5 Strategies to Help Students Affected by Trauma

Group of students in the classroom all high fiving each other at the end of one of the 5 strategies the teacher implemented to help students affected by trauma.

Casey retreated to the corner of the room…

His knees folded…

And hands shielding his head. 

The bell-ringing reminded him of being bullied. 

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Our students are affected by trauma on a daily basis. They are under so much stress. Unfortunately, it affects their learning in the classroom too. 

Besides bullying, they are experiencing such things as:

  • Witnessing violence of a friend or loved one
  • Losing their home in a natural disaster
  • Isolation because of the pandemic
  • Subjected to abuse or neglect
  • Watching a parent go through Cancer


I recently wrote an article on the impact of childhood trauma on learning. Now, I would like to give you some strategies to help students affected by trauma. 


5 Strategies to Help Students Affected by Trauma  


They need to overcome traumatic events and turn that stress and anxiety into resilience and empowerment. 


#1 Understanding Your Triggers

Understanding triggers would be helpful for students and adults alike. If students can recognize their triggers, it may give them time to think before reacting. 

When you feel stressed, stop, and give yourself time to change your emotional response. 

Have your students write down what they can identify as triggering. Then have them make a list of alternative responses.  

This activity could lead to a group discussion. The students can share what responses they came up with to have a massive list of ideas for every student. 


#2 Thermometer Feelings for Students Affected by Trauma

This visual image of a thermometer can use words or pictures to represent emotional feelings. At the bottom of the “cool” side of the thermometer, you have that wouldn’t necessarily trigger an outburst. 


Cool emotions such as:

  • relaxed
  • able to handle this
  • calm

Then at the top, you have your “hot” side of the thermometer.  

Hot Emotions such as: 

  • angry
  • upset
  • mad

This strategy can help students affected by trauma because it gives the student a visual representation to make decisions.  

The teacher could say something like, “Ok, thanks for telling me your angry about this. What can we do about it?” 

This is an excellent time for the student to pull out their list of alternative responses to decide what to do next.  

A research-based program that uses something like this is called The Zones of Regulation. This program is a framework for self-regulation and emotional control. 


#3 Positive Thoughts Journal Activity for Traumatized Students

 Use this as a writing exercise. When a student is feeling a negative thought they could write in their journal. 


What to Write:

  • When the thought happened
  • What the thought was 
  • How they can counteract it with a positive thought

This activity could also be hypothetical. Have students come up with a positive to a presented negative. 


#4 Emotions Naming and Labeling

In a world of texts and online messages, learning about what emotions look like is overlooked. There are so many ways to do this.  

You could give clear faces and have them draw it on. Or you could have them match faces with emotions.  

Teaching what emotions are and what they look like will help students label their own at the moment. With practice, hopefully, they will make a positive choice given that recall. 


#5 Grounding Exercises

I saw this activity on social media. It would also be incredible for any adult or students who may be unable to avoid the triggers affected by trauma and start breaking down.  


Identify and label: 

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can feel
  • Three things you can hear
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste.  

This strategy is supposed to ground and bring you back to reality and out of your anxiety.  



Help for Traumatized Children 

Check out our other article 4 Teaching Strategies for Traumatized Students for more strategies when working with traumatized students in the classroom.

Trauma is very serious and something we see more and more in our classrooms. I hope you find these strategies useful. 

Have you ever tried one or more of these strategies? Have you used one not listed? Let us know in the comments. 

Click here for weekly tips and techniques from a fellow Special Educator and parent of a special needs child?

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Group of students in the classroom all high fiving each other at the end of one of the 5 strategies the teacher implemented to help students affected by trauma.
Trauma affects all aspects of a child’s life including their education at school. Try these 5 strategies to help students affected by trauma.


Luke Dalien

Luke Dalien

Author Luke Dalien has spent his life dedicated to helping others break the chains of normal so that they may live fulfilled lives. When he’s not busy creating books aimed to bring a smile to the faces of children, he and his amazing wife, Suzie, work tirelessly on their joint passion; helping children with special needs reach their excellence. Together, they founded an online tutoring and resource company, SpecialEdResource.com. Poetry, which had been a personal endeavor of Luke’s for the better part of two decades, was mainly reserved for his beautiful wife, and their two amazing children, Lily and Alex. With several “subtle nudges” from his family, Luke finally decided to share his true passion in creativity with the world through his first children’s book series, “The Adventures Of The Silly Little Beaver."

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