Use of Trauma-Informed Practices in Your Classroom Will Benefit All of Your Students

As an early childhood educator, it is challenging to be aware of all of the possible scenarios that could cause trauma in a child’s life. A traumatic experience is one that threatens one’s physical safety or sense of safety. We cannot be aware of how every experience is perceived by the children in our care. Also, not every experience will cause trauma in every case. For example, each child whose parents divorce will experience the situation differently; with different degrees of trauma.

Using trauma-informed practices will benefit all children because it is impossible to know or predict how individual children will experience trauma. These practices focus on social and emotional supports that help children learn to self-calm, regulate their emotions, and communicate their needs. Strategies are rooted in relationships and trust.  They emphasize safety, predictability, and consistency. These are important social and emotional supports for every young child, so using a trauma-informed approach serves everyone in the program.

Providing the same social-emotional guidance and approach to all children will help ensure that no child who has experienced trauma slips through the cracks. Using a strengths-based approach to teaching will benefit all children. Strengths-based strategies help children assess what they do well and then use these strengths and talents to build knowledge. Drawing on children’s strengths and capacities builds resilience and helps them develop the skills, competencies, and confidence they need to become active learners and critical thinkers. It also leads to improved educational outcomes, more success, and increased engagement.

We should aim to strengthen every child’s skills and mindset to successfully navigate stressful situations. Children can be very resilient, and helping them develop greater resiliency should be a common goal. Even children who have not been exposed to trauma will benefit from activities that strengthen resiliency. These strategies will prepare them for whatever challenges come their way.

The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is having at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. As a teacher and caregiver, you should aim to be one of those people for the children in your care.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, offers the following 7 C’s of Resilience:

  1. Competence – Through trying, failing, and succeeding, children begin to develop trust in their abilities.
  2. Confidence – As skills strengthen, children begin to feel more sure of themselves.
  3. Connection – The bonds that children build with others will support them in times of need.
  4. Character – Having a clear sense of right and wrong will guide children’s choices in challenging situations.
  5. Contribution – Being part of and participating in something larger than themselves helps children move through challenging situations.
  6. Coping – Tools for managing emotions and communicating their needs give children positive outlets in overwhelming situations.
  7. Control – Feeling as if they have a say in what happens can help children navigate difficult times.

Children’s resilience skills need to be nurtured and supported. In addition to building strong relationships with the children and families, educators should create situations that strengthen the 7 C’s of resilience.  Identify ways for children to practice the skills associated with resilience in safe situations so the skills are there before they are needed.  Embed elements of the 7 C’s into daily routines, curriculum activities, outdoor play, and personal interactions with all of the children in your care.