Creating Supportive Environments for Children Who have had Exposure to Traumatic Events

Abstract

The prevalence of trauma among young children and its impact on educational outcomes is gaining attention. It is probable that the needs of children who have experienced or been exposed to trauma have long gone unmet due to identification challenges and a lack of knowledge concerning best practices. For this study, qualitative interviews were conducted to gather perspectives of 14 community-based service providers who worked with children and families regarding trauma-related concerns. Each shared his or her perspectives on knowledge and skills early childhood education teachers need to support children who have experienced traumatic events and partner with their families. Research questions were: What should early childhood teachers know about (1) trauma experiences among young children; (2) the emotional and behavioral patterns of children who have experienced traumatic events; and (3) supporting the social and emotional well-being of children in the classroom setting, including partnering with families, who have experienced or been exposed to traumatic events? Participants indicated that teachers might not readily connect children’s behaviors and emotions to trauma. However, teachers can use approaches and strategies (e.g., being attuned and supporting positive social and emotional and communicative responses) that promote social and emotional well-being for children who experience trauma. Participants also noted that teachers can resist re-traumatization by making adaptations to social, physical, and temporal aspects of the classroom environment. Findings indicate that trauma-informed care might be viable in early childhood classroom settings. Implications for research are discussed.

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Author Contributions

K.P.C.: designed and executed the study, co-led data analyses, and wrote the paper. S.A.: co-led data analyses and wrote part of the results. J.S.: assisted with data analysis and wrote part of the results. H.M.: collaborated in designing the study and editing the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Katrina P. Cummings.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Cummings, K.P., Addante, S., Swindell, J. et al. Creating Supportive Environments for Children Who have had Exposure to Traumatic Events. J Child Fam Stud 26, 2728–2741 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0774-9

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Keywords

  • Early childhood education
  • Early childhood special education
  • Trauma
  • Socio-emotional development
  • Parent-teacher partnerships