Teachers in primary schools feel rather uncertain about their role and skills when it comes to trauma and traumatic stress (see the Dutch news). They don’t get much training about child mental health in pre-teacher education, even though psychological well-being is a requirement for children’s learning. Now I do certainly not want to argue that teachers should learn to be therapists, but I think that they can play an important role in signaling chronic traumatic stress symptoms and referring children and parents to specialists.
To build teachers’ confidence, we made a Toolkit Child and Trauma. It consists of a website and a booklet about traumatic exposure, posttraumatic stress, classroom skills, specialized organizations, and self care. We made the toolkit in collaboration with teachers, in order to really tune in to their needs and interests. The main idea of the toolkit is that children are resilient: most of them will overcome difficulties with the support of their social environment.
The tips we elaborated on for assisting a child after a traumatic event:
1) Provide structure
2) Give room (but do not push) to process the experience
3) Do not avoid the trauma
4) Facilitate positive experiences
5) Continue to monitor symptoms and behavior
6) Support and inform the parents
7) If necessary, refer the child to mental health care