Sunday, May 7, 2017

Add a Culturally-Aware Lens to Your Trauma-Informed Toolkit (guest post)

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by Catharine Hannay

This week, I had the opportunity to share my perspective at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog hosted by Dr. Sam Himelstein.

Here's a summary of the post:
When working with youth whose background is different from ours, it’s important to ask ourselves what might be happening from their point of view.  
For example, sometimes adults become even angrier when kids respond to a reprimand by giggling, smiling, or not making eye contact. Depending on the youth’s country of origin, these could all actually be signs of respect toward a person in authority.
And for a youth who’s simultaneously dealing with trauma and culture shock, even something as seemingly innocuous as raising your voice may be perceived as far more aggressive than you intend it to. 
The following questions can help you figure out how cultural issues may be impacting your students or clients. 

  • Do I need to explain something ‘obvious’?
  • Is this a cultural issue, an emotional response, or simply pushing boundaries?
  • What culture(s) do I belong to? Do I represent a group this youth has had issues with in the past?
  • Is this youth caught between two cultures?
  • Is there a language issue, as well?
  • Do I appear more threatening than I realize?
  • How can I help if I don’t know what’s wrong?
The more questions we ask, the better we can understand the youth we work with, which will make any help we offer much more effective. We may still not have all the answers, but we can at least listen with an open mind and an open heart.


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