We were having a discussion with a group of middle school students who were processing the death of a boy in their school. Just before the session started I was told, “she lies.” The comment took me by surprise. The person who made the comment went on to explain that the student he was referring to most likely didn’t even know the boy who died but she would paint a much different picture. Indeed she did! Her sharing was detailed, elaborate and quite unbelievable. Although I wonder, was it unbelievable because I had been warned?
Prior to becoming a Certified Trauma Practitioner, my level of irritation with someone fabricating a story in order to receive attention was significant. Perhaps so significant that it was apparent to those around me. Since having trauma training in 2018, I find myself being more tolerant in such situations. In this case, I nodded and offered validation while still making sure everyone had room to process and share.
On my drive home, I reflected on the discussion and the way this young student showed up. I wondered, what has happened to her and how do her lies benefit her? Prior to a greater awareness about trauma, I would not have asked those questions. I further wondered, what assumptions do other make about her and what questions do those supporting her ask? I imagine it is easier to ask, what is wrong with you, especially after repeated exposure to her lies. Nevertheless, how would understanding her past provide insight into what she most needs?
While I don’t have answers to the questions I pondered, I realized that my mindset has shifted since the trauma training. I am less likely to assume that something is “wrong” with a person when I find their behavior irritating or hard to handle. Instead, I wonder, how we can better support those who have experienced trauma and what is my role in that work?
Special Projects Coordinator, Calhoun Intermediate School District
Board Vice President, Lakeview School District
As a home visiting parent educator, I have had the great honor and pleasure of working with many different kinds of families over the years. Throughout these years, I have discussed many topics with families that are relevant to them. A recent topic of conversation with many of the families I serve has been trauma and the ACEs survey. I have introduced this on a very light level as to not confuse the families too much since this topic can be very complex.
These families were very receptive and many reacted as if a light bulb went off. Some parents felt validated and understood. I highly encouraged these families to share their ACE score with their doctor and to have an open conversation with their medical team in the event they have not heard of the ACE survey and the effects of trauma on the whole body. So as to not leave these parents feeling discouraged with a high ACE score, I also told them six things they can do to help treat the effects. These are according to the book, “The Deepest Well” by Nadine Burke-Harris and are: sleep, mental health therapy, healthy relationships, exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness and meditation.
Additionally, I have shared infographs and flyers regarding trauma to local licensed home childcare providers who see many children everyday in their home. This has been very helpful not only to the providers, but to the children, the families, and the community.
Parent Educator, Licensed Home Childcare Coach
CISD, Battle Creek Mi.
Feedback from recent presentations included incredible interest in this easy-to-use strategy to help children and adults. We’ve developed this postcard for anyone interested in using this in their practice. If you’d like to do more – more learning, more doing – send us an email, we’d love to support you.
And if you end up using this tool/strategy, let us know – we’d love to hear how it goes!
I’ve read this article many times now. It continues to be shared with me from folks I respect and admire. And each time I read it I’m more convinced that it is up to those of us engaged in this “trauma-informed” movement to come together around our language.
It’s always sat with me as too deficit-based but the alternatives never seemed entirely right either. For those on this healing journey with me, read this (again if you’ve already done so) and let’s start a conversation.
I’m actually leading two trainings today and plan to begin incorporating some of the “healing centered engagement” language in both.
When you follow a river to its source, follow the water’s path upstream and take the largest of the tributaries each time the river splits.