As the pandemic is (hopefully and prayerfully) coming to an end, we are seeing children with more and more trauma in our schools, extracurricular activities and in foster care. But trauma can look different for each child. Some children tend to withdraw and attempt to manage thoughts and feelings on their own. Others may have argumentative or tearful episodes when triggered.
Individual and group therapies are a great way to help manage trauma. This gives a young person a safe place to discuss his or her trauma with others who have experienced something similar. It also allows peers to learn from one another and share their coping skills as they progress through this therapy.
Family support also provides much in the way of emotional and spiritual well-being. Many times, we see children and families survive the steepest of odds.
Trauma can affect mental and physical health
One example is a teen placed in Buckner Foster Care for almost a year. He was placed with a tenured family who has been fostering with Buckner for 10 years. This teen had almost every obstacle up against him. He had been a day laborer with his father for most of his life. He had never been to school and throughout this time, he developed health issues, including diabetes due to only being able to eat when food was provided.
The foster parents brought him into their home to help provide a safe and stable home for him so he could enjoy everyday life as a teenager. The work that went into this has been what we refer to as the “hard work.”
Many people from the outside looking in think children naturally adjust to a loving, supportive home and begin to flourish. While this can happen, it is not the norm. This teen had to learn to enjoy his days and evenings and be taught he doesn’t need to work for food. He had to learn food would be provided for him daily.
His health issues were only discovered because his foster family was willing to advocate for him and be persistent with his primary care physician. They taught their foster son how to speak up for his needs.
Through hard work and support, children can learn to work through their trauma
He also had to work hard at school. Since he had never been to school, he had a lot of catching up to do. At first, he would intentionally do things to be placed in school suspension class, so he didn’t have to talk to anyone. He felt it was “easier” than doing work in the classroom.
As he has grown and built relationships, he has been able to stay in the mainstream class and work to complete his assignments. He has also been attending an ESL class at the Buckner Family Hope Center™ to help with his communication at school.
The steps that have been taken to get this child to wellness has been astounding. He has been able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time and has much more to go. He loves being in this foster home and wants to be adopted though often, he feels torn with his allegiance to his foster family and his biological family. We are showing him that there is enough love to go around for both. He doesn’t have to choose one or the other.
As he continues to process his trauma, we have seen some of the steps in processing grief, anger and sadness being highlighted. This teen has worked so diligently to process his trauma and learn new coping and life skills during the year.
The trauma he has experienced will never “go away,” but he will no longer need to work through this on his own.
Written by Jennifer Petersen, regional director of Buckner Foster Care and Adoption for West Texas.