Fredericksburg Parent

June 2020

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16 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • June 2020 Ask the Expert a sk t h e e x p e rt WRITTEN BY EMILY FREEHLING March 12 seems like a world away for most of us. That was the last day most children in the Fredericksburg area went to school, before the nationwide shutdown to contain the novel coronavirus upended what most of us knew as normal life. As we all watch the news closely to learn what school re-openings will look like, there are some things we can do to put our community in a better position to help keep children safe and support their success when they do return to full-time classes. These things don't involve multiplication flash cards, tracing cursive let- ters or memorizing poetry. They don't have anything to do with color- coded schedules. One of the most important things we can do to help children now is to simply be aware of how childhood trauma affects the brain, to learn who is at risk for trauma, and to understand what is necessary to transition children out of what many psychologists call "survival brain" and into the more productive "learning brain." These efforts will also ease the transi- tion back to school and daycare. The Rappahannock Area Community Services Board's Prevention Services team has been working for years to build what is known as a "trauma- informed" community network in the Fredericksburg region. Through train- ing seminars, agency-specific work, classes for K-12 students and other outreach efforts, RACSB is working to spread awareness of the mental health needs of children who have experienced trauma. For anyone who works with or lives with children, awareness of those needs can make the difference between getting nowhere and making progress. COVID-19 AS A SOURCE OF TRAUMA Google the term "adverse childhood experiences," commonly abbreviated as ACES, and you'll learn that there are many things in a child's life that can be a source of trauma, and not all of these risk factors are as dramatic as what we as adults may think of when we hear that word. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought added sources of these risk factors. One of the biggest is the closing of schools. Coverage of school closures during the pandemic has opened America's eyes to all of the roles schools play in the lives of today's children. In addition to educating, schools feed children, provide access to a school nurse, social workers and various therapists. Perhaps most importantly, schools give kids a reliable structure for their days, and consistent exposure to caring, committed adults—one of the most powerful protective factors that a trauma-exposed child can have. "If school or daycare was my sanctuary or safe place, and now I don't get to go there, stress and cortisol builds up in my brain," says RACSB Prevention Services Coordinator Michelle Wagaman. That stress prompts a chemical reaction within the brain that takes it out of the state that many psychologists refer to as "learning brain," and puts it into a mode known as "survival brain." While "learning brain" is a calm state where creative thought and new ideas are accepted, "survival brain" requires black and white, hard An Important Strategy NOW and Going Forward BUILD BUILD resilience (noun) re-sil-ience – 1: the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. 2: "bouncing back" from difficult experiences, often with profound personal growth. Resilience

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