Guiding Children Toward Healing from Trauma Takes a Village
Creating trauma-informed spaces in schools is gaining momentum, however, it still varies from room to room in many schools.
But there is a reason why advocates of trauma-informed spaces advocate for whole-school approaches.
Why a Piecemeal Approach Doesn’t Work
When classrooms and spaces in and around school vary in their approach to trauma and safety, it can lead to dysregulation. Think about it in this way: transitions can have the potential to already be dysregulating, but when you throw in various styles and approaches to room design and teaching methods, you can create even more dysregulation for a child.
That means that every space a child touches in the school day needs to be trauma-informed, from the classroom to the lunchroom, and from the hallway to the bus.
Healing from Trauma Takes a Village
The old adage is that it takes a village to raise a child. The same can be said for guiding children toward healing from trauma. No one person or service can do it alone. In fact, trauma sensitivity is much more effective when efforts are coordinated. This allows students to feel safe throughout the school day.
As educators, it’s important to remember that you won’t always know all the children who have been affected by trauma. That means the best approach is to create a school-wide environment where all children, including those who have suffered from trauma, can be successful. Even children who haven’t suffered from trauma find huge benefits from creating a well-regulated and trauma-informed school. In other words, a rising tide lifts all boats.
How to Take a Whole-School Effort
In order for there to be success, all educators and staff throughout the school have to be on the same page. A whole-school effort requires a top-down approach in order to work. Leadership and staff need to identify priority needs for students and families in their school. From there, trauma-sensitive solutions can be developed to fit the unique culture and infrastructure of each school. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered by leadership to create a trauma-sensitive space and community in their classrooms.
The Benefits of Trauma-Informed Spaces
Trauma-sensitive spaces first look at satisfying feelings of safety. This primal urge to feel safe must be satisfied in order for our brains to begin to function at higher levels that allow for learning and deeper connections.
Trauma-informed schools should feel welcoming and calm. Be sure to look at our six steps for creating a trauma-informed classroom. This article takes a deep dive into how to physically design a space to be more trauma-informed.
But it’s not just about how a room is set up. It’s also about building positive, safe relationships with students. Trauma, at its core, is about broken trust with authority figures. Adults need to work on helping students feel safe emotionally, socially, and psychologically, not just physically.
Building trust will look different with each child as each one is unique and has had unique life experiences. The important thing to remember is to not focus on correcting “bad” behaviors, but rather, learning what is actually causing dysregulation. This will allow educators to work with each child individually to help them regulate and begin to heal from trauma. To learn more about building trust with your students, learn our three keys to creating positive, safe relationships.
Remember that trauma-informed spaces are about finding a balance between accountability and flexibility. As students start to feel more safe at school, they will begin to test the boundaries of what safety means. This can mean that teachers and staff will see a wider variety of behaviors than what is typically seen in a traditional school setting, and this is okay! Learning is not linear and we shouldn’t expect the spaces that we teach students in to follow a strict linear pattern either. It’s about matching our surroundings to the reality of how our brains are hardwired to learn, and that benefits everyone!