CHILDREN LIVING IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES
Children living in difficult circumstances are those living in poor conditions which put their lives at risk.
It includes homelessness & street children, child labourers, children exposed to violence and sexual abuse, commercial sexually exploited children, traumatized, neglected orphans, homeless, child mothers, refugees and displaced child soldiers, pastoralists, children with disabilities, abandoned or orphaned children, children with serious illnesses and HIV/AIDS.
Children in difficult circumstances suffer from poverty, exploitation and neglect for reasons beyond their control.
When trauma occurs early in life, children do not develop the capacity to regulate their experience, to calm themselves down when they’re upset, to soothe themselves, to interact in appropriate ways with other people, to learn from their behaviour.
Causes of Trauma
When a child views a situation as threatening, he/she’s likely to become traumatized once the situation has resolved.
Child abuse is one cause of trauma, particularly when the abuse isn’t an isolated incident but occurs on a regular basis.
Being abused at the hands of parent or other adult a child loves can be particularly traumatizing. Other types of violence, such as witnessing a shooting, watching someone else get abused, a car accident, the death of a loved one, separation from a parent, natural disasters, serious illness, bullying and being humiliated can all cause trauma to children.
Symptoms and Behaviours Associated with Exposure to Trauma
Demonstrate poor verbal skills
Exhibit memory problems
Have difficulties focusing or learning in school
Develop learning disabilities
Display excessive temper
Demand attention through both positive and negative behaviours
Exhibit regressive behaviours-eg a child suddenly starts to wet the bed after years of not doing so, or a college student carefully takes their teddy-bear with them
Exhibit aggressive behaviours
Imitate the abusive/traumatic even
Are verbally abusive
Scream or cry excessively
Are unable to trust others or make friends
Believe they are to blame for the traumatic experience
Fear adults who remind them of the traumatic even
Fear being separated from parent/caregiver
Show irritability, sadness, and anxiety
Have a poor appetite, low weight, and/or digestive problems
Experience stomach-aches and headache
Have poor sleep habits
Experience nightmares or sleep difficulties
Wet the bed or self after being toilet trained or exhibit other regressive behaviours
Interventions for children who suffered trauma
Recognize that a child is going into survival mode and respond in a kind, compassionate way. Start by asking yourself, “What’s happening here?” rather than “What’s wrong with this child?”
1.Create calm, predictable transitions. That feeling of “what’s going to happen next” can be highly associated with a situation at home.
2. Provide structure and consistency. Write the agenda on the board. Use entry and exit routines. When a student knows what to expect, it can help her to feel safe.
3. Praise publicly and criticize privately. Teachers need to be particularly sensitive when reprimanding these students.
4. Adapt your classroom’s mindfulness practice. If you use mindfulness in your classroom, you might consider using the following adaptations:
Tell students that, if they wish, they can close their eyes at the beginning of the practice. Otherwise, they should look at a spot in front of them so that no one feels stared at.
Instead of focusing on how the body feels, have students focus on a ball or other object they’re holding in their hands—what it feels like and looks like in their palm.
Focus on the sounds in the room or of cars passing outside the classroom—something external to the body.
5. Communicate with counsellors or social workers. Besides providing specific information about your students, these are great resources for more information about recognizing and understanding the impacts of trauma.
6. Provide choice. People with trauma history experience a lack of control. Provide safe ways for students to exercise choice and control within an activity and within the environment (choice of seats, choice of book, etc).
7. Develop strengths and interests. Focus on an area of competence and encourage its development to contribute to positive self-concept.
8. Be there. Be an adult in that student’s life who is going to accept him and believe in him, no matter what -children can never have too many supportive adults in their lives
9.Take care of yourself. If you work with even just one student who experienced trauma, you can experience vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue. Use your own support system and make time to do things that fill your tank