Barbara Sorrels, EdD, author of Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma, discusses the challenges ahead in the new school year and offers how to help our littlest victims in the wake of COVID-19.
Little did I know when I wrote Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma that we would soon be experiencing a global pandemic. All of us over this past year have been touched by loss and perhaps even traumatic experiences in one way or another. We've all been in the same storm, but yet we've been in very different boats.
For some of us, the pandemic was merely a pause in our typical way of doing life. We didn't lose jobs. We were not touched by illness or death. The social distancing was buffered by the fact that we got to spend more time with our nuclear family. So really it was just a mere inconvenience in our typical way of life.
But for others, it has been catastrophic for those families who have been touched by death. Who've been touched by illness. Who have experienced the loss of jobs which then leads to food, scarcity, homelessness, all of the trickle-down effects of a society that is in chaos. It has been an upheaval and will take a long time for many families to actually fully recover from all that they have experienced.
As is often the case, when our culture experiences upheaval, it's our youngest, most vulnerable children who experienced the trickle-down effects of trauma and loss.
This has certainly been the case in the pandemic. As schools have closed, many children have lost their safe place. For many Head Start, school, or childcare is the place where they find a sense of felt safety in the adults that they have formed attachments to.
It's been loss of significant relationships, not only with teachers, but also with peers. In our neighborhoods, one of the reported losses by parents is children have been grieving the loss of the opportunity to play. Many live in apartments, and there is no safe place to play. That time that they have at recess during school is really the only time that they get to experience the outdoors, so that loss of play has been significant.
Many children have been left in the care of older siblings who may not really be old enough to take care of very young siblings and assume responsibility for their well-being. There's been big scarcity: homelessness, loss of predictability, and chaos in some families. So the effects on children are going to be many as we come back to school and slowly return and establish a sense of normalcy.
As we face the new school year, Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma could be a huge benefit to you and give you insight into how trauma and loss impacts the healthy development of children.
Explain some of the behavior that you might see as kids return.
Give practical strategies for how to create an environment that heals.
Show you how to give a voice to children, allowing them to tell their stories.
Demonstrate how to create the predictable environment children need for healing.
Provide strategies for guidance and discipline.
As we deal with some of the challenging behaviors that we might see as kids return, we can do so in a way that respects children, that actually maintains the connections that we form with kids and not undermine the relationships that are so very important for children to truly feel that sense of safety and their daily lives. We hope that you'll find Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma very handy as you all return to that sense of normal back in the classroom.