Chelsea Heights Trauma Tips

May Edition

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Understanding Our Own Triggers

Having an understanding of the things that push our buttons can help us be more aware and able to push the "pause" button when we get triggered by a student who challenges us. Students who have experienced trauma need us to respond in the ways we have learned work for them (regulate, relate, reason), rather than react out of our own emotional triggers.

Trauma's Effects on Teachers

In all likelihood, teachers of children impacted by trauma may also be affected, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, caring for others who have experienced trauma may not only be a stressful experience, but may compound the teacher’s own reactions. The impact on the teacher or person caring for the student can involve feeling physically and emotionally worn out, feeling overwhelmed by the student’s trauma and reactions and experiencing traumatic stress of their own. This is also often referred to as ‘vicarious trauma’ or ‘secondary traumatic stress’. Such reactions are not a sign of weakness. Rather, they are the cost of caring for and helping others. There is some overlap between the reactions demonstrated by students following trauma and those of teachers who are experiencing ‘secondary traumatic stress’ or ‘vicarious trauma’.

Signs that may indicate teacher distress/secondary traumatic stress include:

  • Decreased concentration and attention

  • Increased irritability or agitation with students

  • Problems planning classroom activities, lessons and maintaining routines

  • Feeling numb or detached

  • Intense feelings, intrusive thoughts or dreams about a student’s trauma (that don’t reduce over time)

  • Symptoms that don’t improve after a couple of weeks

Teachers who look after themselves and manage their own stress levels are more equipped and able to manage student behaviors and difficulties.

From Childhood Trauma Reactions Tip Sheets Series: Teacher Self-Care; University of Queensland, Australia

Self-Care Corner

Tips for teacher self-care:
  • Find your support system. Just like students, teachers need to protect themselves from becoming isolated.

  • Monitor your own reactions, emotions and needs.

  • Seek help for your own trauma-related distress. If your signs persist for longer than two to three weeks, it might be a good idea to seek further assessment or assistance from a health professional.

  • Try out calm breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, and imagery (relaxation)

  • Challenge unhelpful thoughts that cause you distress

  • Look for resources to help you feel more in control

  • Maintain a structured classroom environment. This is a good thing for both children and teachers.

  • Plan ahead where possible, and have back-up strategies for difficult situations so you don’t have to do it on your own.

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle (i.e. eat regular healthy meals, exercise, good sleep routine, participate in enjoyable activities).

  • Make time for yourself, family and friends.

SPPS Employee Assistance Program

Sand Creek is your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It offers free, confidential assessment - up to 4 sessions per year, short-term counseling, referral, and follow up. Professional counselors are experienced in helping people identify and find solutions to personal issues such as:

Job Stress

Financial Concerns
Parent/Child Issues
Substance Abuse
Childcare or Eldercare
Loss and Grief
Other Life Concerns

Using EAP is completely confidential, provided at no cost to you, and available to both you and your household family members.