Children in Trauma: What’s the Unmet Need? Relationship

A chair that’s been flipped over. A desk that’s wet from spilled tears. A lesson that’s been derailed. A little one who has become unusually quiet and withdrawn. Most educators would agree that noticing whether a particular student is struggling socially or emotionally is often easy to do. But figuring out where that struggle is stemming from and how to best handle it is usually much more challenging. As more and more schools are becoming trauma-invested & providing social-emotional learning-based interventions, understanding the root issue is key.  Understanding that root issue then means understanding and addressing the unmet need that the child is craving. Over the course of this blog series, we’ll to explore meeting the needs of relationship, responsibility and regulation, with today’s focus being on relationship.

The unmet relationship need is complex. Many children who deeply desire safe, caring, consistent relationships are the very ones who don’t trust relationships at all. They’re the very ones who most often push away those teachers and classmates attempting to forge connection with them. Although this can be frustrating for all parties, taking the time to build that relationship is critical for real learning to begin.

Social and emotional intervention means getting to the heart of the issue. This is not quick or easy. However, with that in mind, how might you recognize when a student may be suffering from an unmet relationship need?

They often display the following behaviors:

  • They require you to be nearby
  • They seek you out often
  • They display dramatic mood swings
  • They thrive from a simple touch
  • They use positive and negative keywords (‘I love you, teacher!’, ‘I hate you, teacher!’)

What are some practical and immediately useful practices that you can put into place to fill this unmet need?

  • Offer something tangible like a small toy for those times that you simply cannot be in close physical proximity
  • Ask meaningful questions that show authentic interest
  • Genuinely listen
  • Smile and use the child’s name often in conversation with them
  • Use appropriate physical touch like a special handshake or elbow bump
  • Use kind and encouraging words

As author and speaker James Clear points out in his book Atomic Habits, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” Building relationships with children who need them most won’t happen overnight but keep laying those bricks! You’ll be glad you did!

To dive deeper into how you can recognize and meet specific student needs through social emotional learning strategies, check out each of our blogs in this four part series! 

If you’d like to learn how GrapeSEED helps children to acquire English in a way that naturally builds independence through the progression of learning approach,  allowing them to build relationships teachers and peers, click here.

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