Every week it seems, a traumatic event happens for millions of American children. What can we do to reduce the childhood trauma, or at least begin the process of healing our youth? School’s have been conforming to being “trauma-informed” schools.
What is trauma? How can this impact a child’s behavior, and more importantly, how does this affect their well being?
The American Psychological Association categorizes trauma as an “emotional response to a terrible event”. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the experience that youth under 18 years old face is called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The CDC says that this trauma can be linked to “risky health behaviors, chronic conditions, low life potential, and early death”.
Research from the Child Trends shows us that 45% of children in the U.S., have experienced one ACE, while one in ten of them have experienced three or more ACE’s. Depending on a child’s race or ethnicity in this country, the child can have a higher chance of experiencing an ACE.
This is why schools across the nation have been conforming as trauma-informed places for our youth. With the current political climate in the U.S., educators are more than ever called to alleviate the stress our kids face.
Romeo Morales, a Sacramento artist who works for Cypher Hip Hop Workshops, a program that empowers youth through Hip Hop culture, is weary of this shift.
“Having a progressive mindset seems to be the new wave coming in, when ever a new method of handling the youth comes into play it’s always mixed signals”, says Morales. “It breaks some social barriers that may make them feel defeated or without control. We give them the tools for success through communication and community if we keep shifting towards understanding what the youth are going through: then it’s a positive change within the system.”
Trauma informed care can potentially cut out the trauma that children are facing as it is centered around approaching families and youth in a way that recognizes their traumatic experiences and how those affect them. Child Trends reports that one in three black children have experienced two to eight ACEs, while one in five white children have experienced this number of ACEs. Our children are not sharing these traumatic experiences equally and unfortunately, race and ethnicity can determine their risks of experiencing traumatic events. This is why educators must adapt to new approaches to our youth’s behavior.
Edutopia released a video about “the teaching practices grounded in the science of learning and human development.” The second-grade teacher, Lindsey Minder, who is featured in the video shares her outlook on the approach that should be taken when it comes to trauma.
“For me being trauma-informed has so much to do with mindset, accepting that people come into a school setting with incredibly varied life experiences. Some of those life experiences may be traumatic. And the way in which that plays out in my particular classroom could look a number of ways. And by me having the lens it makes it less about are they doing ‘the right thing’ or the ‘wrong thing’ and more about, ‘where is that behavior coming from? Why is that happening?”
Eil Meza, a Sacramento artist and incoming freshman at Mills College, says this shift is necessary.
“I’m extremely grateful for the shift taking place that allows children to be taken care of properly. Trauma is real and can affect everything in a child’s life, so why not directly work with that and support that child through it? It’s the best option and we have a long way to go, but we have most definitely gotten further than many of us thought we would.”