What Do I Do – Trauma-Informed Support for Children

I just uploaded the following from LinkedIn posted by Michael McKnight which is amazing advice for anyone who works with children who have experienced trauma or toxic relationships.

1. Create Safety – If the child is overwhelmed, perhaps guide them to a quiet corner or allow them to decompress by visiting the restroom. If you are in a classroom, maybe have a peace corner with a screen and comfortable blankets.
2. Regulate the Nervous System – Stress brings a predictable pattern of physiological responses and anyone who has suffered toxic stress or trauma is going to be quickly stressed into hyperarousal (explosive, jittery, irritable) or hyperarousal (depressed, withdrawn, zombie-like). No matter how ingenious our regulation strategies, how artsy-crafty we get with tools, the child has to find what works for them.
3. Build a Connected Relationship – This is the number one way to regulate the nervous system. When we are around people we care about our bodies produce oxytocin, which is the hormone responsible for calming our nervous system after stress. If we stay connected, then eventually the calm discussion of each perosn’s feelings and needs can take place.
4. Support Development of Coherent Narrative – Creating predictability through structure, routines and the presence of reliable adults helps reduce the chaos a child may feel and allows them to start creating the kind of logical sequential connections that not only help them understand their own narrative, but are also the fundamental requirement of many types of learning.
5. Practice ‘Power-With’ Strategies – One of the hallmarks of trauma is a loss of power and control. When someone is wielding power over you with no regard to your thoughts or feelings, the toxic shame of the original trauma may come flooding back. As adults, we should use our power well. If we model a ‘power-with’ relationship with children its our best chance of creating adults who will treat others with the same dignity and respect.
6. Build Social Emotional and Resiliency Skills – Trauma robs us of time spent developing social and emotional skills. The brain is too occupied with survival to devote much of its energy to learning how to build relationships and it’s a good chance we didn’t see those skills modeled for us. Learning to care for one another is the most important job we have growing up.
7. Foster Post-Traumatic Growth – We know that there are qualities and skills that allow people to overcome the most devastating trauma and not just survive but find new purpose and meaning in their lives. Problem solving, planning, maintaining focus despite discomfort, self-control and seeking support are all known to lead to post-traumatic growth and are skills we can foster in children.

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