I’ve been asked recently to say what my most used word is in terms of trauma informed practice and I’m struggling to come up with what that might be. There are several words I use a lot and they all are essential in my mind. So, I’ve decided to use my blog writing today to come up with my one word. I wonder as you read whether your one word would be one of these – or indeed something else?
When I deliver training, either in educational settings or with parents and carers, I talk about the big three. I’ve mentioned these in blogs before and it’s three words that I think we should focus on developing in our most vulnerable children to help them thrive.
The first of the big three – the foundation if you like is REGULATION. We all need to be able to regulate our emotions and meet our needs whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. Many children haven’t learnt how to self-regulate because their needs weren’t met adequately as tiny babies.
The second is TRUST. Being able to trust people around you to keep you safe and to be there for you. Without trust it’s very difficult to form relationships, hold down jobs, and function.
The third word in my big three is WORTH. A sense of self-worth is so important to be able to be confident to step out in life. My children all have a sense of shame as their default due to the lack of emotional support from the adults in their world when they were younger. That feeling at the core of your being that YOU are bad is horrible and can be so debilitating.
So, all good words, but are they the words I use the most?
When I think about my children, well any children, and what is needed the most the word ENJOYMENT comes in mind. What I mean is they need to know that we enjoy spending time with them. There are times when I haven’t over the years, for lots of reasons, but I know the difference when I hang out with people who want to hang out with me. It can do so much for our self-esteem. My parents were very much like this certainly in their later years. I knew without a doubt that they loved me and that they enjoyed my company. They also passed those feelings onto how they felt about my children – they loved to spend time with them too. Often my Mum would ask to see the “munchkins” if she hadn’t seen them for a week as she loved spending time with them.
That is powerful. Knowing that someone wants to see you and delights in you is very empowering.
My parents have passed away now and the hole that leaves is huge at times. I would love to see them again, just for a day, to get that feeling back – the pleasure of spending time together. Something that you can’t fake.
Another word, that comes to mind, that I use often in training is RELATIONSHIP. What has usually broken down for vulnerable children is the key relationships in their lives – their parents, family, teachers – people who should have kept them safe and been there for them haven’t. The impact of this is devastating and long lasting. How they recover is through relationships. Through those important people at home, school and other settings vulnerable children and young people can see value in themselves and how to relate to others. We learn through seeing and experiencing. I know that as mine have got older our relationship has been more important in some ways. I just asked two of them what word they would use in terms of what a parent should be. One said helpful and another said supportive. All good words too.
So, I think I have my word. To me this encompasses all the other words – regulation, trust, worth, enjoyment, helpfulness and supportive. That word is RELATIONSHIP. Being close enough to someone to know how they feel, to understand why they behave as they do, and to support them in moving forward. We need to be in relationship to do those things.
What would your word be?