Traumaversaries. It may not be a word you are familiar with. It may not be actually be a “real” word, but to anyone parenting or working with children who’ve been impacted by trauma, they are very real.
Trauma comes in many forms.
Really, the list could go on and on.
And those traumatic events impact children. They carry with them the impacts of trauma, some for a lifetime.
How Trauma Impacts Children
Sometimes children were old enough to remember the traumatic events. Often, they were not. But the impacts of trauma are there...no matter how old they were.
Even if a child was not old enough to remember, their bodies will remember the feelings associated with those losses and traumatic events. And when it is the anniversary of the event, those feelings are even more likely to arise. Hence, the reason we use the word “traumaversary”.
One of the challenging things is that often teachers aren’t aware of the anniversaries. Sometimes even the parents aren’t aware. And LOTS of times, the children aren’t aware at all.
Triggers Adopted and Foster Children Face
One family I worked with came to me when their daughter was having a lot of behavioral struggles. It was December, and here in Minnesota there was already a lot of snow on the ground, not to mention cold, blustery temps.
Their daughter was adopted from Russia. She had come to their family when she was 6 years old. This was now the second winter season with them and it was the same pattern of behavior. The start of winter brought not only a flurry of snow, it brought a flurry of behavior. This lasted ALL winter.
After some talking, listening, and digging, we figured out the trigger. She had been removed from her home and her biological mother when she was 5 years old. And you guessed it...in December!
The weather in her hometown was similar to that of Minnesota - snowy and cold.
When she first went to the orphanage, they were getting ready for Christmas at the orphanage. Decorations, artwork made by their other children at the orphanage, a live, fragrant Christmas tree.
It all now made perfect sense.
Her behaviors here at her new home really kicked in when they got their Christmas tree. The smell of the pine needles triggered her emotions. Her loss, her grief, her abandonment.
While this insight didn’t erase those emotions during the traumaversary, it did give her parents important knowledge and a new lens to look at those behaviors.
They now had the insight to see what was behind the behaviors. They could remove some of the triggers, and could use new tools to help navigate through those triggers that were unavoidable.
As she got older, we began teaching her about her traumaversaries and those triggers and emotions that came with them. She is now a young woman. This winter here in Minnesota was a rough one. LOTS of snow. FRIGID temps. Her emotions crept in again in December, but she now has insight and knowledge to know what it is. She now has her own tools and strategies to walk through it without it tailspinning her.
As teachers, you very well may have students facing their own traumaversaries. You may be seeing behaviors...ranging from sadness, forgetfulness, acting out, change in attitude, etc. Those students need you to help them navigate through those.
How to Help a Child Who’s Been Impacted by Trauma
When you are working with or parenting a child who’s impacted by trauma, it’s important to be intentional. It’s important to meet the child right where he’s at, and in order to that it’s important to understand a child’s emotional age, attachment style, and trauma history.
When parents and teachers can work together as a team, and give a clear picture of the child so both parties can meet the child right where he or she is at, the child has the best chance at success.
This month in IMPACT - A Community of Trauma-Sensitive Teachers, we are diving into traumaversaries and loss. It’s a really important topic when it comes to students who’ve been impacted by trauma. We not only have a training video, we also have tools for you to use in the classroom, as well as a tool to use to partner with parents on helping your students.