For children who have experienced trauma or who were already living in unstable environments, the COVID-19 crisis poses heightened risks for traumatic stress. Here are a few trauma-informed principles from CCFH’s clinical care and home-based family supports that may be useful to parents, caregivers, or guardians during this challenging time.
Without information, we make things up. If a child has experienced extensive trauma or is in the early stages of cognitive development, his or her conclusions are often further upsetting. CCFH staff help caregivers answer children’s questions about scary situations in ways that contribute to healthy growth and development.
Play as Antidote
Feelings of freedom during play counteract feelings of helplessness caused by trauma. Joyful play can release oxytocin, offering a reprieve from the damaging cortisol brains release during trauma. For this reason, play is an integral part of the support CCFH home visitors and clinicians are providing children and caregivers.
Regression and Regulation
Returning to earlier behaviors like bedwetting or clinging to parents is a normal response to stress for children. It is also challenging! One solution is to provide structure – like a consistent daily schedule – which helps children feel less out of control. This also helps caregivers feel more regulated and better able to cope with stress.
Agency, Goodness, Connection
Mr. Rogers taught children to look for the helpers. We can help kids feel that they can help, too. Kids who have experienced abuse or neglect often internalize negative messages about themselves. Finding ways they can help counters this with feelings of goodness, worth, connection, and competency.