Behaviour as Communication: Supporting Traumatised Children and Adolescents to Learn to Regulate their own Emotions and Behaviour

Delivered by

Christina Enright


Format options

In Person | Online

Duration options

3 hr | 4 hr | 6 hr (1 day)| 12 hrs (2 days)


This training can be adapted to a diverse range of contexts, and further bespoke elements can be added on request.

Content Summary: 

Children and adolescents who have endured trauma in the form of attachment disruption or rupture, as well as neglect and/or or direct abuse, can present behaviour which is both puzzling and challenging. With such children, the presenting behaviour is often the manifestation of primitive brain mechanisms which are in a constant state of fear and easily triggered into a defensive reaction of fight, flight or freeze/shutdown. For these children basic behaviour management techniques and interventions on their own are inadequate, often ineffective and sometimes harmful.

However, adults are often at a loss for solutions in responding to the child’s challenging behaviour. On integrating the latest research on the impact of trauma on children’s developing brains and behaviour, it is no longer appropriate to talk about behaviour management when responding to traumatised children. Rather behaviour is addressed within the context of a safe and supportive relationship with caregivers so that children can abandon many of the self-protective behaviours they adapted in order to survive the extremely challenging environments they have experienced. Responding to a child’s challenging behaviour using a relational approach will also help the child to learn the self-control and capacity for reflection necessary to manage and regulate their own emotions and behaviour.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this course you can learn:

  • why traditional behaviour management strategies are not adequate or effective and may even be harmful for traumatised children
  • the concept of ‘Behaviour as a Communication’
  • how blocked trust and a lack of unconditional love affects a traumatised child’s functioning and behaviour
  • about emotional dysregulation, the “window of emotional tolerance” and behavioural manifestations of emotional triggers
  • shame versus guilt and how shame can impede reflecting on accepting the consequences of behaviour
  • about the importance of rupture and repair in supporting the development of resilience in traumatised children
  • how to intervene effectively with co-regulation to prevent escalation and to calm a distressed child or adolescent
  • practical strategies of emotional communication to connect with the child in responding to challenging behaviour in a way that will empower the caregiver and effectively deescalate the high emotional arousal of children who struggle to self-regulate their emotions and behaviour
  • the value of natural and relational consequence rather than punishment to support a child’s learning from the negative aspects of their behaviour

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Bespoke Training

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Training delivered by

Christina Enright

RN, BSc Psychology, Dip in Family Therapy, MA Child Psychotherapy, Dip Clinical Supervision.

Over the past 17 years, Christina has worked as a psychotherapist with children, adolescents, birth parents, foster carers and adoptive parents. This followed on from 20 years working as a nurse in the NHS. Her experience includes the development of a multidisciplinary clinical service for families experiencing trauma and attachment problems who were reluctant to engage with main-stream social care and mental health services. From 2015-2017 Christina provided trauma consultancy to the clinical team developing a children’s service within the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in the UK.

She also delivers training on child development, trauma and attachment both within the NHS and other education and social care systems across the UK and Ireland.  Her special interest is in early childhood development and the impact of trauma on a child’s developing capacities, functioning and behaviour. From her experience working with children who have endured developmental trauma characterised by neglect and abuse, she has found it necessary to use a comprehensive integrated approach in order to address the multiple complexities which such children present with.

Christina returned to live in Ireland in 2016 and currently works as a Developmental Trauma and Attachment specialist providing training, assessment and clinical interventions on behalf of Tusla Child and Family Agency and in independent practice with birth and adoptive families.