Helping Students Cope With Traumatic Experiences
Helping Students Cope With Traumatic Experiences
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 by Andilynn Feddeler

Creating safe spaces in schools can greatly benefit the nearly 50% of students with exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) by making them feel more comfortable, accepted, and heard. The stresses children face at home often lead them to act out in the classroom, and teachers sometimes feel overwhelmed by these behaviors. Knowing how to accommodate and encourage these students takes patience and understanding, but a supportive climate can improve their learning experiences and emotional development.

Trauma-informed practices, like helping students self-regulate their emotions and build relationships with trustworthy adults, can promote safe and open classrooms where students feel like they are able to express and accept themselves as they are. Instilling healthy coping strategies early on and offering in-school mental health services are great steps to take to help students come to terms with and adequately approach their strong emotions.

Teachers can also benefit from these trauma-informed practices and the development of social and emotional skills in schools. Students who deal with trauma may depend on or take their frustrations out on their teachers, who need to know how to respond appropriately, even if their first instincts are to retaliate, scold, or become defensive. Teachers can cope by establishing strategies to implement when students act out or need support, like talking it out or utilizing designated safe areas, like a peace corner. Other strategies to help struggling students may include physical activities and focused attention practices.

There is no single “best” way to help students cope with traumatic experiences; however, keeping an open mind and maintaining a strong willingness to be there for them can certainly go a long way. Designating time to talk about safe zones or coping strategies can allow students to understand that they are not alone.