Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review ~ The Connected Child

A good friend at our church, who also happens to be in the adoption process, gave us this book right after Christmas.  She and her husband had the opportunity to attend the Empowered to Connect conference in 2012, and they claim it was life-changing.  The founder/leader, Dr. Karen Purvis, is an expert on helping adopted, at-risk children with traumatic backgrounds cope with their challenges and connect to their new family members.  This book is written by Dr. Purvis, and, I have to admit, her parenting advice for at-risk children is so simple yet SO life-changing.

  • Discipline is the one thing I feel most clueless about when it comes to how we are going to raise our soon-to-be-adopted child.  I know there are countless discipline methods out there, and I've known all along that disciplining, correcting, teaching an older adopted child needs to be approached differently than say how me or my husband were disciplined or corrected as children.  Until reading this book, I wouldn't have had any tools or knowledge on where to start!  Well, Dr. Purvis' advice on parenting is simple, doable, and really common-sense when you think about it.  Any adoptive family looking for some fresh ideas on how to help your child connect to your family should read this book!
  • The challenge for me is that I know I will want to spoil my child rotten.  I'll know the bleak place where he or she came from, and I know I will want to give him everything in the world.  I would never want to discipline him or her in a way that would cause more mental, physical, or emotional scars than he may already have.  This book teaches that adopted children need discipline, they need to know that an adult is in charge, and, in fact, they are comforted by these things. 
  • I love that Dr. Purvis' methods never tolerate disrespectful behavior or words from the child or parent, and I love how her methods always involve offering the child appropriate behavior choices (which are selected by the parent).  
  • I love how she stresses simple ways to connect (even during a correction or teachable moment) like holding hands, maintaining eye contact, hugs, and close physical proximity.   
  • I appreciate how this book addresses many neurological effects that a child's first year can have on his future years as he grows up.  There's a lot of medical/mental/physiological things that go on in a child's brain that I didn't have a clue about until reading this book.

 It is me and my husband along with our child who should face the world's problems together.  We are united and should always be on the same team.
Play, Play Play!  When we as parents simply play with our child we are helping his brain develop more fully, we are helping them connect to us and build a trust fund with us, and we are presenting many positive opportunities to help them heal and gain self esteem.
 Provide "felt safety" for our child.  This is "providing an atmosphere where your children feel and experience safety for themselves."  This book goes into great detail about what this strategy looks like in practice. 
 Speak simply, using as few words as possible.  Some helpful suggested phrases are: "Use your words," Stop and breathe," "Let me see your eyes," and "Focus and finish your task."
 Use every situation to teach "life values" such as respect, using words, "no hurts", knowing who's boss, "listen & obey", and "stick together". 
 When correcting or disciplining our child, we should see these moments as opportunities for teaching our child how to live and react and function better in this world.  We should teach or show him or her how to respond better next time, and then offer him or her the opportunity for a re-do.  Choices can help the child feel more in control! They can help him or her be more successful.
Help the child know what to expect.  Describe to them what is about to happen and what they might see, hear, smell, feel during the next activity of the day.  This practice helps the child not to panic in overwhelming new situations.

This book has truly been a blessing to me; it has given me a place to start when I think about how to help my child to adjust to living as a loved member of our family.  There will no doubt be great challenges with attachment, discipline, and healing, but I now feel like I have some tools in my toolbox that I can use once that glorious day comes and we have a little one flitting around our home.

I think this book could be great for adoptive parents but also a great tool for teachers.  Being a former elementary school teacher, I know many of my students were not adopted, but they certainly had troubling, and even traumatic, backgrounds.  I can see the discipline methods suggested in this book working very well in the classroom too!

Thanks for reading,


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  1. I also found the Empowered to Connect book powerful and practical. The workshop was indeed life changing. To see and hear in person how to use these techniques was transforming. I recommend it to everyone.

    1. Yes, Brenda, I would love to go to one of Dr. Purvis' conferences. I hope that we'll get that opportunity sometime during our adoption journey. Thanks for reading!


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