Often, children from hard places tend to retreat from relationships with others as a form of fear or distrust. In TBRI®’s connecting principles, the focus is to meet a child’s need for relationships through awareness and playful engagement.
One part of awareness is to watch for signs of stress or anxiety in the way that a child typically handles different situations. It’s important to understand how the child is feeling by looking behind the meaning of their actions and letting them know that they are seen, and that they have a voice. This might look like keeling down to the height of a child to look them in the eyes, being mindful of your tone of voice and inflection when speaking with the child, and making sure you are giving words of encouragement, not discouragement. In doing this, the child can know you are aware of their presence by verbally, and nonverbally, recognizing and reassuring that you are attentive to their wants and needs. Essentially, in the awareness principle, you are saying to the child, “I see you for who you are; I recognize that you are here, and I want to understand how you feel by giving you my full attention – even if that means stopping what I’m doing to listen to what you have to say.”
It’s equally important to playfully engage a child in a way that is both meaningful and intentional. Playful engagement means and setting aside the time to play around and have fun with them. This could look like many things, such as running around with them through the sprinklers and having water gun fights, playing games in the house, sitting down to join them in playing with their toys, or even something as simple as making a funny face or doing a funny voice. Playful engagement with a child from a hard place is essential because it gives them a sense of warmth, builds trust, promotes attachment, and lessens their fear. Also, through meaningful engagement, you can connect with a child by letting them match your routine and tone of voice, listening actively to them, and being mindful of providing nurturing interaction. Being aware of the child, letting them know they have a voice, and just spending some time having fun with them can help alter a child’s behavior tremendously.
By utilizing the TBRI® Connecting Principles, we are able to set the scene for healthy, positive interactions with children from hard places. If you’d like to learn more about the TBRI® Connecting Principles, listed below is a great resource for you to check out!