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How Teachers Can Help Children Who Have Experienced Trauma as Refugees

July 16, 2019

By Ileen Henderson, National Director of Bright Spaces

The devastating news of the conditions for children at the border with Mexico is heart wrenching and devastating to those of us who hold our vulnerable children who are the next generation close to our hearts. As these children are relocated across the U.S., many care providers, teachers, counselors and others will find themselves working with children who have experienced the trauma.

Children are by nature extremely resilient and with insight and a trauma informed perspective, they can be supported to move forward on a path of healing. Creating a sense of safety through familiar routines, honoring cultural traditions, and reinforcing trusted bonds, can all assist our children to recover from the horrendous conditions they have found as they came to the U.S. for refuge.

This article highlights ways that refugee children can learn to play again and rebuild skills they may have lost during persecution and flight. They can make new friends, develop language and social skills, and learn to cope with loss and change. Play gives real opportunities for praise and affirmation so they can experience success in the curriculum. Play can provide a safe space to assimilate difficult feelings and memories. It also provides real opportunity for children to gain recognition of their experiences and their cultural heritage.


Last year, our Foundation was honored to work with the Humanitarian Respite Center to create a Bright Space in McAllen Texas. Since that time, the crisis has grown and the Respite Center was forced to move to a much larger facility and is now supporting 800-1,000 asylum seekers every day. For more information, visit www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/HumanitarianRespiteCenter.shtml or www.brightspaces.org.