Regulate, Relate, Reason

Last week, Think:Kids hosted Bruce Perry, MD, of the Child Trauma Academy (link to: http://childtrauma.org/) for a joint training on how brain development is affected by trauma, and how the Collaborative Problem Solving approach addresses these neurobiological deficits. Dr. Perry and Dr. Ablon spoke for two days about the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) and Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS), and attendees walked away with a better understanding of tools that can be used to assess and address challenging behavior in children affected by trauma.

One phrase that has stuck with me from this training, and that can be a helpful anchor for all of us when we are working with challenging children, is “Regulate, Relate, Reason.” The order here is critical! Until a child is regulated (i.e., feeling physically and emotionally settled), he is unlikely to be able to relate to you (i.e., feel connected and comfortable). And until a child is related, he is unlikely to have the mental capacity to fully engage with you in the higher level cognitive processes that are critical for problem-solving, like perspective taking, predicting the future, and considering multiple solutions. This is not just true for traumatized children, but for all children (and all adults too)! So in honor of Dr. Perry, let’s pay special attention this week to our CPS regulating tools (reflecting and reassurance) during all three ingredients of our Plan B conversations. If you take the time to make sure your child is regulated, you’ll have a better chance of relating, and then ultimately, a better chance of reasoning!