Teacher Learns to Support Childhood Trauma

Supporting Social-Emotional Health in Early Education

Teacher Learns to Support Childhood Trauma

The children in Mary’s class have faced many challenges this year. Several children have experienced traumatic loss due to death, incarceration, and family separations. Others continue to cope with the stress of living in poverty, and others with a parent struggling with mental illness. Through all of it, Mary has emerged as a strong and empathetic leader and the class has flourished despite the difficulties.

During the school year, Mary’s class faced the unexpected departure of Mary’s co-teacher. The sudden departure, coupled with the lingering effects of traumas, and the ongoing stress, created a challenging environment. The children in this room were struggling to participate in activities and hurtful behavior was increasing. Some of the children became exceptionally aggressive, pulling hair and kicking each other at minor provocations. Others were shutting down, retreating to corners of the room, and lashing out with unkind words when approached. It became difficult to facilitate any activity, as many children were too agitated to sit for circle time or a small group activity.

Mary worked diligently to maintain a consistent schedule and routine for her class, and maintain a sense of safety and trusting relationships with her. Working with The Family Conservancy’s early childhood mental health (ECMH) specialists to create a visual schedule and a routine for circle time, and implement them faithfully. She sought assistance when challenging situations and behaviors arose, all the while maintaining her composure in the face of resistance. Despite acting as the only consistent teacher in the classroom through much of the year, Mary was always willing to make the time to intentionally connect with every child, and especially with those who were struggling the most with aggressive and hurtful behavior. During the toughest times, she received regular pep talks and coaching from TFC to help her remember the skills she knew and utilize them for the good of her school family.

There are several children in Mary’s class who have seen, heard and experienced much more than is emotionally healthy for preschoolers, including the toxic stress and uncertainty of poverty and family trauma. Mary remains a faithful source of comfort and security for each one of them, in large part, because she has a natural skill and love for children, but also because she has been equipped with skills, and a partnership with TFC. With the support of this partnership, she has grown as a teacher, and her classroom operates smoothly, with each child secure in their place in the school family.

Mary cannot erase the trauma or difficult family situations, but she is dedicated to creating a safe and loving environment for them. Mary’s dedication to her class’ social-emotional health and learning, make her a gift to the children in her care. A gift that your support made possible!


Would you like to continue creating bright futures for KC’s most vulnerable kids?

Names and details in this story may have been changed.