Responding by Integrating Our Growing Knowledge of Trauma

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Abby Koontz

Abby and her husband Jay live in Indiana with their two children.  They are blessed to be licensed foster parents as well.  Abby has an undergraduate degree from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters in Social Work from Indiana University. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  She has worked with children and families involved with the Department of Child Services and Juvenile probation for 11 years.  Abby loves her local church and serves in a variety of ministries there including working with children and teens.  

As discussed in a previous article, it is vital that we in KidMin become trauma informed in our ministries.  We discussed the prevalence of trauma, which many of you have specific names and faces to confirm the statistics.  We discussed the importance of changing our perception of a challenging child from “what is wrong with you” to “what has happened to you”.   We discussed the Four Rs of being trauma informed. 

1.      Realize – the prevalence and impact of trauma 

2.      Recognize – the signs and symptoms of trauma

3.      Respond - by integrating knowledge

4.      Resist Re-traumatization – by being careful, informed, and intentional with our responses to children and their behaviors. 

Today we will focus on #3 “Responding by integrating our growing knowledge of trauma”.  Often trauma creates a response in individuals that they feel different than others.  Their thoughts and the manner in which they perceive the “outside world” often becomes somewhat skewed.  These thoughts generally are focused in three different areas: 1. Views about the world; “People cannot be trusted.”  2. Views about the future; “It is hopeless.” 3. View about self; “I feel damaged; it is too much for me to handle.” These thoughts can create many problematic behaviors.  As a reminder, the single most common factor for children who develop resilience and are able to manage trauma is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult.

In ministry, we have the opportunity to come alongside children and fill that “other adult” role.  In this role, we are able to challenge some of the thoughts the enemy uses.  Replacing with truth is vital.  We can seek to do this in a variety of ways whether it be a traditional teaching time, individual time, small group, or many other interactions with children.  While these troublesome thoughts can actually be true and reality, our paradigm shifts when Christ enters the situation.  Our view of the world, the future, and ourselves are all changed and renewed when we are redeemed by Christ.

As an example, while it is true some people cannot be trusted, when we are adopted by the Father, we enter His family and gain a community of believers who love.  John 13:35 says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Also, while it may be true that it seems hopeless at times, especially for those dealing with trauma, we know that Christ is our Hope.  I Peter 1:3-5 says “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heave for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 

Finally, it may be the reality that children and adults with trauma feel “damaged” and overwhelmed.  As a believer, Christ has so much to say about who we are in HIM.  We are His children (John 1:12), we are accepted by Christ (Romans 15:7), we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6), and we have a purpose in our suffering (Romans 8:16-17) along with so much more.  Be encouraged that God has placed you in the path of those dealing with trauma from a sinned cursed world and has equipped you to minister to them.  You are armed with “THE TRUTH” that replaces the lies trauma so often convinces us to believe.