An article, written by Principal Clinical Psychologist Colby Pearce, which originally appeared on Colby’s blog site Attachment and Resilience.
In A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder I presented a model of therapeutic re-parenting of children who have experienced complex developmental trauma. In A Short Introduction to Promoting Resilience in Children I showed how the same model can be applied to parenting of all children, with the intention of fostering their resilience. In various other publications I refer to this model as AAA Caregiving. Where it makes sense to do so, I use the generic word caregiving instead of the more specific word parenting. My intention in doing so is in recognition that of the fact that caregiving is incorporated into a wide range of roles adults perform in relation to children. Hereafter I will briefly present how a AAA Caregiving approach can be applied by adults who work in schools.
The AAA in AAA Caregiving refers to Attachment, Arousal and Accessibility to needs provision.
The AAA approach to caregiving places importance on promoting and supporting secure attachment representations. Secure attachment representations incorporate core beliefs held by the child that they are capable, deserving, understood and safe, that adults in a caregiving role will be sensitive, understanding and responsive to their needs, and that the world is an exciting place full of possibilities. Secure attachment representations are the foundations for a successful, rich and fulfilling life.
Secure attachment representations are promoted and maintained in schools where children experience adults in a caregiving role (particularly teachers and teacher support staff) as authoritative, accessible, understanding and connected at an emotional level (also referred to as affective attunement). Children benefit from adults in a caregiving role being in charge. Similarly, they benefit from being noticed before they call attention to themselves and from having their thoughts, feelings and intentions acknowledged without having to verbalise them themselves. Moreover, they benefit from the pride and joy in their accomplishments being reflected in their teacher’s face and their sadness and disappointment being responded to empathically.
The AAA approach to caregiving recognises the central role arousal plays in the child’s ability to perform at their best and have regular mastery experiences which, in turn, supports a positive self-image and resilience. Arousal refers to the level of activation of the child’s nervous system and is a lot like body temperature, in that there is a sweet spot where we perform and feel at our best. Like body temperature, when arousal is too high or too low, there is a problem. Arousal is implicated in emotional, behavioural and cognitive problems.
Arousal is impacted by a wide range of factors and aspects of the child’s environment. However, optimum arousal is promoted in ordered, structured classroom environments where the teacher is in charge and the children have the experience that their teacher is accessible, understanding and emotionally connected with them. Music can also be used to promote optimal arousal in a group, with as little as twenty minutes exposure to certain types of classical music likely to promote a state of calm alertness and readiness to engage successfully in the school curriculum.
All children thrive in an environment where their needs are responded to consistently. The AAA approach to caregiving recognises this fact and incorporates strategies to provide children with a profound sense that their needs are understood and will be responded to without them having to go to great lengths to make it so. In turn, the child can confidently go about engaging with and exploring their world without fear, thereby promoting their development and academic and social success.
For more information about the AAA approach to caregiving, please refer to my books, which are written in an accessible style and are suitable for caregivers of all types and professionals who have a caring role with children.