Trauma-informed approach: Negotiating a safe home by offering unconditional love for minors during Covid-19 health pandemic – Bandile Seleme

When I think of home

I think of a place where there’s love overflowing

I wish I was home

I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing

-The Wiz


The above lyrics describes an ideal home where one experiences unconditional love. When the world presents itself with uncertainty inherent in change; it is comforting to have and know of such a place. This sentiment has profound relevance under the current health pandemic- Covid-19. Every week, the South African government introduces efforts of containing the pandemic by encouraging citizens to stay at home.   Possibility of experiencing an ideal home may be a precious buffer in mitigating a period of uncertainty and fragile security.

However, practising as a Drama Therapist for Lawyers against Abuse (LvA)- I have gained a devastating insight that not every child has been able to hold such a perception pertaining to a home. Mostly, I offer drama therapy to children and adolescents who have endured some of the treacherous trauma. Tragically, often their perpetrator is within their home. In turn, home becomes an unsafe place. As one minor client disclosed that her home is a place of love but it is unsafe.

The loss of security resulting from trauma poses negative ramifications in being able to foster healthy attachments with significant others. Building attachment advocates for children with resourceful skills of being contributing members in society- subsequently, realising their autonomy. My role involves facilitating a process whereby minor survivours rediscover hope and confidence in reclaiming their self-esteem and interpersonal trust. Relatively, the identified traumatic loss may also be the case of adjusting to the health threat from Covid-19. Thus, some of the skills in my work may assist you in negotiating an ideal home with your loved ones.

Creating a safe home can be achieved by providing a stable and predictable environment. Establishing a routine with your child will facilitate the process. As routines promote a sense of certainty by still assuring children that they still have control over certain things. With time, children can trust their autonomy when facing change.

After establishing a safe home, unconditional love requires to be practiced in the form of allowing minors to express their emotions. Unfortunately, parents tend to have difficulty with providing such opportunities- especially for undesirable feelings like anger and sadness. Minors are discouraged through punitive measures to view themselves as being ‘bad’ or ‘difficult’. Such a stance inducts shame and guilt that certain emotions should not be expressed. Consequently, the minor becomes afraid of ‘bad’ emotions and may end up not having necessary skills to self-regulate. At times, self-regulation is exercised by violence- learnt behaviour from a significant other. The value of being able to provide moments of expressing emotions will enable you to create an opportunity in understanding your children’s emotional state by supporting them to self-regulate for the development of emotional capacity.

Based on the child’s cognitive and developmental stage, you need to use appropriate language for mutual dialogue. The joy and enjoyment of play can be an effective tool in engaging mutual dialogue, during such a relatively traumatic period. Trauma may produce feelings of disempowered- infringing on a minor’s ability to embrace change. Play affords a child to be creative and spontaneous in trusting change.  Children can play when they feel safe because they are able to exhibit interpersonal trust and self-esteem. Another benefit of participation can be an opportunity to explore necessary skills for necessary adjustment that may be transferred in their homes. I always prescribe play to parents as a healing tool after a frightening change in fostering resilience and emotional capacity. Promoting resilience and emotional capacity is premised on change- negative or good- being a constant factor in life.

Hopefully, the recommended tools may allow for the negotiation of a safe home by offering unconditional love. A very child deserves to experience such a gift during turbulent times- resulting from unwarranted and scary change.  Giving a child a secured and loving home could be a possible answer for our youngest citizens to re-imagine a world where every child has a healthy perception of being in a home- absent of abuse.


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