Trauma-informed care is a term used to describe an approach to social services – such as healthcare, social work and teaching – that assumes most people have experienced trauma in their lifetime. The best way to deliver these services is to consider each person’s possible traumas and account for this in our speech and behavior.
When can trauma-informed care play a role in the classroom?
Consider the following scenario: You are a health educator teaching a sex education class to eighth graders. The class is going mostly as expected (awkwardly, with some students making inappropriate jokes), but you notice that one student has become visibly upset and withdrawn. With a trauma-informed care approach, we can handle this situation in a way that might help put this student at ease.
Although you may not know if this student has faced trauma in their past, a trauma-informed approach to education dictates that we be sensitive to the student’s uncomfortable reaction.
What does a trauma-informed care look like?
There are several ways you can approach the above scenario in a way that respects the traumas a student might carry with them.
- Provide students a choice: You may invite members of the class who are becoming uncomfortable to step outside to take breaks throughout the class if they need to.
- Be inclusive: Use inclusive language and curriculum. This could mean using person-first language (“person living with schizophrenia” is preferred over “a schizophrenic,”) or eliminating gendered greetings such as, “Hey, guys!” and replacing them with gender-neutral greetings such as, “Hey friends!”
- Empower students: If they have more questions, encourage them to ask a trusted adult. If they feel confused and want to talk something out, also encourage them to do so. Demonstrate that there is no stigma around the topics you are discussing.
Why is trauma-informed care important?
Trauma-informed care isn’t about getting to the root of or solving trauma. It’s about creating a space where people feel safe and empowered, no matter their lived experience.
As many teachers and health practitioners know, the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for many. With intimate partner violence on the rise and students in unsafe home environments, trauma-informed care is now more important than ever to help social service workers provide the best support possible.
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