Think back to your favorite teacher, coach or even cabin leader at summer camp, now ask yourself “Why was this person my favorite?” Mr. Nolten was my favorite teacher in high school because every day, after teaching an algebra lesson, he would give the class time to practice our new knowledge. During the practice time he would always make his way to my desk, kneel beside me and patiently watch and guide and encourage me in such a compassionate tone. His special attention was a contributing factor to my ability to excel with an A in algebra.
Maybe the days of “favorite teacher and coach” are long past for you, but will you allow yourself to remember what it felt like, as a kid, to feel special to an adult. You see, when you treat others with a special love, they in turn have a greater capacity to love others.
Feeling special has not happened for many of the children and youth in our care at Missouri Baptist Children’s Home. All of our children come from backgrounds of hurt, loss, violence and neglect. The very person who was supposed to care for them actually terrorized their bodies and their brains. That tumultuous relationship is traumatic for our children. You may have heard that relationship described as trauma. The American Psychological Association says that trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event.”
Because of trauma, the children we work with struggle with the emotional capacity for self-regulation. At MBCH we focus our care of children through lens of trauma – we teach trauma-informed care which is where we value helping the children feel safe. We help teach self-regulation through trusting relationships. We help the child have a voice and a choice as well as provide appropriate levels of correction when appropriate.
The terrible trauma that our children have experienced is weighty; however, there is hope. The brain and body that has experienced trauma can heal through what is called neuroplasticity. To avoid diving too deep in the weeds of words and how the brain works, the simplest way to explain how a traumatize brain heals is by being in a caring consistent relationship with an adult.
Since we believe that trauma which occurred in relationship should find healing in relationships and believing that as children of God, we find forgiveness, healing, hope and restoration in our relationship with God through Christ, we seek to provide trauma-informed interventions that address the whole person. To facilitate this, we teach our staff and foster parents to use the principles taught in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. Davis Cross at Texas Christian University.
The primary principles include: Connecting, Empowering and Correcting. Dr. Purvis says that “relationships heal with relationships hurt.” The staff and foster parents at MBCH work diligently to provide the healing power of a caring relationship.
There are many books, YouTube videos, articles and more regarding trauma-informed care that are readily available. For more information I encourage you to look up the Karyn Purvis Child Development Center at Texas Christian University.
Let me leave you with this last thought. When you are able to build relationships with others, when they feel your special love, they in turn have a greater capacity to love others. I’d like to challenge you to love others, even those people in your life that seem unlovable, because maybe they are doing the best they can as they fight the emotional battles left behind from trauma. Remember: loved people, love people.
Amy Johnson serves as director of training and development/TBRI practitioner with MBCH Children and Family Ministries.