- Greet the child before they do anything to initiate engagement with you.
Greeting children in this way offers them the experience that they are in your thoughts, that they are worthy and that you are accessible. This is necessary as children who have experienced interpersonal trauma have learnt that they cannot rely on others to attend to them and their needs. They also have a low opinion of their worth. Promoting their sense of self-worth and the worth of relationships with others underpins all endeavours to promote recovery from interpersonal trauma. Check in with them proactively throughout the day.
- Tune into the child’s emotions and restore calm.
When the child is happy, allow yourself to feel and project happiness in your interactions with them. When the child is sad or frustrated, show a little of those emotions as well. In doing so you and the child will be connected at an emotional level. Then restore calm. They will remain connected and return to calm themselves. These experiences of emotional connection offer the child experiences that their feelings matter; that they matter; that they are worthy. It also promotes tolerance of, and a return to calm from, a range of emotions.
- Say what is in their head and in their heart.
Observe the child and the situation/activity. Say what you think is their experience of the situation/activity. Make it a statement. Say it with congruent feeling. Speak their mind. Communicating in this way offers the child an enriched experience that they are understood, that their experience matters, and that they matter. Do not ask questions, as questions communicate that you do not know them.
- Develop a ritual involving one-to-one time.
Plan to spend five minutes per day of one-to-one time with the child. Do it in a routine and predictable way, such as at a certain time of the day. This satisfies a number of important needs the child has, including their needs for attention and order. Help them with a task or play a simple card game with them. Tune into their emotions and say what is in their head and in their heart (enrichment activities 2 and 3). If you play a game of Uno, play their hand. Match your emotions and your words to their experience of the game.
For more information about the thinking behind these enrichment activities visit securestart.com.au or email Colby at firstname.lastname@example.org.