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Lindsey Moss, MSW, LCSW Valerie Glascock, LPA Buffering Stress through Responsive Relationships.

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Presentation on theme: "Lindsey Moss, MSW, LCSW Valerie Glascock, LPA Buffering Stress through Responsive Relationships."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lindsey Moss, MSW, LCSW Valerie Glascock, LPA Buffering Stress through Responsive Relationships

2 How Brains are Built


4 What is Needed to Buffer Toxic Stress? Presence of warm, nurturing and responsive adult caregivers – in homes, in child care, and in school

5 Relationships are the “Active Ingredients" of Early Experience Nurturing and responsive relationships activate the basic connections necessary for building the foundation of healthy brain development When these relationships are not present, persistent stress results in elevated cortisol levels that impair cell growth and interfere with formation of healthy neural circuits

6 “Still Face” Experiment Dr. Edward Tronick


8 Discussion What happens when the communication link is cut by the mother not responding? What kinds of chronic stress do our children face?

9 So How Can We Help?

10 Stress-Busting Caregivers Provide: Protection Structure Comfort Coaching

11 Safety First Feeling physically and emotionally safe calms the stress response system Young children depend on supportive relationships for feelings of safety Establish and provide “safety signals” (blanket, pacifier)

12 Protect from Danger Cues Threat alerts the primitive brain; shuts down higher level thought processes Each of us has our own unique set of “danger cues” (find out about previous negative experiences) Young children mirror the emotions of their caregivers

13 Structuring the Biological Foundation Sleep Nutrition Activity

14 Structure through Routines Routines calm and strengthen us by helping us predict what is going to happen – Maintain old routines – Establish new routines and rituals Daily schedules – what comes next? Rituals, especially when “separating” (ending visits, child care, bedtime)

15 Structure through Limits Limits should emphasize “keeping everyone safe” Communicate and enforce limits by being: calm, consistent, respectful, firm, and kind No yelling, threats or sarcasm - threat alerts the primitive brain; shuts down higher level thought processes Comfort can be an effective part of discipline

16 Limbic Level Communication Touch Tone of voice Facial expression Music Smell Rocking, other rhythmic motion

17 Special Guidelines for Children Affected by Toxic Stress Provide comfort even when child does not seek it – act “as if” the child needs you Offer comfort and support early – don’t wait until the child has a “meltdown” Be careful with expressions of annoyance and anger – they can “trigger” dysregulation

18 Development of Self-Regulation Managing impulses and emotions is related to connections in the frontal cortex How well these skills develop depend to a large extent on having a caring adult emotionally available to model, guide, and support self-regulation

19 Road to Self-Regulation Self-regulation involves promoting effective connections between the structures of the limbic system and the cortex Become aware of emotions, then decide how to act, or not act, on them These skills begin to develop in preschool years - continue developing actively through adolescence

20 Is Behavior Really the Problem? Emotion >Behavior

21 Anger = Fear/Defense Stressed-out children often ACT angry and aggressive when their threat systems are activated When we respond with anger or punishment, we simply intensify this response When we respond with empathy and protective limits, we calm their threat system

22 Coaching Impulse Control and Coping Join with the child – loan your cortex Identify and empathize with feelings first Pair language with action to promote cooperation and problem solving Model optimism and mutual support Promote empathy with others and repair of relationships Maximize positive emotion

23 FLIP It Approach Feelings (label, empathize) Limits (state limit with kindness) Inquiry (what would help you feel better/cope?) Prompts (problem solve together; suggest creative ways child might manage feelings) Sperry, R. W. (2011) FLIP It: Transforming Challenging Behavior

24 Coaching through Stories Self-regulation through narrative – Stories provide order, meaning, and hope – Beginning, middle, and end – Builds connections between limbic and cortical brain “I like to be told” - Mister Rogers

25 Kinds of Narrative Picture sequences of routines Acting out stories with dolls Picture books related to similar situations Verbal planning of play and other activities Creating specific social stories to help with problem behaviors Writing about difficult experiences Pennebaker, J.W. (2004) Writing to Heal; Wilson, T.D. (2011) Redirect

26 Role of Experience Repeated use strengthens brain connections If connections are not used, they are more likely to be “pruned” away The brain “grows itself” for the environment it experiences Emotion and relationships appear to play particularly important roles in shaping the brain’s development

27 Implications for Parents, Teachers, & Caregivers Your empathy, compassion, emotional and behavioral regulation are models for your children Your emotional well-being affects your ability to guide and support young children Quality of relationship with each child is a tool for supporting the development of self- regulation

28 Be the Grown-Up Bigger Stronger Wiser Calm KIND!

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