Parenting a child with emotional and behavioural difficulties

Parenting a child with emotional and behavioural difficulties

Dan Hughes


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Due to their early experiences of loss and lack of care, many adopted and looked after children experience emotional and behavioural difficulties. If you are looking to adopt a child, this guide will give you practical and realistic information on what these difficulties may be. It also covers their symptoms, prognosis and treatment.

This book provides expert knowledge coupled with facts, figures and guidance presented in a straightforward and accessible style.

A foster carer and adoptive parents also describe what it is like to parent a child with emotional and behavioural difficulties, sharing their parenting experience and offering useful advice.

This book is part of CoramBAAF’s Parenting Matters series which explores many of the health conditions commonly diagnosed in looked after children.

Who is this book for?

A useful book for adopters, those thinking about adopting, foster carers, social work practitioners and all those involved in the care of looked after children. The combination of expert information and first-hand experience will help readers gain knowledge and understanding and to make informed decisions.

Readers may also be interested in Why can't I be good? - a book for any child aged seven to 11 whose behaviour frequently gets them into trouble, or who knows someone who can’t be good. 

What you will find in this book

The first half of the book starts with a short explanation of emotional and behavioural difficulties and what these terms mean for children.

The book then looks at:

  • different ways in which emotional and behavioural difficulties can affect child development
  • the issues these conditions raise with regard to educational provision for affected children
  • where and how to get help for children with these issues

The second half of the book tells the stories of Lorna Miles and Jess and Paul Gethin. It includes their experiences of parenting children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and how this affected day-to-day family life.

Jess and Paul Gethin adopted five brothers and sisters: Sophie, Ben, Lucy, Harry and Daniel. They were told that the children’s birth parents had learning difficulties and that all of the children had witnessed considerable violence and been badly neglected. At the time of adoption, the exact implications of this on the children were not known.

School was a challenge for us all, teachers included. For the children there were so many perceived threats – in the early days they would hide under tables, throw toys, bring things home that weren’t theirs, shout, swear and hit other children. As parents we would do the “walk of shame” across the playground as their class teachers came out and made eye contact that invariably said ‘Your child has been terrible and I need to talk to you…again!’ As the children grew, so did the challenges. The Lego piece brought home in a pocket became a mobile phone squirreled away in a bag; the hiding under a table became running out of class or even out of school.


Dan Hughes:
For most of his professional life, Dr Dan Hughes has been a clinician specialising in the treatment of children and young people with severe emotional and behavioural problems. Working primarily with fostered and adopted children and their carers and parents, Dan borrowed heavily from attachment, intersubjectivity and trauma theories and research to develop a model of treatment that he calls Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) – also known as Attachment-Focused Family Therapy. Dan is the author of a number of books and articles, including his previous contributions to this series: Parenting a Child with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (2012) and Parenting a Child who has Experienced Trauma (2016). Dan’s current passion is training therapists in his treatment model. He has trained therapists in the US, UK, Canada and other countries for the past 20 years. He also provides ongoing consultation and supervision to various agencies and clinicians. Dan has initiated a certification programme for therapists interested in his treatment model.