Area professionals discuss best practices in helping children overcome trauma

DULUTH, MN — Mitigating trauma in children.

An intensive two-day training event in Duluth this week is teaching local educators and health providers the best ways to serve kids and families in need.

“People have told us this is knowledge that they really want to gain,” Northland Foundation Vice President Lynn Haglin said. “They want to have a better understanding because these are committed professionals.”

Essentia Health Psychologist Jessica Schilling says finding the issue can be challenging.

“Sometimes it’s really indirect, and sometimes it really reflects different difficult experiences that they’ve had,” Schilling said.

Parents can help their children cope with trauma. Schilling says it’s important to let them know you understand.

“Maybe listen in a different way and understand where those behaviors are really coming from,” Schilling said.

According to Molly Harney, associate professor at UMD, these interactions are key to a child’s brain development, so when talking to them about traumatic events, like threats of violence at school, she urges open communication.

“The world can have scary pockets — can have scary moments, and our work with our children is to be that partner,” Harney said. “To be that strength and be that support.”

Experts admit even if parents want to help their children, they’re not always able to.

“All people generally love their children,” Haglin said. “They want to do their best, but sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that really cause them not to be able to do what they want to do for their children.”

While circumstances like poverty and addiction, along with child abuse and child neglect are all triggers of trauma, Harney’s studies’ show that 64-percent of children living in Duluth’s Central Hillside live in poverty.

Experts say when parents fall short, it’s up to the community to step in and help kids grow.

“Adversity is a part of life. And we’re all doing the best with what we have, and we can all come around children and parents to be their moral support.”

Gamiel Hall

Gamiel Hall

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