Trauma and the Iceberg of Behavior
On my mind today, are the behaviors that are developed as a result of experiencing trauma and toxic stress(lasting and serious stress in relation to trauma). We often use the iceberg metaphor of behavior when we talk about children who act out in various ways: disrespect, aggression, stealing, truancy, cutting, etc. And then we begin to look for root causes, looking for the answers to the question: “what happened to you?” looking beneath the surface of the iceberg. And this is vital information because without it, we are just reacting with interventions that don’t last and often completely miss the point. It is here that the understanding of trauma should be in the forefront of responding to children and adolescents who, by their behavior, are screaming, “I’m not okay!” Recognize the signs, respond to the signs (not react) and resist re-traumatizing. And how to do that: respond from a place of caring and be sure that the environment is safe, physically and emotionally, be trustworthy (keep appropriate boundaries, and be sure that what you are asking the child/teen to do is clear. Give the child/teen a choice in what happens next…an outcome of trauma is often that a person feels out of control, i.e. things happened to them without their knowledge/consent. Collaborate of the available choices and empower the child/teen to learn some new, some healthier skills. And lastly, but very important, recognize cultural, historical and gender issues.