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School Leaders, Teachers

How An Attachment Aware And Trauma Informed Approach Can Support Children In The Post-Pandemic Era

We all know how much Covid-19 has impacted on the world. From lockdowns, to isolating to shielding, we’ve all been affected in some way. At the heart of those most affected, are our school children. Having missed out on huge chunks of their ‘normal’ school education, alongside reports of increased anxiety and mental health difficulties in children returning to school post-pandemic, we are facing one of, if not the, biggest crises we’ll probably ever face in our teaching careers.

So, what can we do?! Well, adopting an approach often reserved for children who are, or have previously been, in Local Authority Care may just be the answer.

Attachment Theory, which was first formulated by John Bowlby, has grown in recognition exponentially over the last few years in schools, with many schools now adopting an attachment aware and trauma informed approach to supporting children, as a result of trauma that they may have faced in their early years. This approach focuses on the theory of Attachment and sustains itself on building strong, long-lasting relationships with key adults, in order to build trust and help support any needs, therefore allowing the children to be ready for learning.

So, why how can Attachment Theory help? Well, the Covid-19 school closures meant school attachments were severed overnight. This poses issues – children who already had attachment difficulties may have struggled even more when coming back to school, and those who haven’t had difficulties previously, may now have developed them as a result.

The Covid-19 situation has, in many ways, been a type of trauma for all of us. Some of us (particularly already securely attached children) may have dealt with this with no issue. However, it may have affected some children (who haven’t previously experienced difficulties) adversely and may have caused insecure attachments/difficulties/anxiety etc. Therefore, adopting an attachment aware approach for all children in school may well just help re-build severed attachments, may help to restore issues created from trauma and may, in turn, begin to touch on helping children facing anxiety and other mental health difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

A few key things to think about when adopting an attachment aware approach are:

  • Communication – this is key! Everyone needs to be on the same page, everyone needs to be aware of situations. Information sharing is vital.
  • Provide key adults for the children you’re concerned about. Get these key adults to check in, say ‘hi’ in the corridor, spend some time with thr pupils. This fosters positive relationships which really help build secure attachments
  • Use an approach of ‘Regulate, Relate, Reason’ when dealing with a child in overwhelm or who is having difficulties. This approach by Dr. Bruce Perry supports co-regulation, which ultimately will support the pupil’s own self-regulation.
  • Use a ‘team around the child’ approach. Ensure there are several key adults who can work with vulnerable children and know about their needs. This ensures that someone is always there for them, knows them and can support their needs.
  • Create individual or class calming boxes for self-soothing and emotional regulation. This will support children in preventing incidences of overwhelm, so that they can aim to remain in a calm-alert state throughout the day.
  • Use and practise interventions such as Lego Therapy, Theraplay, Drawing and Talking, Mindfulness and Meditation throughout school (or with individuals/groups) to promote and explicitly teach self-regulation.
  • Use whole class sensory or ‘brain’ breaks. This will reset the children, promote a calm-alert state, and reinvigorate learning. This will mean that you’ll get more learning from the children after one of these short breaks.
  • Use transitional objects between home and school and vice versa.
  • Use games regularly to promote trust, turn taking and the re-building of any lost social skills.
  • Use a nurture room and sensory space (these can be done cheaply!) to support any children in overwhelm.
  • Ensure unstructured time is well-thought through for all.
  • Ensure both minor and major transitions are carefully planned, thought through, and prepared for in advance.
  • Check in…. regularly.

There are a whole host of other suggestions that will help promote this approach in school. Do sign up to our upcoming webinar on implementing an attachment aware approach in the post-pandemic era. In this, we will visit this topic in more depth, as well as building up a toolkit of ideas that you will be able to implement in your lessons, class or whole school.

In conclusion, it has previously been found that secure attachment is associated with higher grades and standardised test scores compared to insecure attachment. Secure attachment is also associated with greater emotional regulation, social competence, and willingness to take on challenges. So, what’s not to love? Think about creating an attachment friendly approach in your school and not only will you be helping to support our most vulnerable children post-pandemic, but you will also be helping to create secure attachments for all, hopefully resulting in higher attainment and progress along the way!

Aimee will be discussing attachment more in her upcoming Lexplore Analytics webinar. You can book your place using the link below. Remember, if you are a Lexplore customer you can join all of our broadcasts for free.

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