Written By: Marissa LaBreque, Hanna Institute

June is National Safety Month, an important time to emphasize the significance of creating safe and nurturing environments for children, especially those who have experienced higher-than-normal levels of trauma. For Head Start staff, who are dedicated educators and care providers, understanding and implementing strategies to foster a sense of security in children is crucial. Children who have faced trauma often find it challenging to feel calm and safe, making it even more important to create consistent and supportive environments both in the classroom and at home.

The Importance of Safety for Traumatized Children

Children who have experienced trauma often struggle with feelings of insecurity and anxiety. These feelings can impede their ability to learn, develop healthy relationships, and feel comfortable in their surroundings. For these children, creating a sense of safety is not just about physical protection but also emotional security. When children feel safe, they are more likely to engage positively, express themselves, and develop trust with their caregivers and peers.

Tools for Consistent Care

For Head Start providers, home visitors, and educators, providing tools and resources to parents and caregivers is essential. Consistency in care between the classroom and home environments allows children to develop healthy relationships and a positive sense of self. By sharing strategies and offering training, Head Start programs can help create a cohesive support system for children, fostering their emotional and psychological well-being.

Strengthening the Care Provider-Child Connection

One of the fundamental ways to create a feeling of safety for children is by strengthening the caregiver-child connection. Here are 10 ways that care providers and caregivers can support this bond:

  1. Understanding Nonverbal Cues Infants and toddlers communicate their needs primarily through nonverbal cues such as crying, facial expressions, and body language. Caregivers and care providers should become adept at reading these signals to respond appropriately. This responsiveness helps children feel understood and secure.
  2. Prompt and Sensitive Responses Building a strong emotional bond involves responding promptly and sensitively to a child’s needs. This approach helps in developing a secure attachment, which is the foundation for emotional well-being. Caregivers and care providers should encourage parents to be attentive to their child’s signals and provide comfort and support when needed.
  3. Physical Comfort Physical affection such as holding, cuddling, and soothing is essential for meeting a child’s emotional needs. Activities like skin-to-skin contact, known as kangaroo care, can provide significant comfort and enhance the caregiver-child connection.
  4. Routine and Predictability Establishing consistent routines for activities like feeding, napping, and bedtime can provide children with a sense of security and stability. Predictability helps children understand what to expect, reducing anxiety and promoting a feeling of safety.
  5. Teaching Basic Emotions Helping children understand and label their emotions using simple words can aid in their emotional development. Care providers can support parents in teaching their children words like “happy,” “sad,” and “angry,” which can help children express their feelings more effectively.
  6. Interactive Play Engaging in interactive play allows children to explore their emotions and learn about the world. Observing and participating in a child’s play can provide insights into their emotional experiences and help strengthen the caregiver-child bond.
  7. Calm Responses to Tantrums Children can become overwhelmed by their emotions, leading to tantrums and outbursts. Caregivers should model and teach parents how to respond with patience and calmness, which helps children feel supported and understood.
  8. Positive Discipline Setting boundaries with love and understanding, using positive discipline techniques, helps children learn appropriate behavior without feeling threatened. Consistency and empathy in enforcing limits are key to maintaining a safe and nurturing environment.
  9. Self-Care for Caregivers Parenting can be physically and emotionally demanding. Caregivers should prioritize self-care to ensure they have the energy and patience to meet their child’s needs. Encouraging parents to take time for themselves, ask for help, and skill-build around self-regulation can help them stay responsive.
  10. Seeking Support Connecting with pediatricians, parenting classes, or support groups can provide valuable advice and reassurance for caregivers. Facilitating access to these resources can help parents feel more confident and supported in their caregiving roles.

In conclusion, during National Safety Month, let’s commit to creating environments where children feel safe, understood, and supported. By focusing on strengthening the caregiver-child connection and providing consistent, compassionate care, we can help children, especially those who have experienced trauma, thrive and develop into resilient individuals.

Hanna Institute trains in trauma-responsive techniques to build transformative and safe workplaces. Our Trauma-Equipped Training course is full of practical and ready-to-use perspectives and tools to build safety. Learn more



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