by meeting other parents of other vulnerable young people the child has contact with, gathering contact details, communicating with other adults and young people when their child has not come home, and seeking to find the young person’s whereabouts. In the telephone round, caregivers contact a wide range of people who may be able to communicate with their child. It is important to persist in these efforts, time and again, when young people show a pattern of absconding.
Announcement: Parents carefully construct an announcement they will make to their child explaining that they are going to resist the negative behaviour, that they love their child and they want things to be better. They commit to a non-violent stance (verbal and physical). There are no threats or warnings. The announcement is short and specific. Parents practise making the announcement until it embodies and resonates with both their love for their child and their stance of resistance.
Reconciliation gestures (or ‘relational gestures’): Parents may make regular small gestures of unconditional love and kindness towards their child. These may be small gifts (items of food, repairs to things that have been broken, special messages, watching the child’s favourite TV programme) which are made irrespective of how the child has behaved and without expecting anything in return or pointing out the act of kindness to the child. Reconciliation gestures are intended to help the parent enact feelings of warmth and love. If the gesture is spurned, parents do not react.
Active resistance: Parents choose to resist attempts to engage them in escalation. They resist the temptation to have the last word. Parents engage in peaceful protest against harmful behaviour. Parents stop giving in to unreasonable demands (internet access throughout the night, bribing the child to attend school, unlimited taxi and laundry services).
Communication Model: Child-focused NVR is a form of therapy that was developed to help children with problematic behaviours such as aggression and violence, running away and truanting or self-harming, and who were abused or neglected in the past to overcome some of the emotional difficulties that have remained hidden behind their behaviours. This is achieved by helping parents to re-connect to their child and initiate a ‘caring dialogue’. First, the NVR practitioner helps the parent experience a ‘moment of strength’ by remembering a strong yet non-escalating response to problematic child behaviour, and perhaps planning another one. The parent then makes use of the NVR ‘relational/reconciliation gestures’ in a specific way – to address unmet needs in the young person. In the process, the parent is supported to imagine such a dialogue, in which the child will be able to show vulnerability, the parent will be able to provide care, and the child will be able to accept their care. Imagining such positive future interaction builds hope, strengthens parents further, and enables them to attune to their child in a sensitive and caring way, even when the child still rejects such care.
Connecting conversations: After the deconstruction of old patterns, parents can start developing new ways of being for and with their child and learn to respond rather than react. Once they are ready, they can rehearse with supporters some new ways of being with their child. Active responsive listening to the child, noticing and naming how the child feels, reflecting on their own or others’ relevant experiences (without falling into lecturing and preaching), visualising or naming the child’s unmet needs, putting themselves into their shoes and seeing things from their side, empathising, asking for forgiveness are all examples of reconnection. This is not an exhaustive or prescriptive list. Graduate parents’ testimonies provide inspiration for new parents, who develop their own ways of applying the NVR principles.
Self-Announcement: Parents and carers look in a non-blaming and non-judgemental way at the painful feelings and experiences that stopped them from being effective in their parenting. They commit themselves to being present, aware and involved in changing their own part in the unhealthy escalatory patterns acknowledging their own capacity and motivation for bringing about change.
Use of mindfulness in NVR: Parents and carers learn different ways of mindfulness as a practice of clearing the mind of thoughts and judgements by being attentive to unconscious processes and bodily sensations thereby helping them reduce thoughtless and reactive tendencies which usually evolve from and maintain patterns of conflict. Mindfulness helps parents to cultivate their parental presence by allowing them to relax and take care of themselves in a constructive way and to develop a non-judgemental and non-violent stance towards themselves and others.
New Authority: The new authority emphasises parents’ self-control and persistence over control of the child, mutual responsibility for escalations over blaming the child as solely responsible for family break-down, resistance over punishment and transparency over secrecy. It is a new paradigm of authoritative parenting that promotes supervision, firmness and discipline replacing distance, power and hierarchy used in traditional authoritarian parenting. The metaphor of the anchoring function of the parent for the child and the importance of social support become central components of a secure parent-child bond.
NVR as trauma-focused therapy In NVR, parents or other caregivers take action in ways they would ordinarily feel inhibited from doing, because of the difficult emotions that could arise. One key emotion in dealing with a young person who responds with aggression is fear, which can feel overwhelming to parents who have experienced abuse in the past and can lead to trauma symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed, paralysed, wanting to run away or even become ‘dissociative’. However, by exposing themselves to such ‘trauma triggers’ again and again, e.g. by carrying out ‘sit-ins’ in response to ‘small basket’ behaviours, parents can become de-sensitized for such triggers. Preparing for such scenarios, NVR practitioners can use methods that help prevent parents from feeling overwhelmed and give them they sense that they remain in control of themselves. In this way, NVR becomes a form of trauma therapy.
Self-care /Looking after yourself: Parents make time for themselves and for activities that they enjoy, restoring themselves and enhancing their capacity for giving to others.
Graduate Parent Participation: Parents who have completed an NVR programme become actively involved in all aspects of the NVR projects (groups, mentoring, presentations, writing, research) to share their experience with new parents and others. They combine compassion, empathy, containment and support with the hope that others can overcome hopelessness and despair as well, which new parents to the approach can listen to, believe and accept better from them than from professionals
SPACE stands for ‘supporting parents in responding to anxious childhood emotions’. The approach is a combination of NVR and CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy), which has been specifically developed to help families in which children suffer from debilitating anxiety but do not cooperate sufficiently in therapy. Parents work along a continuum ranging from ‘protection’ of the child from anxiety-related challenges at one end, to ‘support’ of the child to face these challenges and gain confidence and a sense that they themselves can overcome their fears. In order to re-balance their position and move towards the ‘support’ end of the continuum, parents learn to recognise how they have been accommodating the child to show avoidance of what they are afraid of, and how to overcome such accommodation. By then supporting the child as they gradually come face-to-face with more and more of the situations they have been avoiding, children overcome their problems with anxiety, and parents or siblings no longer have to suffer from the fallout of the anxiety, such as when the child in the past has ‘made’ family members carry out certain obsessional rituals or prevented the family from undertaking pleasurable or wholesome activities.
The Four Core Parenting Values:
1. Safety of the child and of others
2. Developing their full potential and abilities in order for them to have a good future
3. Having good relationships
4. Showing respect for themselves, their parents and others
Vigilant Care: Vigilant care consists of three stages which can be compared to a traffic-light-system: The ‘open attention’ can be compared to the green light. Parents keep their eyes and ears open, stay vigilant for any warning signals during routine contacts with the child (school runs, meals). In the ‘focussed attention’ (=comparable to the amber traffic light), parents become more vigilant and talk to other people who are closely involved with the child (teachers, friends, grand-parents). In the ‘protective action’ (= comparable to the red light) parents and their supporters take action (announcement, sit-ins, active resistance, increased visual presence, protective actions). Parents regularly shift between these three positions.
Three Baskets: Parents prioritise unwanted behaviours by placing them in three differently sized baskets. The large basket contains the largest number of behaviours, that can be let go of for now. The medium-sized basket is for behaviours to compromise over and the small basket is for the one or two most serious and dangerous behaviours that the parent is going to resist actively.
Fourth basket or rainbow basket (sometimes also called the flower basket): The rainbow basket provides parents with the opportunity to re-connect with their unconditional love for the child by prompting them to recall special memories and forgotten qualities of the child. This enables the child to be viewed more holistically.