What do power outages and EBI have in common?

By: Dr. Cheri Shapiro

Many of you heard about the debacle in Atlanta at the airport caused by a power outage on December 17, 2017.  I had the unfortunate opportunity of being involved; travel plans took me through Atlanta, landing just as the entire airport operations came to a dead stop.

What does this have to do with evidence-based behavioral health interventions for children, youth, and families?

It goes back to an earlier blog post about kernels, and small elements of evidence-based approaches (called kernels; see seminal work of Tony Biglan and Dennis Embry).  Everywhere I looked, I saw examples of fantastic, resilient parenting, and parents making use of best practices that are incorporated into most evidence-based parenting approaches such as Triple P, Incredible Years, and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, among others!

I heard parents talking to their children, explaining calmly what they needed to do or where they needed to go.  I saw parents create safe spaces on floors or in corners and take out small toys, games, or snacks. (These are clearly well-prepared travelers!)  I saw parents using distraction — for example, young distraught children were shown a toy or object to redirect their attention and bring them calm.  I heard clear, direct requests given in the way that works most effectively — getting close, getting a child’s attention, clearly telling the child what they needed to do in a calm and quiet voice, and then praising children for helping out or doing as they were asked. I watched parents mask their own anxiety and confusion, and remain calm and composed during great uncertainty (like walking through a nearly completely dark walkway through a bit of smoke in the air to get to a terminal with working emergency lighting).

These observations underscore that many of our “interventions” do help support things that many excellent parents do every day, in the course of daily life.  What science offers here is direct evidence in a controlled way that these strategies work.

So, here is a shout out to all of you brave parents and caregivers who were truly heroes for your children!  We watch in awe.

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