Mentoring and trauma awareness

In early June, Mass Mentoring Partnership held our first Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience workshop at Wheelock College. This important seminar was developed in collaboration with Victor Jose Santana from the Boston Public Health Commission Defending Childhood Initiative,  MMP staff and our Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring.

The purpose of this training was to help mentoring programs be more aware of trauma and its impact. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of all U.S. children have experienced some type of adverse childhood experience. Approximately one third of 12-17 year olds experienced two or more types of adverse childhood experiences. We know that young people who have experienced trauma have more challenges forming connections with caring adults. We believe that through greater awareness of trauma and resilience, mentors and mentoring programs would be better equipped to ensure that young people who have experienced trauma can better engage in empowering youth-adult relationships and get the most benefits from these relationships.

It is always crucial to recognize and acknowledge the resilience that young people possess. Resilience is the capacity of individuals and communities to adapt, survive, and bounce back in the midst of hardship and adversity. Even in some of the most challenging circumstances, young people find ways to move forward.  Although trauma has a profound effect on brain development and function, the brain has an innate capacity for resiliency. The brain has quadrillions of different ways to form connections. A developing brain can be rewired through corrective interactions and behaviors and has a great potential for growth, healing and ongoing positive development.

A natural buffer to trauma is the relationship with a caring adult. A young person who has caring adults in their can have a greater chance to heal, grow and thrive after one or more traumatic experiences.  This is at the heart of why we want mentors to be aware of the impact of trauma and the capacity for resilience.

It’s important that mentors  truly understand the impact that they can have on a young person. We want them to know that trauma is unfortunately prevalent and has some very serious effects on a child’s healthy development. We want them to know that some of the challenging behaviors a young person may exhibit because of trauma are not choices they are making but normal responses to the abnormal situations they experience. If mentors consistently show up, be present, create a safe space for a young person to grow and develop, this can offer support in the process of healing and provide a meaningful connection for a young person who has experienced trauma.

Mass Mentoring is planning to hold another workshop focusing on trauma informed principles in May 2016 during Trauma Awareness Month. We also have a number of great resources to support mentoring programs around this topic that we would be happy to share. For more information contact Nate Baum, Manager of Training and Technical Assistance, at nbaum@massmentors.org.