Our interview series based on The Connected Parent continues today with a focus on self-care. One might wonder how self-care applies with Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) principles. We’ve chosen to highlight this important topic because parenting can be stressful. Add in the complexities of trauma and one cannot be compassionate for others if they don’t take care of themselves. Let’s dive in and see what Sheila Wagler-Mills, TBRI Practitioner, had to say about self-care.
What would you say to a caregiver who is reluctant to make time for self-care? How would you help them understand its value, and how is it different from the stigmatized, selfish version?
You can’t and won’t effectively provide appropriate care for your child unless you make the time to care for yourself. Parenting is sacrificial, but meeting our own needs allows us to optimize our parenting, and thus benefits the child. It’s about balancing the emotional and physical needs of both ourselves and our children. Both matter, and it doesn’t need to be either/or.
Talk about the value of sleep for both parent and child. Share ways to create a sensory-balanced and attachment-rich sleep environment?
Sleep is another form of holistic self-care. Without sleep, we can’t be our best, most effective selves, as parent or child. Sensory needs vary from child to child. Some may want a nightlight, another may not; they may or may not want the door open. A weighted blanket or stuffed animals may help many. Providing a healthy snack before they sleep or next to them for when they wake up can allow a child with blood sugar issues or food insecurity to rest better. The important thing is to ask questions and make choices for what works best for each individual child to reduce fear and sensory responses.
How do you engage in self-care after a parenting fail? How does a redo for children apply to adults?
It’s based on my own need at the time. Poor behavior is based on an unmet need for both children and parents. Parents need to step back and ask, “What do I need to make sure I’m meeting my need and theirs?” We should also ask ourselves why our child’s behavior is affecting our emotions and what we need to do to work through our triggers.
Redoes allow us to rewire neural pathways in the brain so correct behaviors are able to replace broken pathways in the brain. For parents, we may need to apologize for overreacting (or another poor behavior), assure the child this wasn’t their fault, then ask for a redo, just as we would ask one of them in reversed circumstances. In addition to making a relational repair, we are also modeling for the child how to make a comeback from poor behavior.
When asked about her go to self-care strategies, Sheila said…
I create space for myself by just getting away for a bit to catch my breath. I often try to move around and even find doing chores provides a distraction and outlet. I also talk with a trusted friend, colleague, or someone else who understands children from hard places.
During the time I take in that space, or conversation, I have the goal of reflecting back to figure out how I can be a better parent. I use that time to understand what’s going on with me so I can meet my own needs as well as my children’s.
Caring for children from hard places is a big job. It takes your whole self to implement TBRI principles well. Take some time to consider what quality self-care looks like for you. Even small steps can positively influence your perspective and ultimately your relationships.
We will close the series with a post on sensory-processing needs, a symptom of trauma that you may observe in your child.