Dos & Don’ts of Connecting with Children Exposed to Trauma

Dos and Don'ts of Connecting with Children Exposed to Trauma

Creating a sense of emotional safety and using developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood programs are key parts of developing social and emotional learning in cases of child trauma. In Dr. Barbara Sorrels’ new book, Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma, she provides a set of educator guidelines one should consider when engaging in trauma informed care.  

According to Sorrels, it is important for educators and caregivers to know that trauma informed care is more than being compassionate toward students. Instead, it’s realizing that “trauma changes the brain and affects relationships, self-regulation, sensory processing, learning, and behavior.” An informed educator is better equipped to recognize these behavioral signs and create classroom environments that provide a “sense of emotional safety and healing.”

When teaching children exposed to trauma, Sorrels says educators must remember a few things:

  • Connect with a harmed child in various ways to establish a bond with them. This can be through games, music, gentle touch, and play.
  • Always strive to meet the child’s sensory needs throughout the day from morning arrival to naptime.
  • Work to create a “sensory-rich classroom” that will engage the child and help them heal.
  • Coach positive and supporting social skills through turn-taking, sharing, empathy, and conflict resolution exercises.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, communicate unconditional love and support to the harmed child and make your acceptance of them known.

Sorrels warns that the worst thing an educator or caregiver of traumatized children can do is have no empathy toward them, or fail to realize that they can help the child heal. As Sorrels points out, “it doesn’t take a trained therapist to heal a child.” 

For more valuable advice and strategies for helping harmed children in the classroom, check out Sorrels' new book, Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma, and read an excerpt.

Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma