With grief, sadness is obvious. With trauma, the symptoms can go largely unrecognized because it shows up looking like other problems: frustration; acting out; difficulty concentrating, following directions, or working in a group. Often students are misdiagnosed with anxiety, behavior disorders, or attention disorders rather than understood to have trauma that’s driving those symptoms and reactions.
For children who have experienced trauma, learning can be a big struggle. But once trauma is identified as the root of the behavior, we can adapt our approach to help kids cope when they’re at school. Starr Commonwealth Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Caelan Soma offers these tips for understanding kids who have been through trauma plus strategies for helping them.
1. Kids who have experienced trauma aren’t trying to push your buttons.
If a child is having trouble with transitions or turning in a folder at the beginning of the day, remember that children may be distracted because of a situation at home that is causing them to worry. Instead of reprimanding children for being late or forgetting homework, be affirming and accommodating by establishing a visual cue or verbal reminder to help that child. “Switch your mind-set and remember the kid who has experienced trauma is not trying to push your buttons,” says Soma.