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Educators’ responses to a person who discloses their stress related to systemic or individual challenges will often determine how this person learns to share trauma. By creating spaces for people to feel safer, seen, and supported, we encourage trust and validation of feelings, which paves the way for change. These guidelines will help you respond to trauma. Educators are encouraged to consider how these practices look both inside and outside the classroom. IMPORTANT: Before reading further, we strongly encourage you to read over the Important Guidelines for using this Module so educators and child-serving professionals are aware of their scope as professionals.


Trauma is pervasive among all individuals. All of us have experienced trauma to some degree and when we recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in ourselves and others, as well as the adverse effects trauma can have on our health and well-being, we allow people to feel seen.

For example, KHST! Pre-K-Kindergarten guide discusses the importance of social-emotional development in young children, specifically that “[s]tudies have shown that the quality of the parent-infant relationship can influence the ways genes are expressed in the areas of the brain that regulate social and emotional function, even leading to changes in brain structure and functioning. This in turn can have a lifelong impact on how the body responds to and copes with stress, both physically and emotionally.”[1] When facilitating this session, it is important to recognize and acknowledge that intergenerational trauma can interfere with the development of stable, caring relationships. For more resources on parent-infant relationship visit Make the Connection eLearning for professionals or you can recommend the Make the Connection parent/caregiver program to the parents and caregivers you know with infants 0-3 years old.

 Relational trust

Relationships of trust and support are an essential component of trauma recovery and resilience. Communication, authenticity, keeping one’s word, completing actions and keeping promises are all ways to build trust in relationships, as well as showing up, checking in, and being a regular presence in someone else’s life. A friend, guardian, peer, educator, and acquaintance all have the potential to provide a trustworthy, supportive relationship for someone else.

For example, KHST! Grade 4-6 “Stressed or Not Stressed” activity[2] provides a useful tool to gauge where students are at with regards to various stressful situations. A variation on this activity could be for students to identify the stressor, and also rank how stressed it makes them feel.

 Voice, choice, agency

As traumatic stress is a response to feeling out of control, it can be counteracted by providing opportunities, language, and actions that demonstrate to individuals and groups that they have a voice and can control their learning, interactions with others, and well-being.

For example, the Chill Fair[3] exercise in SL grade 7-9 allows students to see how others address stressful situations, and creates space for them to check in on each other in response to the exhibits. Similarly, the “Problem Box” exercise in KHST! Grades 1-3[4] gives students control over stressful situations by allowing them to both identify their stressor, and share their solutions.     

Strength-based/solution-focused approach

By emphasizing strengths instead of weaknesses, shortcomings, and challenges, healing and resilience are visualized.

For example, the “Problem Solving: Articulate-Identify-Evaluate” method in SL grades 9-11[5] gives autonomy to the student and helps them identify their strengths and areas of support in response to a stressor. Similarly, the “Stress Busting” activity in KHST! Grades 4-6[6] walks the student through matching various stress-relieving options with the stressor they may be experiencing.

Resistant to re-traumatization

When a person experiences a similar event, circumstance, or pattern to the initial traumatic event, they can be retraumatized. For example, a student who has experienced a traumatic death from a loved one may be retraumatized by an unexpected group reading about gun violence. Recognizing common scenarios that might be retraumatizing and working to mitigate their effects is critical.

For example, many of the activities in KHST! and SL involve identifying or reflecting on stressors and stressful situations. It is important to think about how to support students before, after and during this exercise in case a student is re-traumatized or triggered. To help mitigate these situations, consider having guidelines or ground rules creating a respectful space that allows students to step in or out of these activities. Refer back to Best Practices for Responding to Identity-Based stressor Module 1 Safer Spaces: Creating Group Guidelines.

Social justice[7]

Traumatic stress often disproportionately impacts those who have been systemically underserved based on their identity marker such as race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic background, gender, sexuality, ability, neurofunction[8], immigration status or language. A disregard for these facts can lead to new traumatization or a deepening of existing traumatization.

Refer back to Best Practices for Responding to Identity-Based stressor Module 1: SAFER SPACES: CREATING GUIDELINES BUILDING SAFER SPACES

[1] SMSKPC Kids Have Stress Too! Guide (Pre-K-K pg 20)

[2] SMSKPC Kids Have Stress Too! Guide (Grades 4-6 pages 8-12)

[3]SMSKPC Stress Lessons Guide (Grades 7-9, page 18)

[4] SMSKPC Kids Have Stress Too! Guide (Grades 1-3 page 40)

[5] SMSKPC Stress Lessons Guide (Grades 9-11, page 18)

[6] SMSKPC Kids Have Stress Too! Guide (Grades 4-6 page 12)

[7] Justice as it relates to the distribution of privileges in society

[8] Understanding of a person’s neurological functional status and includes a person’s abilities (physical, cognitive, psychosocial), activity participation, and quality of life.