Kris’ Corner – What is TBRI?

December 2, 2020

So here’s the thing…often people think that kids in foster care cannot respond to love or affection. Many people think “they can’t change” or that their “damage” is permanent.

And I am here to tell you that is simply not necessarily true. Kids who have experienced trauma can come to a huge amount of healing….especially when using something called TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention).

Now when I first heard about this method, I will admit I was a bit (ok completely) skeptical. It sounded like some kind of lackadaisical, namby-pamby, giving-in-to-all-the-things parenting and there was no way I was going to do that. In my mind, children should obey because that’s how life works and throwing a big fit over things like getting buckled in a car seat just were not going to be acceptable in my house. Ever.

As an aside, clearly, I had never parented trauma otherwise I would not have had those ridiculous thoughts…

But my lack of faith in TBRI was soon put to bed as soon as I saw videos of it being used with real children from hard places, and I was astounded. (Note: The Children’s Bureau has such a strong faith in the healing capabilities of TBRI that they periodically offer *FREE* full trainings to their foster parents, in order to give them as many tools as possible to care for the children in their homes).

Anyway, these clips of TBRI in action affirmed for me so many things that I already knew but had no idea how to go about changing. I knew my son did not want to act in the way he did or make some of the choices he made. No child would. Who would want to blow up at the drop of a hat over something so seemingly minuscule? Who would want to be constantly in a state of escalation and not understand why? Not only that, not know how to get out of it? He wanted to be a “normal” child…and clearly we wanted that for him as well.

I am so thankful to Children’s Bureau for introducing us to TBRI, as it has been huge in the life of our child and that of our entire family. We are not fully there in terms of “normalcy”, but we definitely are on our way. That said, I need you to know that TBRI is a process and will not bring overnight results; instead it is a change in approach to parenting, more than anything else, and through that, a child feels safe, secure and attached enough to begin healing. Even still, the healing won’t happen automatically and may take a while, depending on what exactly the child has experienced.

But what is TBRI, you might be wondering. In a very brief description, it uses three main tenets as its foundation:

  • Empowering Principles to address a child’s physical needs,
  • Connecting Principles for a child’s attachment needs, and
  • Correcting Principles to disarm a child’s fear-based behaviors.

However, the main focus is on connecting with the child. To quote Karyn Purvis (one of the TBRI creators), “When you connect to the heart of a child, everything is possible.”

Please know that it is not solely for use with foster or adopted children…it can be used with any child in any situation. I have often said it is such a better way to parent that I wish I had been introduced to it prior to having my two biological boys. The training would benefit anyone who works with children on any level.

And one last point about TBRI: yes, children in foster care ARE from hard places and although their brain wiring may be a little “off” when they arrive at your doorstep, utilizing TBRI to help love and nurture them can help them become a closer version of the child they were meant to be. Or as I like to say the “Real Child”.