Session 2–Tackling the Tough Stuff: Supporting Families at Risk Through Reflection and Relationship

Check out the first in our blog series highlighting takeaways from this year’s Summer Institute! In “Tackling the Tough Stuff,” Angela Tomlin and Stephan Viehweg explored how providers can build relationships with families using their PAUSE framework.

Early care and intervention professionals know that babies need consistent, responsive and sensitive caregivers to develop in emotionally healthy ways—however, sometimes we forget that relationship needs continue even for adults. Relationship experiences in early childhood not only set the stage for how we think about ourselves and others, but also continue to influence our behaviors as we grown into adulthood. Many parents encountered by early childhood workers have not had histories of positive relationships; as a result, it can be hard to gain their trust and engage them in partnerships. In this session, participants learned and applied the PAUSE (Perceive, Ask, Understand, Strategize, and Evaluate) framework, a way of working with families that blends relationship-based practice, reflective skills, and concrete information in a way that home visitors and other early care professionals can use in their everyday interacting with young children and families.

Session objectives

In this session, participants:

  • Recognized links between early experiences and adult behaviors related to relationships and caregiving
  • Demonstrated relationship-based methods to connect with parents and teach parenting skills to address challenging child behaviors
  • Explored the PAUSE framework as a tool to build relationships and enhance successful outcomes
  • Identified strategies to address the most common social-emotional challenges in early childhood

Intended Audience

Early intervention professionals who provide home visiting services to families with children birth through 3 (Part C, Early Head Start, Healthy Families) and early care and education professionals

Intended skill level



Angela TomlinAngela M. Tomlin

Angela Tomlin, PhD, HSPP, IMH-E, is a clinical psychologist and Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM). At IUSM, she is directs the section of Child Development and Riley Child Development Center, Indiana’s LEND interdisciplinary training program.

Dr. Tomlin provides clinical services to families with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, supervises graduate trainees, provides reflective consultation in the community, and is a frequent presenter on topics including autism, behavior management, and infant mental health.

She is the author or co-author of 20 publications and with Stephan Viehweg authored Tackling with Tough Stuff: A Home Visitor’s Guide to Supporting Families at Risk in 2016. With team members, Dr. Tomlin was selected to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leader Program from 2016 to 2019. Dr. Tomlin serves on several state-level committees, is Immediate Past Chair and current chairperson of the Endorsement Committee for Infancy Onward, Indiana’s infant mental health association. She is also a Past President of the Board of the Autism Society of Indiana and serves on the board of the Hope Academy, Indiana’s Recovery High School.

In addition to licensure in psychology, Dr. Tomlin is the first psychologist in Indiana to have earned the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health Distinguished Mentor Endorsement, later brought this credential to the state, and remains active in the Alliance for Advancing Infant Mental Health.

With her husband of 35 years, Dr. Tomlin is the proud parent of two adult daughters and two wonderful grandchildren.

Stephan ViehwegStephan Viehweg

Stephan Viehweg, LCSW, ACSW, IMH-E® (IV), CYC-P is the Associate Director of the Riley Child Development Center, Indiana LEND, Assistant Research Professor at the IU School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and the Associate Director of the IUPUI Center for Translating Research Into Practice.

He currently serves as the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. Ambassador to Indiana. He is founding chair of Infancy Onward (Indiana’s association for infant mental health) and founding president of Family Voices Indiana.

He is Treasurer of the Association of University Centers on Disability, Treasurer of Mental Health America of Indiana, and a Governor appointee to the Indiana Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board.

He is co-author of Tackling the Tough Stuff: A Home Visitor’s Guide to Supporting Families at Risk.