Helping Children Manage Stress, Surmount Trauma and Thrive: A Whole-Child Approach

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Today, levels of stress, anxiety and trauma are extremely high, particularly in communities of color. The mix of COVID-19, police brutality, and systemic racism are a dangerous brew. Unrelenting stress can harm children’s development and impede learning, unless it is buffered by trusted adults. Without justice, without a coronavirus vaccine, we have to make our homes, and eventually our schools, places that can inoculate our children against the stress of the uncertain world we now live in — especially children who were experiencing adversity and disadvantage even before this crisis emerged.

Educators need new knowledge, tools, training and resources to understand and address stress and trauma—their students’ and their own. By focusing on Three Rs, relationships, routines and resilience, educators can support and teach all of their students now and when schools reopen. Settings that prioritize the Three Rs are like an ecological vaccine, rich in protective factors that ignite the developing brain, promote wellness, and protect all children from the damaging effects of stress all at the same time.

In this discussion, Turnaround for Children Founder and Senior Science Advisor, Pamela Cantor, M.D,. and Gretchen Livesey, Vice President of Partner Impact, will explain the neurobiology of stress and trauma and how educators can design the environments, experiences and relationships that build the vital skills or “muscles” for all students to surmount the current crisis and thrive in school.

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