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Dan Hughes 27 ‘S’ of attachment parenting

Read the 27 'S' and help your adoptive child flourish.

Happy little child baby boy laughing and playing in the autumn

Dr Dan Hughes is one of the world’s most eminent child pyschologists and specialises in working with children and young people who have difficulty establishing and maintaining good relationships because of the trauma, abuse and neglect they have experienced. We love this piece of work he has done called the 27 S’ of Attachment-Focused Parenting. It’s two simple lists on what to do and not do. Why not take a look?

S’ to increase

Safety – Presence, predictability, PACE

Structure – A gift, not a punishment, not rigid, reduces transition stress, “free time” is “anxiety time”

Supervision – A gift, not a punishment, a relaxed and aware presence

Success – Does not learn from mistakes; needs expectations to developmental age; shame associated with mistakes

Self-Care – The parents’ need for relationships, advocacy, services, successes, breaks; care for self if only to better care for child

Soothing – Gentle, gradual persistence, vicarious through stuffed animal; sooth with eyes, voice, touch when safe for child

Smiling – A positive attitude within home—the emotional atmosphere

Storytelling – A manner of relating without lecture and reasoning. Having a rhythmic, modulated voice. ‘Sing-song’ quality when comforting

Seeking-meaning – What does the behaviour mean? Make sense of it first before considering what to do

Sense of humour – To generate hope, maintaining perspective, being close with children who are frightened by signs of affection

Sensory integration – Associated with development of attachment in infancy, can facilitate attachment and can be developed with SI activities

Stretching – Being prepared to expand one’s parental skills, interventions, to meet the unique needs of this child

Sorry – Modelling repairing the relationship after making a mistake; accepting responsibility for one’s actions

Sleep – Crucial for functioning of all, Unique bedtime routines need to be created and protected. Traumatized children often have poor sleep for many reasons

Soup – A healthy comfort food. Food is both an emotional and physical confirmation of good care

Special – Your child has a special place in your mind and heart; and knows it

Stamina – Persistence, fortitude, in it for the duration, seeing the distant horizon

Scaffolding – Accepting your child where he is in the present; being ready to help him with his next developmental step


S’ to decrease

Shame – Source of denial, opposition, rage, inability to trust and resolve trauma

Stimulation – Overstimulated by many routine, interesting, exciting events which then leads to dysregulated emotion, thinking, and behaviour

Shouting – Habitual misbehaviours often lead to habitual anger, shouting, and negative emotional atmosphere. Necessary anger needs to be an “I-message” that is clear and brief and is immediately followed by repair; only used for major behavioural problems

“Should” – Advice from others to raise the child based on his chronological age

Sarcasm – Often a substitute for anger, which can be just as destructive

Seclusion – Isolation triggers abandonment. Prevents co-regulation of affect

Smacking – Likely to re-traumatise and prevent attachment

Secrets – Events from the past are shameful and frightening and met with avoidance and denial

Shunning – Cold shoulder, ignore, ostracize


©Dan Hughes, 27 S’ of Attachment-Focused Parenting

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