I have been writing extensively on the subject of childhood and adult trauma. I recognize that this has been not only a lot of information, but that it may be difficult to think about and hard to digest. Yet, a large percentage of our population of children have been victims of trauma. Too often, we minimize the impact of their trauma. When we give it less attention than it deserves, that impact can lead to a victimized child spending a lifetime of trying to manage the consequences of the traumatic events.
What does it mean to be a trauma-informed advocate?
As we move forward to other subjects in this blog, consider that we can each be advocates for promoting a much greater level of trauma-awareness, trauma-sensitivity and trauma-competency within all systems that touch the lives of children, adults and families. It is critical that we promote the kinds of healthy parenting processes that prevent trauma from ever occurring, but that we are prepared and equipped to address traumatic experiences effectively so that they do not spiral to posttraumatic stress.
Without a doubt, it has been challenging to learn the many ways trauma can devastate, wound, rob, and even destroy the safety and security that each child or adult is entitled to experience in his or her significant relationships. Still, I hope each of you takes from this blog an appreciation of the power that exists in healthy, loving relationships and how we can provide effective ways for attending to the wounds that traumatizing experiences can cause.
So much trauma goes undetected
The difficulties that many of our children are having at school, home and community may be trauma-related but undetected. Children sometimes feel they cannot report what has happened to them because they do not want to get anyone in trouble. Often, they have been threatened not to tell for fear of something bad happening to their families.
Parents need our support in many ways. One support is to give them a process to evaluate their own parenting practices and legacy issues, one in which they can receive research-based parenting education and have a safe place to process their parenting struggles and child-related issues. It is just so helpful to know that parents are not alone in their parenting.
We also need to advocate for trauma training for any professionals who are involved with our children. A traumatized child may not be able to tell anyone he/she has been traumatized, so learning the signs of trauma is extremely important.
Whether you are a teacher, social worker, counselor, parenting educator, childcare professional or anyone else who works with children, being trauma-informed will make a significant difference in how you assist the children in your care.
As a community of caregivers for children, we must learn all we can about this important subject. Valuable research is being published, and we need to know about it to better care for children who have been victimized.
It is my hope that we will be vigilant and diligent in our effort to become trauma-informed. We need new trauma lenses to see our children with sensitivity to trauma. Our children deserve to be protected, safe and supported. Let us all be advocates for our children and for training those who care for them, especially for those children who may be victims of trauma.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network