Many of the children that I’ve worked with have gone through more trauma in their young lives than I will ever experience. It’s very humbling, but a testament to the human spirit that despite extremely challenging circumstances, there is an innate resilience within us to bounce back and keep going.
What I hadn’t realised before I did my TIS Practitioner training, was the importance of an Emotionally Available Adult (EAA) to a trauma-affected child. This is someone who is a ‘champion’ for the child, someone who offers containment, listens to them without judgement, who offers compassion and empathy and who comes from a place of ‘what happened to you?’ rather than ‘what’s wrong with you?’
An EAA offers protection to a child in the form of consistency, reliability, structure, boundaries and by validating their feelings. They are the model of a trustworthy adult, building strong, valuable relationships with the child and helping them to regulate their emotions when they become overwhelmed.
Suffering as a result of childhood trauma is preventable if there is an intervention by an EAA before the age of 18! The result of an EAA on an ACE’s child (Adverse Childhood Event) can:
- offer the secure attachment that they are missing
- create new pathways in the child’s frontal lobe, calming the fight or flight response
- improve self esteem
- help to develop emotional regulation
- increasing their capacity to learn and improving school attendance
- improve potential for more fulfilling relationships later in life
- improve confidence
- improve health and longevity
I spent many sessions with young people where I didn’t think I made a difference. I would come away thinking that because we just talked about what we’d watched on TV or what we’d been up to in the last week, rather than the more ‘serious’ stuff, that I wasn’t being helpful.
What I’ve seen since is that I couldn’t have been more wrong, because it’s not necessarily about the conversation. It’s about the time spent together and being there as a reliable person ready to listen. This is the foundation of building a trusting and solid relationship and that’s more valuable to an ACE’s child than anything.