The role of being a parent cannot be defined with a simplistic definition composed of only a few select words. Being a parent entails being highly adaptable to a child’s needs in the moment, while acting as a fiduciary in promoting the best interests of their child. This person can take on the roles of a nurturer, a protector, a confidant, a navigator, an advocate, a supporter, a listener, a provider, a teacher, among many others. Simply, parenting is like having inexpressible love for someone who is essentially always part of you.
These responsibilities can be rather thankless at times and regardless the amount the preparation you’ve done, there is no template to truly prepare you for everything that being a parent will involve. This reality is especially true for parents of children who have experienced some form of adversity.
A parent’s first reaction to learning this horror usually is to make an attempt to shelter their children from this pain and distress (along with themselves). Sometimes the adversity occurred under their watch or was a complete surprise of undetected harm. Other times, the adversity was a direct product of the parent’s behavior or inaction which caused the inflicted pain upon their child. Regardless of the circumstances, the parent and the child now have to face the reality of what happened and learn how to heal and recover together.
The complex and destructive reality of trauma makes this task quite overwhelming but there is hope for the future. Gradual steps toward becoming trauma-informed can aid a parent in discovering how they can help their children and give them the tools needed for this journey. Parents educate their children on how to interact with the world around them and advancing resilient children can be included as a goal in this relationship. Strengthening the parent-child bond while providing a safe and secure base can be the beginning steps of this new connection in building resilience.
Please review the resources and tools below for more information on being a trauma-informed parent and fostering resiliency in your children.
Workshops and Toolkits
Sesame Street and Sesame Street in Communities
“Traumatic Experiences” (Educational Reading Materials, Toolkits, Workshops, Interactive Activities, and Videos)
Sesame Street in Communities created an interactive program called “Traumatic Experiences,” developed to address childhood trauma and advance evidence-based information that is age appropriate and family-oriented. The program’s goal is to elevate support and wellness in families and foster stronger bonds between caregivers and children. “Traumatic Experiences” provides a toolkit of resources for caregivers and children including: educational reading materials, activities and workshops, videos, among other resources used to strengthen relationships and promote resilience.
Online Reading Material Resources
“Helping Traumatized Children—A Brief Overview for Caregivers”
By: Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Source: ChildTrauma Academy
The “Helping Traumatized Children—A Brief Overview for Caregivers” booklet provides caregivers and other caring adults information about the complex nature of childhood trauma and guidance in how to address these issues. The composition discusses some of the common struggles associated with trauma and helpful tips for promoting the best interests of traumatized children and their families. The author is Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist who is a leading expert in childhood trauma research and the founder of the ChildTrauma Academy.
“Helping Children Cope with Trauma: Parenting Kids and Teens After a Traumatic Event”
By: HelpGuide Staff
Date: March 13th, 2019
The overwhelming and distressful qualities of trauma can reap havoc on the lives of children and leave parents feeling hopeless in their aspiration to help. HelpGuide’s “Helping Children Cope with Trauma: Parenting Kids and Teens After a Traumatic Event” displays a wide-range of beneficial suggestions for parents to utilize in aiding the recovery process. Each “tip” portrays a general element linked to establishing security and stability for children and depicts specific examples of enacting it through action steps.
“Supporting Students Experiencing Childhood Trauma: Tips for Parents and Educators”
By: NASP School Safety and Crisis Response Committee
Source: National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
“Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event” (PDF Factsheet)
By: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) Schools Committee
Source: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) Date: 2019
Reactions to trauma and changes in functioning can be significantly varied based on a child’s age and stage of development. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s (NCTSN) “Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event” offers a concise depiction of the common responses typically associated with trauma linked to a child’s age bracket. This resource could assist caregivers in discovering the nature and manifestation of trauma found in their child. Since trauma can be incredibly complex, spotting distinctive markers could shine a light as to “why” a child is experiencing certain emotions and acting out with specific behaviors.
Educational Videos on Childhood Adversity and Parenting
“Youth and Family Perspectives” (Module 6: Youth and Family Perspectives on Trauma-Informed Care)
By: JBS International, Inc. and Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health
Source: JBS International
The “Youth and Family Perspectives” video is only part of a larger trauma-informed care series created by JBS International Inc. and Georgetown University. This video goes beyond being a brief overview of material and aspires to explain and portray some of the primary struggles faced by vulnerable families and youth. The sustenance of social relationships are seen as a crucial component for families, with safe/supporting relationships promoting resilience and disconnected/contentious relationships exasperating the consequences of trauma. While its duration is quite lengthy, this resource provides detailed descriptions on adversity’s consequences for family systems. In addition, it displays feasible methods of prevention and intervention specifically designed to alleviate the suffering of traumatized children and strengthen the collective as a whole.
“How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime”
Speaker: Nadine Burke Harris
Source: TEDx Talks (TEDMED 2014)
Date: September 2014
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and public health advocate, discusses the influence childhood adversity has on the future of one’s health over their lifespan. In this groundbreaking TED Talk Dr. Nadine Burke Harris explains the consequences associated with childhood adversity and how its scope has revealed a public health crisis of massive proportions. The original ACE study is overviewed with connections being made between major findings and research on the alterations of biological processes (specifically the brain’s stress response system). The complex realities of brain architecture and functioning are broken down into manageable pieces which are informative and relatively easy to understand. With over 5 million views, this video has been a leader in changing the way trauma and health are interpreted around the globe. Since its inception, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has written a book on the subject titled The Deepest Well and she was appointed as California’s first Surgeon General.
“Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change” (YouTube video)
Source: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Date: May 14th, 2013
“Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change” indicates the importance adult strengths and relationships throughout social systems can have on meeting the needs and elevating the wellness of children with a history of adversity. This video describes how adults possess the ability to provide children with safety and security within their environment and interactions. Fostering these qualities into relationships can model a template for achieving resilience in children and can empower cohesion and trust in relationships. Addressing adversity isn’t limited to efforts solely focused on children, it’s also part of a larger mission to improve the lives of adults so they can be of service in aiding vulnerable children.
“The Attachment Theory—How Your Childhood Affects for Relationships” (YouTube video)
Date: May 30th, 2018
“The Attachment Theory—How Your Childhood Affects Life” video illustrates the concept of attachment, a development milestone in infancy/early childhood, where children use their caregiver as a base to explore and interact with the world. The video showcases the different types of attachment (i.e. secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant, and disorganized) and how the characteristics of each category translate into adulthood social relationships.