Lessons I’m learning in Youth Advocacy

Over the past year, we’ve been talking a lot about ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how building resiliency can help overcome the trauma that has happened to youth. That resiliency can be a first step that leads to Shalom, a whole peace with God, self, creation, and others. I was sitting at my desk this past winter, wanting to know more about resiliency and how we can implement steps of resiliency into all of our programs at The Bridge. Then I started to learn about TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention) and that we were going to be holding an Empowered to Connect simulcast of the conference. I thought, “TBRI, what is that? And why do all of these tools have so many acronyms that I need to remember?!?” Little did I know, that all of this information about ACES, resiliency, and TBRI, would come together like puzzle pieces.  

As the weekend of the conference was coming up, I was getting more excited to learn. My mind wanted to soak in all of the information that was attainable, that I could apply at the Neighborhood Centers and within our programs. We heard from the scientific point of view of how the brain changes from trauma, and psychological point of view where the result of this trauma impacts a child’s behavior. So what do we do in order to prevent a melt-down or child running away, because they aren’t able to calm themselves down?  One example lately, were some kids sharing a scooter that I had brought by. One child wasn’t getting off the scooter, when I told them it was time to give it to another child, they went ran away further down the street. I took one step in that direction and they immediately bolted to get away. I didn’t even have a chance to catch up. Before this conference I would have had no idea of how to handle the situation other than to just let them scoot away. But now I have more tools in my tool belt.

I learned the three principles of TBRI:

1.) Connect. I needed to go TO that child and make eye contact before any conversation could start.

2.) Empower. Then I needed to meet this child where they were at and empower them to share the scooter. Instead of demanding that they give up the scooter, give them a transition of two more minutes, for example. 

3.) Correct. With a playful attitude, offer two positive choices for this child to do next. Maybe do one with me, like race back to the Center or check on some kids at the park. The best part is that with these three principles, I was able to be patient, give grace, and it was fun for me too. I was able to build friendship rather than become frustrated trying to assert my authority. We were able to continue with a fun-loving, enjoyable evening and add another piece to the puzzle of building resiliency.  

Written by Jessica Skelton, Youth Advocate