Understanding Trauma

Understanding trauma is acknowledging that students that are homeless have extenuating circumstances that will impact their social, emotional, and biological development negatively. The stress that our youth face when dealing with homelessness impacts everything that they do. As a McKinney-Vento liaison, educator, or school community stakeholder, understanding that our children have trauma and how to sensitively address that trauma can mitigate some of the negative impacts that occur over time.


How to identify trauma in our youth:

  • Inability to self-regulate emotions- students may have a large outburst or be unable to de-escalate situations they are involved in with others

  • Inappropriate coping mechanisms- thumb sucking, carrying a doll or blanket around

  • Extreme nervousness or “hyper-vigilance”- always at a “fight or flight” stage- always expecting imminent danger to be the result

  • Difficulty building friendships or trust with others- inability to make friends or function in social groups and settings, build trust with adults- may appear withdrawn

How students benefit from Trauma-Informed Supports:

  • Creating a safe and secure environment. Remember, students with trauma are expecting imminent danger at any moment. Having a safe space allows them to decompress and function in the academic/social setting. If you haven’t watched this Ted Talk, please watch the late great Rita Pierson discuss how “every child needs a champion.”

  • Providing the space to build attachments. Students with trauma may often feel unsafe to build trust and relationships with others. By developing relationships and trust with adults and peers, students experiencing trauma can begin to heal and process their individual situations.

  • Develop social-emotional skills. Students experiencing trauma may often seem withdrawn or unable to appropriately navigate different situations. By providing a space that helps develop their social-emotional skills, students can navigate difficult situations and learn how to self-regulate their emotions.



Additional Resources:

Upcoming Events:

  • Part three of our Web Series on Becoming Trauma-Informed to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness will be held on March 17, 2022. Registration is currently closed, but we will be sharing resources after each air date. Stay tuned!!

  • March 24th from 9:30-11:00 am: Supporting Young Children Experiencing Homelessness. Register HERE!


Next on MV@NYS: Understanding Trauma: Practices and Strategies for Safety and Support

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