What: Relationship is one of the strongest antidotes to the negative effects of trauma. It refers to the universal deep human need to feel connected to others—to belong—in relationships characterized by warmth, support, and trust. A sense of belonging develops through good SEL practices in learning environments.
Why: Positive attachment—a sense of belonging—suppresses stress responses and aids healing; attachment provides safety, which supports emotional and behavioral regulation.
• Prioritize belonging, relationships and community building.
• Use cultural competence and cultural fluency to ensure an equity lens and strengths-focused approach to supporting belonging and relational skills.
• For staff and students, create and schedule affinity and ally spaces based on identity.
• Set up and support regular peer check-ins to keep connections strong.
• Work to make strong and purposeful student-staff relationships the norm.
• Be transparent: it builds both relationships and trust.
• Collaborate: find, build, and support multiple ways of working together.
Voice, Choice, and Empowerment
What: Voice, choice, and empowerment refer to one’s sense that “I have some control over my environment, and my actions can make things better for me and for those around me.” Self-determination is a basic and universal human need, essential to our sense of well-being, to our ability to persevere, and to perform at our best.
Why: Trauma and/or toxic stress happen to everyone. They batter at our sense of stability, of having any control at all. Feelings of helplessness that result from trauma can only be overcome to the extent that we regain a sense of personal power. Having some authentic choice, and cultivating, nurturing, voice can help regain that sense of power.
• Explain the why behind decisions. Understanding why a policy, a practice, or a new concept in science is being presented can give people a greater sense of understanding; better understanding makes it easier to buy into the policy, making it easier to choose to go along with it. A sense of choice decreases the stress response.
• Help staff know what to expect to the extent possible. In uncertain times, a little more certainty and predictability are helpful. This does not mean providing answers you don’t have, but it does mean sharing information as it comes along.
• Create concrete and tangible ways to solicit student and adult voice regarding current practices and new ideas for moving forward. Demonstrate through accountability measures how those contributions will be used in future planning.
• To the extent possible, give students meaningful roles to play in the “new world” of schools. Now is an optimal time for involving all stakeholders.
This document is a collaboration of districts and professionals from Oregon. Special thanks to Beaverton, Hillsboro, North Clackamas and Portland School Districts and colleagues from SEL4OR and Trauma Informed Oregon.