Helping Children Feel Safe After Trauma

Helping Children Feel Safe After Trauma

posted in: Traumatised Children | 0

Every year from 29 May to 6 June, South Africa observes National Child Protection Week. While the focus of the week is often on ways to protect children from physical harm, neglect or abuse, which should always be our first priority, it is also important for us to talk about the fact that children who have experienced abuse or neglect may struggle to regain a sense of safety even when the danger they faced has already passed.

The child may have been removed from an abusive home or taken out of a school where they were being bullied, but despite finding themselves in new and safer surroundings, their behaviour still shows that they do not feel safe. This is because trauma and fear re-wire our brains to always be on the lookout for possible danger, and so many trauma survivors remain hyper-vigilant and wary of their surroundings even after the danger they faced has passed.

This happens because, as Dr Stepehen Porges explains, “Trauma compromises our ability to engage with others by replacing patterns of connection with patterns of protection.”

As adults, it is our responsibility to minimise both the reality and the perception of danger for children in our care. Our goal should always be to provide a space in which the child can gradually move from a stance of reactive defensiveness to one of proactive engagement with adults and their peers.

In order for the child to do this, they first need safe relationships, relationships where they are shown repeatedly that they are valued, cared for, protected and accepted.

Dr Howard Bath says, “Safety is therefore closely related to the nature of interpersonal connections because it is only by positively connecting with others that a young person can begin to feel safe.”

Despite our best intentions, we are not always able to protect children from the evils of the world. However, we are all in a position to help them regain their sense of safety and security when they have been hurt. By providing positive and caring relationships, and approaching a child’s behaviour with compassion and understanding, we can all play a part in helping vulnerable or abused children feel safe and loved.

To learn more about the impact of trauma on a child’s sense of safety, as well as how to support and help children to heal from trauma, contact HealingLeaves today to book our H.E.L.P – Four Stages for Supporting Traumatised Children programme.

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