For Social and Emotional Development

"Tip 156: September 2021 - Trauma In Early Childhood "
   August, 2021

Trauma can result from a difficult event or situation that tests a person’s
ability to cope, often with negative impact to a person’s mental
well-being. De Bellis & Zisk state that “Without empathetic and
responsive caregivers to support them, children can become overwhelmed as
they cope with experiences they do not understand and that threaten their
physical and emotional safety and well-being.” There should be particular
attention paid to supporting children’s developing social and emotional

Infants: Attachment:

Children need secure attachments and connections. Gillespie and Petersen
said that “Routines and rituals are important for all children and in all
early childhood environments. A predictable routine help children feel safe
and gives them a sense of mastery over their environment which supports
their competence and sense of security.” Adults should create a visual
daily schedule. This should be hung up at eye level with pictures of the
routine and what is going to happen next. Being able to rely on these types
of routines empowers children to anticipate what will come next, creating a
sense of safety, trust, and attachment.


Hebert, Langevin, & Oussaid state that “Children who have experience
trauma often have difficulty regulating their emotions.” They need to
understand their emotions and learn appropriate ways to express and deal
with them. Safe spaces can play a key role in self-regulation. These
strategies benefit all children, not only those who have experience trauma.
Adults can create a “quiet corner” away from other children where a child
can go to take a break. This quiet area should have books about emotions
and pictures of faces with various emotions: happy, sad, lonely, scared, or
angry. An adult can help the child name the different moods and talk about
what they feel like.

Preschoolers: Competency:

This focuses on building necessary skills for child success, and feelings
of competence.

Alper & McGregor stated that “Children who are active agents in making
decisions and in directing their learning have confidence in their capacity
to make things happen.” One of the most effective ways to build
responsibility is to ask children questions instead of telling them what to
do. In this way, we help them use their own thinking strategies to solve
problems. An example could be, “What should we do first, wash our hand or
set the table?” Marie Masterson feels “Fostering competence also has
lasting benefits for children. They gain confidence in their growing
ability to make healthy and constructive decisions. They become more
sensitive to the needs of others and enjoy the pleasure of mutual

The single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is not IQ nor
school grades, but rather the adequacy with which a child gets along
with others. Children who are unable to sustain close relationships
with others…are seriously at risk.
(Willard Hartup)

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