As parents and caregivers, we want to see our children flourish in all aspects of life. However, for our children who have experienced early attachment injuries related to loss, abuse, trauma, and/or neglect, that flourishing may seem impossible. There is hope and help, though, through care models like Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®). But before you take the steps toward healing for your child, it is critical for you to examine yourself, in particular to the trauma you may carry within yourself. As the late Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “You cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself.”
To begin your examination of self, we encourage you to spend time alone and with your spouse or a trusted friend as you process the following questions.
+ Consider how your needs were met as a child. In what ways did you know you were precious, unique, and special?
+ Attachment is often described as a dance between the child and the caregiver. What are some ways you have seen your own history impact your relationship with your child?
+ Think of a time when you were safe, but you didn’t feel that way. How did you respond in that moment or situation?
+ Think about the ways in which your parents or caregivers corrected or “disciplined” you. Were any of the following practices involved: time-outs, sending you away to your room, consequences, lecturing, and/or a focus on your failures?
+ How did you respond to those more traditional forms of discipline?
+ In those moments, did you feel connected or disconnected from your parents or caregivers?
+ As you consider the love and grace shown to you through Christ’s work of reconciliation, how can that inform and encourage your daily interactions with and approaches to your child or teen?
+ In the hard moments (because they will come!), from where does your source of joy and comfort come?
+ Do you have regular time set aside to connect with mentors for wise counsel and family, friends, and community for support and encouragement?
+ What hinders you from those critical relationships and regular times together?
In examining yourself, you may even want to dig deeper and explore your Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). According to the Centers for Disease Control, “ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0–17 years). … ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adolescence and adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential.” A helpful resource in understanding ACEs, we encourage you to check out ACESTooHigh.
On a more practical level, Mindfulness Strategies, particularly Self-Awareness Strategies, of TBRI’s Connecting Principles are actions you can begin incorporating today to promote healing for yourself and for your child and/or teen. The goal of TBRI Connecting Principles is to build trusting relationships that help children and youth feel valued, cared for, safe, and connected. Disarming fear and building trust greatly increase the capacity for connection, growth, and learning. The following are Self-Awareness Strategies for you to begin practicing today.
+ Identify the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors you bring to relationships based on the care you received.
+ Realize how these thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors influence your relationships.
+ Identify personal triggers.
+ Practice regulating yourself during times of stress:
+ Take 10 deep breaths.
+ Go for a walk.
+ Remind yourself, It is my job to help my child regulate.
+ Stay calm and emotionally present during a child’s distress: This allows you to:
+ Think flexibly.
+ Solve problems creatively.
+ Model compassion.
+ Co-regulate with your child
On this journey with your children and family, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There is a reason the adage “It takes a village …” has remained focal in parenting and caregiving. As our Founders, Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, have shared, “Precious souls who are, ultimately, our Heavenly Father’s have been entrusted to you by him, and you have the profound privilege of loving them, caring for them, and serving them. And yes, we must be clear-eyed about the broken circumstances that have brought our children to us, yet we must also remain hopeful, knowing that by Christ all things have been created and in Him all things are held together.”
To learn more about TBRI and its Connecting, Empowering, and Correcting Principles, we encourage you to explore our annual Hope for the Journey Conference. Formerly the Empowered to Connect Conference, the Hope for the Journey Conference is designed to encourage and equip parents and caregivers meeting the everyday needs of children impacted by adoption and/or foster care. The conference is also a much-needed resource for churches, agencies, and other organizations in their care and support of the families and communities they serve.