Summarized by Elyssa Weber
Introduction: There is a growing awareness of the pervasive impact of trauma on children. In particular, it is known to affect brain functioning and change the neurological systems that govern stress responses. Trauma is also associated with nightmares, flashbacks, avoiding reminders of the event, and difficulty with concentration. Although the effects of trauma are extensive, increasingly it is being recognized that healing from trauma can take place in non-clinical settings.” Specifically, other non-parental adults in the child’s life maybe able to help the child heal. This article reviews the current literature and provides guidelines for how best to provide a healing relationship for a child who has experienced trauma.
Method: This review article utilized theory and current research to discuss key factors to keep in mind when mentoring traumatized children.
Results: There are three key factors of trauma informed care:
Safety: Trauma can affect a child’s sense of safety and attachment. In order for recovery to take place adults must provide the child with a sense of safety. In particular, it is important to remember to be reliable, available, predictable, and honest.
Connections: Some children who have experienced trauma may associate adults with negative emotions. In order for recovery to take place, it is important that mentors display positive emotional responses toward the child. Note that this may be difficult because the child may display challenging behavior. However even if they child is displaying challenging behavior it is important to try and not respond harshly.
Managing Emotions: Often children who have experienced trauma have trouble managing their emotions. One of the most important skills a non-parental adult can teach a child is to learn to calm herself down when she gets upset. In particular teaching the child how to label her feelings, so she can process her own experiences is important. Additionally literature suggests that it maybe helpful to teach the child active listening skills, since it may help the child learn to be more reflective and better manage her emotions.
Implications: The author concludes that children who have experienced trauma need adults in their lives who can use trauma-informed approaches to promote healing. The author notes that if mentors can follow the guidelines laid out above (and provide safety, connectedness and emotion regulation skills) then the mentor may be able to help create an environment in which healing can take place.