At Lakeside, we are strong advocates for creating child-safe environments in homes, schools and communities. Evidence shows that children who grow up in emotionally and relationally safe environments are more likely to be healthier. However, it is also a fact that children who have certain protective factors are more resilient to adverse situations.
What are protective factors?
According to the 2005 Vermont Study, The Psychological Effects of Trauma on Children and Adolescents, protective factors are associated with resistance to stress. Protective factors can occur in individuals or environments and they are correlated with, or predictive of, positive outcomes for children.
Protective factors found to reduce the effects of trauma in children include:
- The capacity for emotional regulation
- Social support from “good enough” (competent, caring) parents
- Positive beliefs about self
- Positive beliefs about the world as safe, predictable, fair
- Self-efficacy and motivation to take positive action on one’s own behalf
- Emotionally intelligent children also tend to be more resilient to trauma
Emotional intelligence aids resistance to trauma
Daniel Goleman is most famous for his work in emotional intelligence. Goleman identifies five domains of emotional intelligence.
- Knowing your emotions
- Managing your emotions
- Motivating yourself
- Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions
- Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others
Fortifying children with emotionally healthy relationships and environments is one way to help children deal with impact of trauma. Protective environments provide the potential for children to overcome or heal quicker from the effects of trauma.
Safe environments are preventive medicine
The best way to protect our children from trauma is to develop and maintain a safe environment. Safety is preventive medicine that will build a child’s emotional immune system so that he/she will have the ability to recover more quickly from adverse effects, stress and traumatic events.
Consequently, it follows that ensuring a safe environment from birth will provide the greatest benefit to the child’s emotional health. Since raising healthy children is the best way to help them deal with potential trauma in their lives, we should think carefully about the relationships they may foster and the environments we establish or allow for them.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Information taken from Enhancing Trauma Awareness, Diane Wagenhals, 2008. All rights reserved. Licensed materials.