Empowering Principle: Calming

Jun 7, 2023

by Ashley Bennett, Director of Trauma-Informed Care


In their book the Whole Brain Child, authors Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, talk to us about “lid-flipping moments,” those moments when we impulsively act out in a way we wish we hadn’t. Maybe our body was depleted due to lack of hydration, nutrition, or sleep. Maybe we were feeling extra overwhelmed by life. In those moments, our “thinking brain” goes offline and we are operating out of a place of fear. We react impulsively with big feelings and big emotions. And then either immediately or later, we regret how we responded. Take a moment and think about the last time this occurred for you-I definitely don’t have to take long to come up with one!

Ok, now think about your children and the moments their “thinking brains” have gone offline. All children have these moments, just like we do as adults. 

Children who have a history of relational harm, have underdeveloped “thinking brains” which means that these “lid flipping” moments can be more easily activated or show up more often. Maybe some of you have one of these kiddos in your home right now-a child who goes from 0-60 quickly or seems to trigger easily. 

There are a few reasons for this, but here is the one that matters for us in this training module. The regulation of the stress response system in a child’s brain is built through patterned responses from a safe caregiver who brings calm. 

Read that sentence again. Now, think about the life of the child you welcomed into your home through foster care. Could you describe their childhood before you as enjoying the safety of an adult who brought calm?

I know many of your children’s stories, so I am going to suggest that the answer to that question for most of us is, NO. This was not a gift our children got, and the lack of this adult mentoring has deeply affected the wiring of their brain and their reactiveness to perceived stressors.

Ok, that’s the bad news, but we always have good news to offer here! And here is the good news: You can give them the gift of re-wiring their brain if you show up as a safe caregiver who brings calm! 

Oh, I am not saying it will be easy. But I am saying that God designed the brain to be moldable throughout life and that the relational experiences we all have, shape it. 

So, as you begin to show up differently for your children so that you can powerfully re-wire their brain, these calming strategies can help you to remain regulated yourself but also can be an invitation for you and your child to coregulate each other. 

In doing these calming strategies together, you are mirroring God’s design for an infant experiencing distress who is externally regulated by his caregiver through physical touch, proximity, and movement. 

Calming strategies serve to prevent dysregulation both in yourself and your children. Use these strategies before moments of high stress, like when a case worker is visiting your home or after a birth family visit. Use these strategies during moments of transition where your child might normally struggle, like right after school or after they’ve come inside from active playtime in the backyard.

See below for more ideas on how to coregulate with calming strategies.

Calming Tips ()

*Calming Strategies are one of the Empowering Principles of Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®). TBRI®  is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. Learn more about TBRI® here: https://child.tcu.edu/


Use this guide as you pray about your response:

8 Ways Your Family Can End the Foster Care Crisis

(…whether you become a foster family or not).

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