The Trauma-Informed Approach
At Sierra Forever Families, we take a trauma-informed approach in the work that we do. Being trauma-informed means that we fully consider how trauma has adversely impacted the development of our youth.
School is often the area where behaviors arise for our children. So imagine, you’ve just been matched with a young man who is 8 years old. We’ll call him Billy. Billy’s been through a lot. His life has not been easy. But he’s letting you know—through words and actions—that he’s becoming more comfortable with you as his caregiver.
And then he goes to school and his day falls apart. He becomes angry with his teachers. He throws a chair across the room. He pushes another student out of the lunch line.
How could this be? Is this young guy showing his real self at home or at school?
In our recent blog articles, we have discussed how young people’s trauma can lead to their being mislabeled and misdiagnosed. In Billy’s example, his trauma plays out as anger or aggression. Billy’s mind has stored traumatic memories, and those stored memories trigger feelings of having no control over his situation. He is in a state of fear and helplessness.
While many school staff have become more informed about what it means to be trauma-informed, not all are. Also, they might not know the background of a young person like Billy.
This is where you, dedicated parent, enter. When you are dealing with struggles that your child may be having at school, shift your focus from compliance to connection: provide positive interactions every chance you have, make eye contact, smile. Do this even if your kiddo has royally messed up at school. Let him know that he’s got you for support, and that tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities. Re-enforce the notion that mistakes can be fertile ground for personal growth.
This kind of response will serve as a building block for attachment. Healthy attachment helps youth like Billy build new memories, so that their brains process challenging events from a place where they are grounded and feel in control. As attachment builds, the child feels more grounded and more in control. Their response to adversity shifts; it becomes easier for them to work out their differences with their peers.
Sierra Forever Families offers services with therapists trained in trauma and adoption. Please contact our Therapeutic Support Services (TSS) at 916-368-5114 to obtain more information.
For more information about trauma-informed care, here is a great resource: National Child Trauma Stress Network.
Written by Steve Kempster, MSW
Interim Program Director