I think we can all agree on a few basic tenets: there are varying levels of traumatic experiences, no two people will respond identically to the same trauma, a young person who has endured it is forever changed, and while the experience(s) can never be erased, emotional healing can be achieved. I would go even farther to say that the layers of catharsis fully depend on how the trauma was originally dealt with. Those who are instructed to hide it, as a secret, will continue to be traumatized throughout their lifetime. This is probably the main reason that incidences of childhood trauma tend to be generational. The only way to fully heal and break the cycle is to bring those horrible experiences into the light of day to be dealt with in a productive manner.
The main reason DRC has built a solid reputation for helping young people is because of our insistence on recognizing, and in fact, honoring each individual’s unique perspective and history, whether they have endured trauma, or not. Most kids perceive that Deep Root Center is a safe place almost immediately upon entering. Not only is the atmosphere relaxed and homey, the vibe naturally projects animated engagement. It is a hive of activity filled with happily, absorbed kids who are freely occupied with independent and group ventures. And, it is, most definitely, not school, which, in many cases, is all they need to know.
When a young person first joins DRC, we don’t always know whether childhood trauma is part of their history. Our first goal is to create a natural, easy rapport with them – a connection of mutual trust. We, quite simply, treat every single child with dignity and respect. We want them to understand on a deep level that even though we are the adults, it doesn’t mean we will ever coerce them to do something they don’t want or feel ready to do.
Within this mentoring relationship, their past experiences are eventually revealed one infinitesimal anecdote at a time until we are able to piece together their story. With that being said, based on their behavior, we are usually able to determine pretty quickly whether they have endured childhood trauma. Those who have often exhibit high levels of anxiety, have a difficult time trusting and developing friendships, have a fear of committing to anything (classes, a project, etc.), are extremely hard on themselves, have a victim mentality, are afraid of making mistakes, have trouble making plans for the future, and are frequently exhausted.
Beyond creating a comfortable environment, sitting with a child who is hurting – merely being there as another human being, is probably the most important thing we do. I want to be very clear in stating that we are not trained therapists, nor is DRC a therapeutic center. Nevertheless, we are mentors who care deeply for each child entrusted to us. We are dedicated to working tirelessly to provide whatever resources each child needs to begin their arduous climb towards emotional well-being. If that means encouraging them to seek out professional counseling, that is what we will do. When it requires patience, affirmation, and pure kindness, along with occasional gentle reminders of our community agreements while they work things out in the best way they know how, that is exactly what we will provide. And, when they make progress, we bring it to their attention and celebrate (loudly) with them.
There is never a good reason for condemning a child for being lazy, irresponsible, stupid, or a troublemaker, who seems hell-bent on making your life miserable. You may never know their personal stories. However, we all know there is a good chance they may be just one of an incredible number of children who are completely overwhelmed from dealing with the symptoms of PTSD, and, are only able to focus on surviving each individual moment in the best way they know how. All children, not only those who have suffered hardship and trauma, require understanding, respect, and compassion, as well as, the time, tools, and space to become healthy, kind, and motivated individuals, who are ready to explore the possibilities, dream big, and tackle whatever challenges come their way.