Trauma-informed practice has become increasingly recognised and implemented across a range of childhood education services. It is a framework based on a knowledge and understanding of how trauma affects people’s lives, and their service needs.
Trauma and adversity have a profound effect on the biological, psychological, neurological and social wellness of a child. A trauma-informed approach to early learning includes developing a thorough understanding of the ways trauma impacts children, and recognising symptoms of trauma as being adaptive, rather than pathological.
Trauma can affect people at any stage of life. In early childhood, it can be particularly damaging. Trauma can result from adverse childhood experiences, which contribute to a child’s increased vulnerability to mental health conditions. This increased vulnerability can continue into adolescence and adulthood.
Adverse childhood experiences can include health problems in the child or family members, losses and deaths in the family, difficulties relating to financial struggle, marital discord, and family conflict. They can also relate to parenting impairment due to issues such as mental health conditions, or drug or alcohol abuse.
A trauma-informed practice recognises the prevalence of trauma in our communities. Although many people are affected by trauma, it often isn’t considered in daily interactions. A lack of awareness and sensitivity to trauma can lead people to inadvertently contribute to a person’s trauma and stress. Trauma has a negative impact of the social wellbeing of our communities; however, by employing a trauma-informed approach, we can build awareness of trauma in our society and potentially contribute to healing on a larger scale.
Trauma-informed practice is about supporting children to feel safe, to build trust, and to overcome any sense of fear and betrayal. Often, children who have experienced trauma lack a sense of safety. Trauma affects the way children – and adults – approach potentially positive relationships. Creating a safe and supportive environment, committed to trust, choice and collaboration, is a key pillar of a trauma-informed early learning practice.
Our practices apply an understanding of trauma to all aspects and systems, accommodating the vulnerabilities of children experiencing trauma, and minimising the risk of re-traumatisation. Positive experiences can contribute to healing from trauma. Further negative experiences, however, can make emotional and psychological problems worse. It is important to recognise the symptoms of trauma within children and respond accordingly.
A trauma-informed practice also recognises the importance of family and community, and extends their understanding of trauma into these areas. It requires consideration of a child’s whole experience and environment, not just in an early learning setting. Trauma-informed practice emphasises physical, emotional and psychological safety for all: children, their parents, and their wider community. Through collaboration, trauma-informed centres affirm the strengths and resources of these groups, exploring all possible avenues to successfully improve child outcomes. It is vital that a trauma-informed practice recognises the importance of respect, information, and the possibilities for connection within the wider community.