Are There Global Approaches to Addressing Child Trauma?

Children face challenges as they grow and develop – and some can have lasting effects that can impede socialization, achievement, and physical health.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Abt’s Helga Luest shared insights about those challenges based on a recent panel discussion about “Trauma Informed Approaches to Education” hosted by the Institute of the Center for Education Diplomacy. During the discussion, experts examined ways that trauma is being addressed around the world to ensure that children have the best opportunity to learn, develop, and be safe.

Kathleen Price of Douglas College and Georgianna Duarte of Indiana State University spoke about some of the unique considerations for refugees in North America and the effect of war and violence on children.

Luest discussed how children may experience abuse, neglect, violence, bullying, disaster, terrorism, or war, and the steps that the United States and other countries are taking to address trauma and raise children that are healthier and less violent.

For example, in Chicago, schools are trying empathy and restorative justice as a way to resolve conflicts that come up during the school day. Other schools are using a method called peacemaking circles to address conflict and classroom discourse.

“These strategies employ what we know works – discussion and connection, rather than the punitive and blaming practices of the past,” Luest writes.

Key insights from the discussion included:

1. Understanding Behavior as Communication – Kids often lack the emotional maturity or language skills to articulate what is happening, so they communicate in their behaviors. And sometimes they “let it out” in an environment where they feel safest. It can be especially important for school staff to see behavior as communication, and to hold back from discipline that could do more harm than good.

2. Healing Happens in Safe and Trusted Relationships – Connection is essential to heal, so children who have been traumatized need trusted and safe attachments that can be a consistent support. Panelists noted that peer support from someone who has had a similar experience and is from the same country provides added understanding and empathy can be very healing.

3. Healing Environments are Creative –Speakers highlighted art’s ability to transcend language, culture, age, and experiential barriers.

4. Language and Labels Matter – While academics and professionals often use labels to describe situations, conditions, and illnesses, “in many cultures the labels create shame and stigma that add barriers to getting help.”  

Read the full piece in the Huffington Post.
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