The Calm Classroom: 10 Trauma Sensitive Tools

Trauma impacts children’s ability to stay calm and focus. It disrupts normal developmental growth and makes learning hard. Parents and teachers can use these 10 trauma sensitive tools to have a calmer classroom (and home):

Click here to get the Calm Classroom PDF here!

Model Emotional Self-Regulation by naming and responding to intense feelings.

Clear, Assertive, Comfortable Communication establishes trust and structure.

Use Suggestion Boxes and allow students to express needs and have a voice in their world.

Use “Two-By-Ten” to challenge students for 10 minutes two times a day to build connections.

Use Calming Corners filled with sensory items and thinking puzzles.

Consider Classroom Design to organize, label, and give clear directions.

School Discipline Policies can be communicated clearly and allow students to ask questions to increase ownership and empowerment.

Say “Ouch/Oops” to model social emotional learning skills and manage hurt feelings and conflicts in the classroom.

Take “Brain Breaks” throughout the day to stay grounded, prevent dissociation, and keep present focused.

Use Culturally Responsive and Faith-Based activities to allow the child to feel safe and comfortable and bridge trauma tools used in the home.

These are just a few of the trauma-informed tools and tips you can use when you take our free course at TraumaToolbox.com or contact Ron about holding a trauma-informed workshop at your school or agency. Email Ron at rehuxley@gmail.com or call 805-709-2023 today.

Talking to Children about Violence

This article is a reprint on how to talk to children about violence. Unfortunately, the information is still timely as shootings continue to occur around the globe negatively impacting children and their development. Regardless of the specific incident, this blog will help parent understand the process for safely communicating with children.

Violence in society is a major issue for families today. It’s everywhere we look, it seems, and as a parent it disturbs me deeply. Part of the job of parenting is to protect our children from the ills, if not the evils of the world, but what do you do when it comes looking for you. Recent sniper attacks, school suicide-killings and the outbreak of fighting around the world, makes talking to our children about violence a necessary responsibility.

It would be easy to wait until our children bring up the issue and not take a lead role in discussing violence with them. Unfortunately, too many children take in the information, attempt to process it with their limited experience and understanding, and never say a word to an adult. Just because they don’t initiate, doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t. For these children, talking about the violence may relieve feelings of anxiety and insecurity they were bottling up inside. Children get their sense of safety from the attitudes and behaviors of adults, primarily parents. How we act and talk will have a direct impact of the emotional well being of children.

The first step to talking to children about violence is to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings about the violence. The best way is the simplest: Ask them what they think or feel. This will give parents a barometer about where the child is at and what concerns need to be addressed. Demonstrate that you are willing to hear it and give your child full attention without judgement. Too many parents are quick to jump into a child’s comments and make them seem invalid. A parent might dismiss their child’s fears as unnecessary: “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “You don’t need to worry about that.” A parent might even reply that the child is being silly, stupid, or overreacting for what they are thinking and feeling. This is a sure method to get a child to shut down emotionally and not communicate with a parent, now and in the future. Get on a child’s level by sitting or kneeling down when talking to them. And get rid of any distractions (i.e., turn off the television or radio). Make the conversation about them not you.

The second step is to clarify and/or reflect back a child’s comments. For example, a parent might say, “Tell me more about your fears of someone killing you” or “What do you mean you think the world is going to end.” This also communicates to a child that what they have to say is important and not trivial. It makes parents more aware of the underlying issues. If a child’s comments are clear then repeat back to the child what you heard them say. Don’t be a parrot; just summarize it, so that you and the child are on the same ground mentally.

The third step is to share your feelings and value about the violence. This means you must be aware of what they are before you ask your child to share. How do you feel about the violence? What is your value-system about killing, death, and violence? Is it a social, moral, or relational issue for you or does it encompass all three. Once you are aware of where you stand, you can communicate this with your child. Share in a direct, simple, and honest manner. How you say something may be more important than what you say. But be sure to say it in a matter of fact way.

What you say will vary depending on your values and the age of your child. Young children have difficulty separating reality from fantasy and it may be important to describe the difference. For example, a parent of a young child might state: “I know that the cartoons you watch sometimes have characters who shoot one another but that is not real. In real life, when someone gets shot they get hurt and they might even die.” Avoid in-depth explanations for younger children. They will lose attention and not be able to process long descriptions. One to two sentences are more than enough. Additionally, parents can use drawings and children’s book about fighting, violence, etc. Always follow up with reassurances that you love them, will do your best to care and protect them, and that they are safe.

Older children may be able to verbalize their thoughts and feelings more distinctly but don’t let that be an excuse not to talk about it. Use the same principles as with younger children but feel free to talk more deeply about the violence. Watch the news report together or read the newspaper article out loud, pausing to discussing thoughts and feelings. Ask them if they know of anyone who has been the victim of violence. The older they are the more likely they will know or have heard of someone. Talk about violence that has occurred towards them or in their daily life, such as school. Guide the older child toward your values without forcing them on them or telling them how they should believe. And look at ways to get involved in your community or through national relief efforts to help victims of violence. Being proactive will give a child a sense of power versus powerlessness.

What we say to children is important and we must say something. Sticking our heads in the sand will not improve the situation. Actually, ignoring or dismissing the topic of violence will increase a child’s anxiety and fears. But even more importantly, how we talk about violence will have profound impact on our child’s sense of self, their understanding of right from wrong, and their relationship with the parent.

“Sticks and Stones: The Power of Affirmative Adoption Words”

The phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is a childish idea that isn’t really true. It is a saying that is designed to be a reply to an insult or ward off bullying and discrimination. Adoptive families know the pain that comes from social stigma and stereotypes that surround adoption. The reality is that words do hurt but they can also heal.

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af·firm·a·tions

ˌafərˈmāSH(ə)n/

1. the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed.
2. emotional support or encouragement.

Affirmative Adoption Words: to “affirm” is to state that something is true. It is a “higher truth” that helps us be who we were designed to be; face adversities, and aspire to be the best we can be.

The repetition of affirmative words can change habit patterns and attitudes. It isn’t just positive thinking. That implies there is no work involved or no struggle. Affirmations place ourselves into alignment with the best version of ourselves.

The best affirmations start with “I am…” This makes it real and authentic. It establishes our identity based on what we choose to be versus what others say we are or are not.

Affirmations cause us to take responsibility. It voices the belief that I am aware of something that needs to be changed and that I can and will do something about it. We are not victims. We are agents of change and healing to our families.

Beliefs are habitual patterns of thinking. They are often the result of our past experiences and contain old survival ideas that may no longer be needed. If we learned how to survive, we can unlearn any unhealthy patterns, and re-learn new, more powerful ways to think.

List 5 positive “I am…” affirmations:

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2.

3.

4.

5.

Positive Adoption Language

The way we talk — and the words we choose — say a lot about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we say that adoption is a way to build a family — just as birth is. Both are important, and neither is more important than the other.

Choose the following, positive adoption language instead of the negative talk that helps perpetuate the myth that adoption is second best. By using positive adoption language, you will reflect the true nature of adoption, free of innuendo.

 

Positive Language

Negative Language

Birth Parent

Real Parent

Biological Parent

Natural Parent

Birth Child

Own Child

My Child

Adopted Child; Own Child

Born to Unmarried Parents

Illegitimate

Terminate Parental Rights

Give Up

Make an Adoption Plan

Take Away

To Parent

To Keep

Waiting Child

Adoptable Child; Available Child

Birth Father; Biological Father

Begettor

Making Contact With

Reunion

Parent

Adoptive Parent

International Adoption

Foreign Adoption

Adoption Triad

Adoption Triangle

Permission to Sign a Release

Disclosure

Search

Track Down Parents

Child Placed for Adoption

An Unwanted Child

Court Termination

Child Taken Away

A child with Special Needs

Handicapped Child

Child from Abroad

Foreign Child

Was Adopted

Is Adopted

* Source: https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/talking-about- adoption/positive-adoption-language/

 

Spiritual Surround: How to shift the negative atmosphere of your home.

Join me for the third seminar in the “Healing the Traumatized Child” series November 26, 2018, from 9 am to 12 noon. The seminar will be held at GraceSlo Church on 1350 Osos St., San Luis Obispo, California.

Healing strategies for traumatized children involve helping children help within the spiritual atmosphere of the home. Let’s explore spiritual strategies that create compassion and loving kindness in our children and ourselves. Transform negative atmospheres into hope-filled realities with this practical training by Ron Huxley, LMFT.

Family Healer School

Ron Huxley’s FamilyHealerSchool.com provides families with FREE help on parenting, anxiety, trauma, child behavior, spirituality and more. You can find healing for you and your family with multimedia content, downloadable resources, quizzes, and inspirational meditations. Our vision is to see families healed and living in complete abundance.

Get more information now: Click here!

Trauma Toolbox Fall Conference

Join me as the speaker for San Luis Obispo, California’s Fall Conference. I will be featuring my online trauma-informed care training: The Trauma Toolbox. 

This conference is free for parents and professionals who want to know more about this project and learn practical tools for healing trauma.

Be sure to RSVP at the DSS Training Line at 805-781-1705. Childcare will be available at an alternative location. Please call to arrange.

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Healing the Special Needs Child

Many foster and adoptive parents have children with special needs who require specialized care and skills. According to Wikipedia, the term special needs “is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.”

In the United States, more than 150,000 children with special needs are waiting for permanent homes. Traditionally, children with special needs have been considered harder to place for adoption than other children, but experience has shown that many children with special needs can be placed successfully with families who want them.

This can put more of a strain on families than they realize. Just loving a child really hard is not enough to manage the requirements of a special needs child. It takes special knowledge and a support system from other parents of special needs children and professionals who “get it!”

Being unprepared is one of the reasons foster and adoptive families disrupt. Disruption is a term that refers to the ending of a foster placement prior to the finalization of an adoption. The rate of disruption has traditionally been10-20% nationally. Post-Adoption services and education can decrease this rate dramatically!

Perhaps the most challenging special needs issue, for parents and professionals, is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is defined as a “continuum of permanent birth defects caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It refers to a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Problems may include an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence, behavior problems, and problems with hearing or seeing.” (Wikipedia)

Fetal alcohol syndrome

In addition to the physical symptoms of FASD, there are several corresponding mental health problems, such as attentional deficits, clinical depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. As you can imagine, many of the problems show up in the child’s school experience. Suspensions or expulsion from school occurs in 90% of children in the united states. For teenagers, this can result in dropping of out of school, experienced by 60% of the subjects (age 12 and older).

Other problems, such as legal issues, can occur for FASD children. Being charged or convicted of a crime is experienced by 60% of the children ages 12 and older. (Wikipedia)

One of the ways to help children with special needs heal is to work on executive functioning skills. Executive Functioning: “are a set of cognitive processes – including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem-solving and planning – that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.”

Elevating executive functioning skills will help children with special needs make better choices, control their behavior and manage their thoughts and emotions. The simplest way to elevate them is through play.

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It’s been said that play is the “beginning of knowledge.” The play is a child’s natural language and how they interact with the world and learn new skills and the shortest route to helping special needs children.

Babies and young children can benefit from games of peekaboo, pat-a-cake, hiding games, simple songs, and music, copying games, and fingerplays. Example of young child games include Eensy Weensy Spider, Where is Thumbkin, Open, Shut Them. Repetition and allowance for failure is key to helping children’s brain develop normally.

School-age children benefit from reading books, music, and movement, simple imitation games like follow the leader, conversations, manipulation of objects like blocks and Legos. Allow children to set the course of play allowing them to start and stop the rhythm of play.

It would seem that play with special needs children is the same as with any other child and it is…except that the intention and purpose of the play are to build brain skills that need reinforcement. The ability to stay focus and tolerate interactions need to be increased over time. If a child can only sit and play for 5 minutes, we want to increase that time to 6 minutes, then 7, etc. Start where the child is and allow them to increase tolerance and focus.

Take into consideration that each time the nervous system starts and then stops, it learns how to persist past impulses and distractions. Each time it achieves a difficult goal, it discovers the pleasure of success and wants to repeat this experience. This provides an internal locus of control that doesn’t require an adult to always supervise the play.

Play also develops social skills, an area that can be drastically missing in children with special needs. As children get older, teamwork becomes more important and necessary both at home and school. Children become more active and like to engage in dance, sports, playing catch, and various competition games. Competition can become a way to alienate others as special needs children have tantrums/meltdowns when they don’t win. This is due to a need to compensate for low self-esteem feeling like a failure at tasks and games.

Let the play be about the process and not the end result. Be happy for others who when and concentrating on celebrating team efforts will enhance executive functioning and overall relational success.

Is this still exhausting work? Yes! But the effort will be worth it in the long run. Use storytelling and imaginary play to make the connections that are missing in social/emotional development. Role-playing and creative art can also be a powerful tool for parents and professionals. Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says, clapping rhythms, guessing games, I Spy, and Brain Teasers are also useful brain tools.

Teenagers with special needs can benefit from practicing real-time daytimers, calendars, whiteboards, mind mapping and more to develop organizational, goal setting, planning, and monitoring and studying skills.

None of these activities should be done in isolation from caring, patient adults. Attachment and brain researchers operate under the maxim that “brains that fire together, wire together.” Just giving a toy to a child or tell them to do a task will not enhance the prefrontal cortex of the brain, where executive functioning is centered. Optimal development occurs when do people interact. Adults can guide the conversation and play to specifically target the individualized needs of the child. The child’s ability to push passed frustrations and manage moods will need the adult to help them through it.

calm

Finally, children of all ages can benefit from the mental organization power of mindfulness. Executive functioning is more than academic ability. This might be the focus on many of the adults in the child’s life but life smarts are important aspects of book smarts.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Learning to be mindful of one’s thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations calm the nervous system so thinking skills can increase. Teaching children the importance of experiencing their breath, mindful eating, yoga, and how to ground themselves are crucial skills at all ages.

Get more powerful tools for managing special needs and trauma for your organization with Trauma-Informed Training by contacting Ron Huxley now…click here!