This post is a continuation of Traumatized Children In Schools – Part 1 where I am presenting recommendations from the Task Force on Children Affected by Domestic Violence coordinated by the Massachusetts Advocacy Center. These findings and subsequent recommendations are an excellent model for the school systems of America.
Reevaluate school policies on confidentiality, curricula, and discipline in light of the needs of traumatized children.
Protocols For Parental Interactions
Schools must develop sensitive approaches for discussing a child’s school experience and symptoms of trauma with his/her parent(s). These procedures are particularly important where the child’s trauma originates in exposure to violence in the home, namely, as a witness to spousal battery.
Schools must be apprised of and, when appropriate, involved in safety planning for children and their families who require protection from batterers. Policies on confidentiality must be clear and unequivocal.
Policies must be developed that respond to traumatized children’s needs for predictability, sensitivity, and clear expectations. A predictable daily routine can contribute greatly to a child’s feeling of safety in the school setting. Schools must also create consistent individualized response systems so that each child in the school knows how adults will respond to their behavior whether they are in homeroom or art class.
If, for example, a rule exists in a child’s primary classroom that he/she can take a three minute “breather” when frustrated, and the same rule exists in art classes, the child can use the same coping strategies throughout the day. The child can thus assume greater responsibility for regulating his/her own behavior, which promotes a sense of self-control and feelings of safety.
When feeling stressed and near “losing control,” the consistency of rules enables the child to handle his/her emotions more constructively by at least providing a stable, predictable environment in which they can manage their inner controls. Where the expectations of traumatized children are clearly established, they are better able to grasp the difference between their life at school and life in the unpredictable and uncontrollable world in which they were traumatized. The end result is that the child has more energy and attention for important academic tasks and a far greater likelihood of behavioral and academic success in mainstream classes.