It is important to create the environment you wish a child to experience - an environment which is safe, secure and predictable.
For children with complex needs, this is achieved by understanding and being understood by those caring for them.
- At what level the child understands what you want from them, and
- What they can expect from you.
Consider the most basic of responses from parents when faced with a very young baby.
Parents will try to establish an understanding with their child by doing something to elicit a positive response, e.g. a smile. By repeating such activities a connection is formed and shared behaviour becomes predictable and safe.
When a young child becomes distressed, carers try to find ways to comfort them, to make them feel safe and secure, to show that the world is not scary and unpredictable.
We have already met the concept of 'containment', which is used to describe this very early important activity. This can be extended and applied to children of all ages.
As the word implies, containment is about the ability to contain feelings and anxieties, and to offer security and understanding in situations that children find frightening, unpredictable and confusing.
Sometimes children's anxiety and difficult behaviour is triggered by not knowing what the boundaries are and being unable to understand and predict what is happening, what is going to happen next and what the consequences of chosen behaviours will be.
Setting boundaries and creating routines is addressed in the next section.