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Understanding Trauma: Practices and Strategies for Safety and Support

Our three-part web series on understanding trauma is not only timely but these ideas and interventions can be used for all students, not just students experiencing homelessness. In our last blog, we provided an overview of trauma. If you are participating in our web series, then you have already viewed part 1, understanding trauma. Students with trauma, especially those experiencing homelessness, may suffer from physical, psychological, and behavioral impacts. When a student perpetually lives in “fight or flight” mode, many of the mundane activities we take for granted- like having a conversation with another person- can be challenging. In this blog we are going to provide a summary of the different practices and strategies a school can employ to ensure safety and support for students experiencing trauma in our schools.

Practices and Strategies: Establishing Safe Ground

· Safe physical space. Students in crisis need to feel safe. When a student cannot self-regulate or de-escalate a tense situation, providing a location in the school – with a trusted adult, mentor, liaison, counselor, administrator- anyone that supports the student at that moment, will begin to establish relationships and assuage fear and mistrust.

· Safe emotional space. It is one thing to not feel the force of imminent danger in the physical space, but emotionally, students need to feel safe as well. This can be with a regular check-in, or training staff on how to greet all students in the morning. We just don’t know what any of our students are experiencing when they leave the schoolhouse. Providing a physical and emotional space to let go of trauma is essential to a student’s healing and ability to appropriately cope.

· Safely develop social-emotional training. When you are constantly living in a state of fear, anxiety, and danger, it can be hard to relate and work with others. It is important to develop programming in the school that teaches all students how to cope with trauma, how to relate to each other, and how to respond to other adults. Safe spaces where role-play activities, a related curriculum, and peer groups are implemented, can improve student well-being and proper social-emotional development.


Additional Resources:

· National Child Traumatic Stress Network Toolkit

· Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in Rural Schools

· National Native Children’s Trauma Center

· NYSTEACHS resource page for Trauma Informed Practices

Upcoming Events: March 24th: Supporting Young Children Experiencing Homelessness. Register HERE!!!

Next on MV@NYS: Self-Care and Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress.

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