Recognizing Signs of Stress
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) states that traumatic experiences can initiate strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event. Children may feel terror, helplessness, or fear, as well as physiological reactions such as heart pounding, vomiting, or loss of bowel or bladder control. Children who experience an inability to protect themselves or who lacked protection from others to avoid the consequences of the traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses.
Schools should recognize the potential for higher rates of certain Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and/or stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic that may put students at higher risk of trauma.
These may include:
- Parental/guardian substance use and abuse.
- Exposure to domestic violence.
- Child neglect and/or abuse.
- Financial/food/occupational/housing insecurity.
- Mental health issues or exacerbation of underlying issues.
- Family separation.
- Grief and loss (either personal or affecting the entire school community).
- Recognize stigma that may occur as a result of COVID-19, including:
- Those who became sick or tested positive for COVID-19.
- Those who have a family member who became sick or tested positive for COVID-19.
- Those with allergies or respiratory illnesses that may result in coughing or sneezing.
Schools can use guidance from the NCTSN’s Trauma-Informed School Strategies during COVID-19
to incorporate a trauma-informed approach to help children feel safe, supported, and ready to learn.