Emotional Band-Aids

by | Mar 7, 2011 | Adoption, Parenting | 0 comments

emotional band aids adoptive parenting tbri

EDITOR’S NOTE This blog post about meeting a child’s emotional needs by saying yes to bandages was originally written for adoptive parents in 2011. While most of the information is still valid, we have made a few updates and clarifications, along with a much friendlier photo.

Every adult knows that children love Band-Aids, especially the ones with their favorite cartoon characters. (Side note for those who have adopted transracially: while “flesh-toned” bandages do come in a variety of skin tones these days, they may not be available in all areas. This may be a good check on if you are living in a diverse enough area for your child). It may seem that children can manipulate even the smallest of hurts for a chance to wear a cool bandage, but there are psychological reasons for Band-Aids too. Primarily, Band-Aids are a (cheap and easy) way to nurture your kids and show them that you care about their hurts. 
In adoption and TBRI parenting, we encourage parents to give bandages for old scars and even hurts that did not leave a scar. Your child may not have received nurturing from anyone when the original hurt occurred; sharing a Band-Aid (and maybe a kiss) can be part of the corrective emotional experience needed for re-parenting.
Time out: I have used some technical therapeutic jargon here because these are concepts I explain when I teach Adoption Preparation Classes and I want those students to be able to recognize them and understand them more deeply, but I will define them for everyone else.
A Corrective Emotional Experience for me would be eating part of a giant turkey leg without getting ill the next day. For now, the trauma of vomiting several times at Disney World has me avoiding giant turkey legs in any setting. It is “the Happiest Place on Earth” though, so it wasn’t that traumatic… 
Re-parenting is the idea that often if you adopt a six year old, your six your old has missed out on six years of parenting. As a parent, you can start at the beginning of psychosocial development in your parenting style to ensure that all the child’s emotional needs are met. I do not agree with all things written about re-parenting, but the idea is important. The focus I teach is on developmental parenting. Time in.
Parents, even though you are busy and stressed and distracted, most of you really do care about every hurt your child may have, whether it is physical, emotional, or historical. If your child wants a bandage, use the opportunity to provide some intensive nurturing in a a brief interaction. Not only are you meeting your child’s psychological/emotional needs, but the Band-Aid is a physical and visual reminder to your child for as long as the adhesive lasts that you love him or her and are providing nurture and care. Parents who have adopted, search out scars or ask your child to show you where he or she has been hurt, and make up for the parenting he or she missed at that point by lovingly applying an emotionally healing Band-Aid to that hurt today.
I would challenge parents not to differentiate “psychological” Band-Aids from Band-Aids for physical hurts. The differentiation can make the “psychological” Band-Aids and hurts seem less valuable to you as a parent. Although your child may not be bleeding, he or she is hurting, and emotional needs are just as urgent as cuts and scrapes. Children’s hurts are already too often overlooked or missed. You may know that you are providing “psychological” Band-Aids, but use the same name to identify them to your child. This is just one more way you can stress that you care about your child’s emotional needs, encouraging trust, felt-safety, and attachment.