The Untold Stories of Children: Understanding Behaviour as Communication

Team TICS
September 13, 2023

Children are like icebergs, with their true essence hidden beneath the surface (Downey & Crummy, 2019). While their behaviour may give us a glimpse into their world, it is crucial to remember that there's often much more to their story than meets the eye. In this blog, we will explore the reasons why we should refrain from judging children solely by their behaviour, emphasising the importance of understanding the complexities of masking, unseen struggles, and the impact of trauma on their lives.

Behind the mask: Like adults, children, especially those who are neurodivergent, often wear masks to conceal their true emotions and vulnerabilities. They might put on a brave face when they are feeling scared or insecure. A child who is always smiling may be trying to hide their inner turmoil, while a quiet child might be silently battling their own demons (Padillah et al., 2023). It's essential not to mistake these masks for the whole truth.

Unseen Struggles: Unseen struggles are often the heaviest burdens children bear. These could be in the form of mental health challenges, personal hardships at home, or difficulties in school. A child who seems to disengage with our support might be struggling with anxiety or a learning disability, while a withdrawn child could be dealing with bullying or a tumultuous family life (Berger & Martin 2021). Instead of rushing to judgment, let's take the time to uncover the reasons behind their behaviour.

The Trauma Shadow: Trauma can cast a long shadow over a child's life, influencing their behaviour in ways we may not immediately comprehend (Berger et al., 2023. Children who have experienced trauma might act out, withdraw, or display their behaviours in other ways as a means of coping with their pain (Bargeman & Wekerle). Recognising the signs of trauma and offering support and understanding can be a lifeline for these children.

How can we help?

Instead of making rapid judgments about a child's character based on their behaviour, let's embrace empathy and compassion (Nicholson et al., 2023). By digging deeper, we can gain a better understanding of their unique circumstances, fears, and dreams. This not only helps the child but also fosters a more inclusive and supportive community.

Remember the acronym CASE:

Care out loud- We can care out loud by openly expressing our compassion and support, showing kindness through our words and actions, and letting those we care about know that they are valued and cherished.

Actively listen- Actively listening to children involves giving them our full attention, asking open-ended questions to understand their perspectives, and creating a safe and nurturing environment where they feel heard and valued. The more we understand, the more we can support a child with how they express themselves.

Safe spaces- Foster environments where children feel safe to be themselves. In these environments, we are less likely to see heightened behavioural displays.

Educate- Learn about the various challenges that children can face and how these can manifest in their behaviour. Knowledge empowers us to be more understanding. TICS is more than happy to support you with this.

Children are complex beings, and their behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg. By refraining from quick judgments and delving beneath the surface, we can discover the untold stories that shape their lives. In doing so, we can offer the understanding, support, and compassion that every child deserves, helping them navigate the challenges they face and enabling them to thrive. Remember, behind every child's behaviour, there is a unique and multifaceted story waiting to be understood. It is a real privilege is we are able to get through to a child and demonstrated that we can be their chosen, trusted adult.

References

Bargeman, M., Smith, S., & Wekerle, C. (2021). Trauma-informed care as a rights-based “standard of care”: A critical review. Child Abuse & Neglect119, 104762.

Berger, E., O’Donohue, K., La, C., Quinones, G., & Barnes, M. (2023). Early Childhood Professionals’ Perspectives on Dealing with Trauma of Children. School Mental Health15(1), 300-311.

Berger, E., & Martin, K. (2021). Embedding trauma‐informed practice within the education sector. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology31(2), 223-227.

Downey, C., & Crummy, A. (2022). The impact of childhood trauma on children's wellbeing and adult behaviour. European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation6(1), 100237.

Nicholson, J., Perez, L., Kurtz, J., Bryant, S., & Giles, D. (2023). Trauma-Informed Practices for Early Childhood Educators: Relationship-Based Approaches that Reduce Stress, Build Resilience and Support Healing in Young Children. Routledge.

Padillah, R., Suhardita, K., Hidayah, N., & Ramli, M. (2023). Invisible scars: exploring the impact of childhood left-behind experience on children’s emotional development and well-being. Journal of Public Health, fdad094.

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