Many early childhood educators encounter young children on a daily basis who have experienced trauma. As more and more research has become available on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), early childhood educators are increasingly focused on trauma-informed education.
When educators understand the impact of ACEs, they’re able to create trauma-informed classrooms and centers—all with the ultimate goal of building and maintaining positive relationships with young children and serving as a buffer to the negative consequences of abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur before a child reaches the age of 18 and include all types of abuse and neglect as well as situations that may cause trauma, such as having a parent with mental illness or being part of a family experiencing divorce. All types of trauma can undermine a child’s innate ability to form healthy and positive attachments, learn without immense difficulty, and excel in school.
Trauma has a profound impact on the first 2,000 days of a child’s life. Those who experience trauma are two times more likely to fail a grade in school. They also score lower on standardized tests, have higher rates of suspension or expulsion, and are more likely to be placed in special education programs.
Many early childhood educators may feel frustrated and overwhelmed by expressions of trauma in their classrooms or programs. Children who have survived trauma, abuse, or neglect may experience challenging behaviors, including:
Although the consequences of childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect can be staggering, they are preventable. Trauma-informed care and classrooms can play a powerful role in reducing the long-term effects of trauma.
Trauma-Informed Classroom Techniques
As an early childhood educator, keep these tips in mind for creating a trauma-informed classroom:
Your Classroom is a Community
Because every classroom in an early childhood education center is a community, consider taking these steps to develop a positive, responsive community.
Early Prevention Strategies
At One Place, all of our programs are designed to provide children with positive relationships and nurturing experiences—by educating parents and caregivers on the importance of social-emotional development and offering high-quality early childhood education opportunities.
When children in our community are hurt by abuse or through other adverse childhood experiences, they may need professional help to cope with their trauma. Our Child Advocacy Center is a child-focused facility that brings together law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, and medical and mental health professionals to develop a coordinated strategy to help a child in need.
Learn more about our Child Advocacy Center here.
Policy Intervention Strategies
In addition to the tactical preventative and intervention programs offered by One Place and other nonprofit organizations, policy changes may also result in new possibilities for children.
Zero to Three recommends that state policymakers implement evidence-based strategies to improve mental health outcomes—both for children and for their families. Learn more about what states can do to advance infant and early childhood mental health results.
To learn more about One Place’s work preventing and reducing the impact of ACEs and toxic stress, click here.