TBRI® Empowering Principles

TBRI Empowerment PrinciplesI’m sure you’ve seen commercials from the Snickers campaign “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” Now while I don’t promote Snickers, I do believe they are on to something with their advertisement strategy. When you are hungry you are simply not yourself. That also goes for other physiological factors as well such as dehydration, illness or being tired. I have personally seen how these factors affect my sons. My youngest son gets really grumpy when he doesn’t eat on time. My oldest son gets really emotional if he hasn’t taken a nap, which has been particularly stressful during our transition to full day kindergarten this year. During the Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) training, in Ft. Worth, Texas, they modeled appropriate nutritious and protein rich meals and snacks and we ate every couple hours; we were fed very well. They even had fruit in baskets on a table that were available at any time.

Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross explain through their research and the development of the TBRI® training the importance of empowerment principles. The Empowerment principles focus on how mood and behavior are directly affected by physiological and ecological factors, and how it is important to teach children to recognize triggers that cause them to be dysregulated, and then teach them strategies to be able to self-regulate. Parents need to be really attuned to their child to help them discover the reason behind their behavior to be able to help them voice their needs. Being a parent sometimes involves being a detective.

Environmental or external factors may include a busy schedule or a highly stimulating environment that could be a source of stress for your child. A child who has lived in an orphanage is not used to the bright colors on the walls of your home or may be overwhelmed by being bustled from place to place. I always encourage families to simplify their life and take as much time off as possible to work and extra events, to be home and work on attachment. It is also important to have consistent routines so that a child can know what to expect. Transitions may also be difficult and preparing a child that something is going to happen ahead of time can relieve some anxiety. It is important to have a good balance of structure and nurture. Dr. Purvis explains, “If you give your child nurture when they need structure you limit their ability to grow. If you give your child structure when they need nurture you limit their ability to trust.”

TBRI® promotes the importance of having a sensory rich environment and integrating sensory activities with your child throughout the day. A child can be either a sensory seeker or a sensory avoider. The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz is also a great resource for families wanting to know more about sensory processing and fun activities to include in a daily routine. One of my favorite parts of the training was getting to experience different sensory activities with Henry Milton. I also greatly appreciated the numerous “fidgets” available on every table during the training. If you suspect your child has sensory processing disorder you can have him or her evaluated by an occupational therapist.

TBRI® also demonstrates how to help children recognize and identify their needs and how to give them a voice and empower them to advocate for their needs. Purvis and Cross suggest a system called the Alert Program® designed by Therapy Works Inc. that teaches children how to measure or “check their engines” with a handmade paper plate “thermometer.” They provide examples of activities to do if your engine is running low and other activities if your engine is running high. For example, deep breathing, yoga, getting a massage or calming music may help to calm you on the other hand if your engine is running low it may be helpful to take a walk, get a drink or a protein rich snack to give you energy.

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