Adverse experiences can be traumatic for young children who depend on adults for survival and protection. Children who lack a trusted adult to help them regulate their emotional response may experience toxic stress and biological reactions that can lead to negative outcomes.
When children experience trauma, it influences the agriculture of their brain, which in turn affects their ability to regulate behaviors and emotions and hinders higher cognitive functions, memory, ability to learn, and overall well-being.
Additionally, exposure to adverse experiences in childhood can affect how a person raises his or her own children. Prolonged trauma can affect a person’s relationships with others and is associated with high parental stress, punitive parenting philosophies, a greater risk for child abuse, and disrupted attachment with their child. In this way, trauma begets more trauma, and the cycle is passed on to offspring.
High-risk populations for trauma include households with:
- Low income
- History of abuse
- Low student achievement
- Rural areas
Trauma And Home Visits
In 2019, HRSA-supported Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs served 154,000 parents and children in 1,005 U.S. counties.
Home visits can be ordered by a judge in cases of abuse, neglect, maltreatment, or where one parent is considered a threat to a child’s welfare. Visits between the child and parent are supervised by a third party, most often a counselor, therapist, or child services employee.
These home experiences can play an important role in alleviating the intergenerational transmission of trauma by helping parents and caregivers build positive and healthy attachments with their children. A safe environment and nurturing relationships are two important protective factors in a child’s life that can foster resilience and help outweigh the long-term effects of trauma.
Home Visits And Social Stories
Generation Mindful presented the idea of using social stories for home visits to help children navigate challenging situations.
A scripted story is a short, descriptive narrative that playfully helps children better understand and transition into new, scary or confusing social situations. These stories help children understand the expectations and social cues/rules, and can be used to prepare children for new experiences, address challenging behaviors, or teach new skills.
Four types of sentences used in writing a scripted story:
1. Descriptive sentences: Define what’s going to happen, who is involved, what they are doing, and why.
2. Perspective sentences: Describe how the person feels, their thoughts, and mood.
3. Directive sentences: Individualized statements about the desired response. Avoid sentences starting with “do not” or other definitive statements.
4. Affirmative sentences: Highlights positive outcomes or behaviors.
Using three to five descriptive, perspective, and affirmative sentences for every one directive, social stories are used to create a story specific to your child, explaining what they can do in a given situation, why they might do that, and how they may feel about the situation. Playful, age-appropriate images will help make your story more concrete and memorable.
This child-focused activity can help children process emotions around adverse experiences, linking their emotional and logical brains together for healing. It’s like putting the puzzle pieces together so that they make sense. When children feel powerful, safe, and connected, they can better strengthen their resiliency and overcome trauma.