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How does baking help parents to parent therapeutically with safety, structure and nurture?


We met with Linda Cooke, adoptive parent looking to parent with nurture and positivity, to discuss how therapeutic parenting allows you to stay connected and present with your child, creating loving attachments and relational parenting that works. There are some rules though! Safety, nurture and structure must be present. Therapeutic parenting is parenting that is loving and kind, where you are present with your child while they work through their emotions and challenges. Its parenting that builds the brain as you help your child understand what they are experiencing. It is healing and aids attachment so is perfect for parenting children from complex backgrounds (adoption, permanent care and kinship care).

00:00 - Start 01:03 - What is therapeutic parenting? 03:20 - How I discovered therapeutic parenting 04:28 - How does therapeutic parenting work? 04:40 - How safety can help 08:30 - How nurturing can help 16:00 - How structure can help 20:48 - Treasured memories of therapeutic parenting your child 22:18 - How this helps children who are adopted or in permanent or kinship care 25:55 - Books that might help 28:26 - Complementary practices and programs 29:46 - Don't fix, support and be kind to yourself too


Linda Cooke, adoptive parent, was looking to parent with nurture and positivity.

Linda discovered therapeutic parenting allows you to stay connected and present with your child, creating loving attachments and relational parenting that works.

There are some rules though! Safety, nurture and structure must be present and you need to be present with your child while they work through their emotions and challenges.

Therapeutic parenting is healing, builds the brain and aids attachment, so it is perfect for parenting children from complex backgrounds (adoption, permanent care and kinship care).

Linda Cooke, Adoptive Parent and Therapeutic Parenting Advocate, and Sonia Wagner, PCA Families Project Officer

This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in our first of many recordings designed to capture lived experience and best practice evidence based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people. PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse and we are committed to establishing and maintaining child safe environments.

Being able to learn from peers and connect with those who may help us is particularly

 important. Today we are discussing therapeutic parenting practices.

Before we do I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet. We pay respect to Elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Today I’m joined by Linda Cooke. Linda is an adoptive mother, who started her journey into therapeutic parenting practices as she looked to find ways to parent with nurture and positivity. Thanks for joining us today Linda.


Can you tell us what therapeutic parenting is? I understand it is a methodology that involves high nurture, high structure and parenting that fosters a sense of safety.  Is that it?

Yes, those are all elements of therapeutic parenting, but I think that it is much more than that. It is about creating loving attachments and working really hard to understand your child and their behaviours. It is also about knowing yourself as a parent or carer, and providing relational, unconditional support, no matter what!

In terms of high structure, probably not so much structure, but more like consistency, routines, and family expectations. My child would have reacted against those strong boundaries.

It also touches on early brain development and what trauma can look like and be expressed in a child. Understanding the lens of the child and that they come from a deep place.

Really, like many other parenting courses, but with a ‘lens’ of understanding that some behaviours come from a deep place of hurt or shame.


Sonia – How did you discover therapeutic parenting? What were you seeing that led you to explore therapeutic parenting?

I discovered therapeutic parenting through PCA Families, (which was then Post Placement Support Services). I went along with another adoptive mum as we had become friends through the process, and we could both see at times how our children struggled with certain situations and we just wanted to help them as much as we could. I think that it was a 6-week evening class.

I did this because my daughter was 6 at the time and I became aware in the school playground and on playdates that some of the parenting approaches just wouldn’t work for my child and it became more and more evident as time passed. I’d learnt that even a slightly raised voice would devastate my daughter and even being slightly late at pick-up or stood in another spot wasn’t something that I could not do at that time.

Me and my friend look back and know that this is one of the most defining parenting programs I ever attended.


What sort of things do you do, or not do, to follow a therapeutic parenting approach. Maybe we could break that down in terms of the three parts bring high structure/high nurture and parenting that fosters a sense of safety?

Safety 04:40

For me, my number one priority has been to foster a sense of felt safety and security for my child. I mean that in a sense of providing a nurturing and safe family environment where she knows that she can drop her bundle emotionally, she can make mistakes and talking about hard stuff is ok.

I also did that by making myself as present in her life as possible and being as reliable as I could so that she would eventually feel safe even if I was a few minutes late, I would be there for her as soon as I could. I couldn’t really ever be late for my child. 

Its not about doors being locked at night and the house being secure. Its felt safety. Emotionally safe with me where she can drop her bundle and she will be ok. Its also about just being around. But being really present.  Make a cup of tea at the right time, put the phone to the side and be totally connected in. The safety meant she got to a point where I could be a few minutes late and she would be ok and resilient.

It makes sense in the school environment that they will show their voice in a classroom where you feel safe.

08:30 Nurturing (time in not time out)

As to nurturing… to be honest I learnt from the early days in my teaching career that kindness, understanding, and empathy go a long way to building relationships but a standout learning experience for me from the course was rather than give your child ‘time out’ for bad behaviour or for making poor choices, give them ‘time in’. That is, stop what you are doing, stay present and support and soothe your child to become more regulated. Time in is significant. My gut had always told me time away was not the right thing, in the time of super nanny! Sit beside her and hold her, calm voice and reassure them you are there, even when its hard for you! Deep breathing as we are learning our own triggers as a parent. Perfect parenting is out but some things worked and that did work for me.

Being kind and thoughtful. One of the things I used to do was draw a heart on her banana. So its doing things like that that are a reminder that your still there for her waiting at home.

I attended a time in trauma informed webinar with the Department of Education that resonated with me as they were promoting that you firstly regulate your child.

With two children who may be fighting I would see who needs regulating first and go to them first. Remembering to repair.

16:00 Structure:

As to high structure, as I mentioned earlier for me it was more about clear behaviour expectations based upon our family values. We also do have a reasonable rhythm to our family life (though the wheels do fall off the cart on occasions!) and I learnt that my daughter really benefitted from not really having a highly structured life but knowing in advance any events coming up that might be out of the ordinary and any changes to our routine. Of course, we weren’t on top of everything and that’s ok too. The occasional unplanned event can also create a bit of resilience.

Keeping meal times regular helped. Having snacks available. Karyn Purvis spoke about trust based relational intervention always giving your child that turkey sandwich before you go to bed or go out. So I probably predicted my child’s rhythms and routines. Being your child’s detective and stress detector. If you can predict it you can prevent it.

I was also thinking about some play dates we had around here and I found if I put a schedule for the kids on a playdate, even the children that had a little anxiety, that helped them to thrive.  Having a little timetable and structure.


Do you have any treasured memories where you have used therapeutic parenting with your child?

I suppose that my treasured memories come from the times when we have been playing or getting messy together. Play can be really healing, and messy play can be sensory and regulating and bonding. My daughter and I have the capacity to create an enormous amount of mess when cooking or making or creating together and it can be lots of fun. Those have definitely been the treasured moments. Face painting and making mess!


How do you feel therapeutic parenting helps children who are adopted, in permanent care or who have experienced trauma?

I think that being a therapeutic parent helps all children but in particular any child who has experienced trauma, because for many children who have had a hard start in life, love and safety can often not be enough and every child will have a different story and different triggers and behaviours. It really is a healing process and can be a long journey. Every child needs someone who is unconditionally there for them no matter what and is able to respond rather than react to what can be sometimes seem like extreme or unusual behaviours. The more trauma informed we are, the better we can help.


Do we need to read any books or access any particular resources that might help with understanding more about therapeutic parenting?

I am a big fan of Bruce Perry, Dan Siegal and the late Karin Purvis.

Dan Siegal is probably the most accessible to parents as he writes with parents and carers in mind.

He even has a refrigerator sheet and cartoons!

I have 2 of Dan Siegal’s books – The Whole Brain Child, which I read whilst I was doing the parent course and I am currently reading The Power of Showing up.


Are there other complementary practices or programs that we should also investigate?

There is so much information out there if you look in the right places, Australian Childhood have a wonderful website, PCA Families Journal club is a great opportunity to make connections, Relationships matter have some great resources for Intercountry Adoptees and their families.  

Of course, as a Trained Therapeutic life story Worker I have a deep belief in the value of Life Story Work but that is for another time, I think!

It really is not a one size fits all and would definitely depend upon your child’s level of trauma, their age, their developmental stage etc. All those factors contribute to the right program at the right time but underpinning all these programs is the core value that the child is front and centre.

I am sure that any therapeutic parent participants listening would probably have taken away a number of other different approaches, even my friend. I took away what resonated for me and what was right for my child at that particular stage in her life and also my parenting journey.


Don’t try and fix things or be a helicopter parent, hold your child and support them and be kind to yourself

Listen without trying to fix things and if possible, without judgement.  Sometimes you just have to be there to hold the hard stuff for your child. Make time to be really present and be consistent and reliable. Your child may not appreciate it or ‘think’ that they want it at the time, but they will look back as they mature and realise that someone had their back and always will do no matter what.

And finally, self-care. It’s a bit of a well-worn analogy but remember the oxygen mask? Being any kind of parent is exhausting but being a carer or parent of a child with a trauma background is depleting. Be kind to yourself.  

To anyone making the time to listen to this recording, thankyou for giving up your valuable time for the benefit of the young people in your life. 

If you are a kinship or permanent carer or parent needing help or support please contact PCA Families at or call us on 03 9020 1833. 

Please subscribe, follow or leave a review, or share an idea for a future topic!

Until next time have an amazing week.



Sarah Naish - What is Therapeutic Parenting

Berry Street - Life Story Therapy Trauma TrainingAustralian Childhood Foundation - Helping Children Heal

Attachment and Trauma Network

The Circle Program – Therapeutic Approach to Foster Care


Therapeutic Parenting, Sarah Naish

The Whole Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

The Power of Showing Up, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

What Happened to You? Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey

The Connected Parent, Karen Purvis and Lisa Qualls

The Connected Child, Karen Purvis, David Cross and Wendy Lyons Sunshine


Creating Loving Attachments, Kim Golding and Daniel Hughes