Why TBRI and Adult Attachment are Important Tools for Parenting

Are you familiar with TBRI and Adult Attachment? In a recent Facebook Live, Ann Book sat down with Brandy Shioyama to hear about Brandy’s experience becoming TBRI certified and how these concepts can be a game-changer for foster and adoptive families.  

TBRI, or Trust-Based Relational Intervention, is a program designed to help parents learn how to connect with and love children that have come from hard places. While we at The Call specifically target a population of children who have experienced abuse or neglect, many other children fall into the category of coming from hard places. This includes children who have experienced a history of trauma, whether it is medical trauma early in their life, emotional trauma, or any other type of trauma that can occur. 

The TBRI program operates through the attachment-based model, and it is built on connection. Biological parent/child relationships have the opportunity to grow and develop through years of connection, starting at birth. Adoptive and foster parents typically are not granted the same opportunity, and they are unable to form many of the initial bonds and connections that biological parents are afforded.  

This program gives parents the ability to go back in time and reestablish many of these connections with their foster and adoptive children. Undoing and redoing some of the things that happened in a child’s early life can be paramount in recalibrating their brain to reform neural pathways that trust and connect with their parents. 

Ultimately, TBRI is based on three principles: connection, empowerment, and correction. The order here is crucial because we believe that you cannot correct until you connect. Practically speaking, connecting with your foster or adoptive children can be pretty straightforward. Eye contact, physical touch, and getting on their level are essential. We also believe in the power of saying yes as much as we can.  

Take a moment to consider the first two years of a child’s life. If they grow up in a healthy, loving home, how often are they told no? Pretty much never, right? Every time they cry, their parent is there to give them what they need. If they are cold, they get a blanket. If they are hungry, they get food. You might not realize it, but these two years build a strong foundation for connection and trust between the child and parent. When a child grows up without this experience, they often have a lot of damage from it. Their behaviors will reflect that they cannot trust adults to meet their needs. Saying yes to your foster or adoptive child allows you to reshape their thinking.  

Adult Attachment also plays a critical role in developing a solid connection with your children, whether biological, foster, or adoptive. Adult attachment operates on a spectrum of secure, healthy attachment to dismissive, unhealthy attachment. Many adults assume they have healthy attachment, but once they start digging, they realize they might not be as healthy as they thought.

Having healthy attachment is necessary to developing a solid relationship with your child because you can’t bring a child to a place you haven’t been yourself. How are you supposed to teach your child healthy attachment if you don’t model it for them?

To further explain the attachment spectrum, let’s look at a real-life example that most parents face regularly. Your child is having a meltdown or throwing a fit – How would a dismissive parent address the situation, and how would a parent with secure attachment handle it?

A dismissive parent would send the child away to their room to have those emotions. They might say things like, I don’t want to see that attitude. I don’t want to hear that from you. You’re being ridiculous. Go to your room and let me know when you’re done throwing a fit. You’re fine; there’s nothing wrong; you need to get over it.  

Unfortunately, handling the situation in this way communicates to your child that it’s not okay to have these emotions. They’ll learn to disappear when they become upset, and they’ll often run to other things to make them feel better. While this might “solve” your problem while they are young, it will ultimately lead them to run to more intense scenarios as they grow up.

Healthy, securely attached parents will sit with their children when they throw a fit. The parent will listen to the child and hear them out. These parents validate their children and help name the feelings that their child is experiencing, teaching them how to handle the emotions they feel.

This teaches the child that their emotions and feelings are legitimate, and it is a good thing to bring them to their parents. You want to build this trusting relationship so that you can effectively prepare them to make safe, healthy choices as they grow up. Often, we think that our children are giving us a hard time, but the truth is that they’re just having a hard time. This distinction is paramount, and it will help us become the parents we aspire to be.

Benton County Support Center
  • 906 SE J Street
    Bentonville, AR 72712
  • Monday – Thursday 9-4
Washington County Support Center
  • 2707 Church Street
    Springdale, AR 72762
  • Tuesday/Thursday 9-2
Northwest Arkansas



County Coordinator
Brandy Shioyama

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