The reason we are big proponents of Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) at our house is that it works for everyone. It doesn’t matter if the children are adopted, birth or foster this stuff just works. Perhaps an explanation of our family dynamics would help to illustrate the point. I’ll be brief.
We have three children. Tori was our first placement. She came home after four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We adopted her three years, one month and five days later. She has never lived with her birth family and has not lived in any foster home other than ours.
Tyler entered foster care when he was 18 months old. He was three and a half years when he came home. We adopted him on National Adoption Day that year. He lived with his birth family and one other foster family before ours.
Brooklyn is three and our youngest. She had a mildly traumatic delivery and she spent her first night on earth in the NICU. She has never lived with anyone but us.
I love how empowering our kids leads to better outcomes for them and therefore us as well. I am often shocked at how willing we are to thump our heads against the wall instead of embracing these strategies. I guess old habits die hard and so we just go with what we know.
Case 1: Tyler
Whenever our kids played in the back yard Tyler would find a reason to come into the house every 5 minutes. He would either need something to drink or eat. Sometimes he would need the bathroom and other times he had questions that just couldn’t wait. Being good parents we would tell him that he needed to play outside and only to come when he was called or if someone was hurt. After all he needed to obey us so he needed to not come inside every five minutes. As you might well expect this approach yielded no positive outcomes.
But then one day we told Tyler that it was OK to come inside anytime he wanted because we learned that he was coming to check if we were still there. What we saw as disobedience was really anxiety. By giving him permission to check on us we reduced his anxiety which in turn caused him to check less. We have seen so many changes in this area that the boy who once couldn’t be more than three feet from us in public now rides his bicycle to baseball practice.
Case 2: Brooklyn
Little Brooklyn had been waking up five out of every seven nights a week around 3:30am for the last eighteen months. She would come to our room, knock on the door and say, “guys, is anybody in there?” I would get up, ask her what was wrong (she was scared every time) and try to take her back to bed. I would succeed sometimes, but mostly she would end up in our bed or on the floor on a pallet.
Every night at bed time we would tell her that she needed to stay in her bed. We would pray and ask God to help her sleep through the night (a prayer more for her ears than the Lord’s I am ashamed to admit) and, surprisingly, there was no difference in the outcome. Brooklyn would still knock on our door around 3:30 most mornings with the familiar “guys, is anybody in there?”
But then one night we told Brooklyn at bed time that if she was scared she needed to come and find us. That first night she came to our door but since then the frequency has decreased dramatically. Part of the reason Brooklyn kept waking up was because she knew I wanted her to stay in her bed rather than come seek comfort. By giving her permission to come to us we reduced her anxiety which in turn allowed her to sleep easier. Giving permission (empowering) reduces anxiety. A lesson we learned all too slowly with our kids.
Such a simple thing to give our children less anxiety. We have seen this work with many of the children in our home over the last couple years. Identifying the root of the “disobedience” (anxiety in these cases) which leads to real solutions. Empowering our kids helps them be an active participant in their own healing.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)