One day on the playground last year, I was at my wits end to know how to handle an intense situation. Several girls ranging from 10-13 were having an explosive argument that was getting everyone’s attention. As I urged the younger children to keep playing, I walked over to try to find out what was going on. I said a little prayer to keep myself calm and asked God for discernment, because as I was walking towards these girls, I had no idea what to do.
Turns out, one was mad at the other for lying about them. And then they each got their own group of two-three girls to agree with them But the girls weren’t just upset, they were angry. I asked to hear each side of the story, but neither side finished because of continual interruptions. Then before I knew it, both groups just walked away determining to never talk to the other again. As I walked between each group, trying to hear what had happened and calm them down, I was trying to remember the tools that I had learned from last year’s Empowered to Connect conference training about Trust-Based Relational Interventions.
Based on being relational, the three principles taught in these strategies are to Connect, Correct, and Empower. Because of our previous relationship throughout the summer, we already had a connection before this even happened. But today I had to find a way to reconnect with the girls after they calmed down a little. This happened by looking them in the eye, listening to their story, engaging in conversation asking them what they thought they should do to keep the friendship alive. This is an important aspect of correction, that everyone involved is part of owning the problem-solving solution. Both girls said, “I don’t know,” and turned their head to not look at me. They froze in trying to come up with a plan. Everyone took a break for the day, and I tried to talk with each of the groups coming up with ways for us all to correct our behaviors and empower each other how to react if it happened again. At this moment, it was time to get on the bus and go home –thankfully! My heart was sad, knowing that these girls were friends and just had a disagreement that had set off some fireworks. But now what? And guess what, by the end of the week the girls were all best friends again. Then we empowered in them in how to handle this situation if were to come up again, how can we react better. It was hard but at the end of the day, we needed to walk away with a closer relationship with them.
Did I mention these girls are all in our Middle School Girls Bible Study on Wednesday nights? Each week I see them laughing and braiding each others’ hair. Yes, there are still mini-fireworks, but we have the relationships to journey through them together. Dr. Karyn Purvis, co-creator of the TBRI skills we use every week around The Bridge, has said, “Each child needs to know that they are precious and unique and special. But a child who comes from a hard place needs to know it more desperately.”
–written by Jessica Skelton
Youth Advocate & Communications
To learn more about TBRI and the Empowered to Connect conference, watch our blog for an upcoming article about practical TBRI principles and how they play out at The Bridge. Also you can read about TBRI from their creators at www.child.tcu.edu.