May 2024 Newsletter – Impact of Trauma on Children: How Do We Meet the Needs of Families Whose Children Have Experienced Trauma?

How Do We Meet the Needs of Families Whose Children Have Experienced Trauma? 

Early childhood educators not only serve the children in their care, we also serve the families of those children. When a child experiences a traumatic event, it is probable that family members have also lived through that traumatic event. In order to benefit all involved in helping a child overcome their trauma experience, it is imperative that we use a trauma-informed approach when interacting with families.

How do we meet the needs of families that have experienced trauma? In order to help children heal, educators must partner with families. Recovering from trauma involves the support of both educators and family members. Working with families that have experienced trauma can be challenging if not approached in a proper and delicate way.

As educators, we need to reduce any anxiety or stress that meeting with families may bring. Much of our own anxiety can be addressed through ongoing education about best practices and trauma-informed care. Strengthen your understanding of trauma and fill your toolbox with strategies you feel confident implementing.

Here are some things to keep in mind when working with families:

  • Engage and include families in the program in caring, nonjudgmental ways.
  • Communicate through multiple means and use each family’s primarily preferred method of communication whenever possible.
  • Invite families to the classroom to volunteer, spend time with their children, and strengthen relationships between all parties. Recognize that this might be an additional stressor for families, and it should not be forced.

When collaborating with families, it may be beneficial to hold regularly scheduled meetings. Use these opportunities with families to deepen your connection by learning more about their home lives and offering space for them to ask questions about the program. When meeting with families:

  • Ensure that they feel physically and emotionally safe. Calmly and warmly greeting and speaking with families can ease anxiety.
  • Be transparent and trustworthy. Let families know what you want to discuss. Make sure that families understand that the purpose of all meetings is to work together to help the child heal and thrive.
  • Identify opportunities to create consistency between home and school. Share strategies that seem effective at school and learn about how families support children at home. Include families in decisions and build a sense of shared intention. Family engagement only works if there is a true collaboration.
  • If a family member becomes upset or agitated, acknowledge their feelings, redirect the conversation back to the best interests of the child, and calmly suggest that a break should be taken.
  • If a child is working with an outside specialist (such as a trauma specialist or a child therapist), ask for the family’s permission to invite the specialist to the classroom so that you can collaborate to better support the child. Work with both specialists and families to create action plans that support children’s positive behaviors, development, and learning.

To better serve our families it is best to apply the same trauma-sensitive lenses to families that are used to help children heal. Regardless of the specific strategies used, building a sense of security, trust, and consistency will be required.

 

For the main article Impact of Trauma on Children, CLICK HERE

For the article The Impact of Traumatic Events, CLICK HERE

For the article Recognizing the Signs of Trauma and Traumatic Stress in Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Helping Children Who Have Experienced Trauma, CLICK HERE