I hope everyone within the WSH ministry family is doing well. I wanted to write this month with a focus on the importance of self-care, but how does that fit into being trauma informed? First we will differentiate between being trauma informed and being able to give trauma informed care. Then we will address how and why self-care is important in the midst of it.
Being trauma informed means that we have come to understand a basic framework for what trauma is, and hopefully further understand that the people in our care (children in our case) will come to us with trauma. Since children and teens lack maturity to express themselves appropriately, their trauma language is going to be acting out behaviors. These behaviors are often misunderstood as manipulative or attention seeking, but in actuality is deep pain that needs to be healed.
Trauma informed care on the other hand is taking our understanding of trauma, and offering care in a way that is sensitive to the child’s trauma. Trauma informed care providers take a strengths based approach to each child so that our responsiveness is sensitive to their specific trauma. Sensitivity to trauma means physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both the caregiver and the trauma survivor, which creates safety so that the survivor can regain a sense of control. Essentially being trauma informed means having an understanding, and being a trauma informed caregiver means that we hold ourselves to a state of being sensitive to trauma.
The important piece for how self-care fits into trauma informed care is the mention of safety for both the caregiver and the trauma survivor. Creating safety for yourself as the caregiver means taking care of yourself. We have learned before that working with kids from hard places leads to vicarious trauma in the caregivers, therefore self-care is paramount.
As the caregiver, you are important and so is your wellbeing. Furthermore, I would argue that your ability to thrive and overcome is important to God. Coping is good, but I strongly believe that God desires for us to overcome rather than just coping. I view coping versus overcoming like making payments because of debt versus living financially debt free. Coping helps me keep getting by, but I have to keep working at it to maintain. Overcoming puts me in the position of being free, and therefore I am liberated to choose the right things because of what Christ has done for me; not what I can keep coming back to do for myself.
I would like to suggest that Biblical self-care as a practice needs to be centered squarely on remaining inspired as an overcomer. Therefore self-care should manifest similarly in all Christians, but also have some flavor of diversity too, because we are all different. For example, we should all do things to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 20 & 21). Sure, God is faithfully doing His part to keep us, but we must keep ourselves in Him, and “remain in Him” (see John 15:1-8). Those similar things are regularly reading the Word, meditating, worshipping, prayer, meeting and worshiping together with other believers, and cultivating a deeper relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. The manifestations of self-care that hold diversity are more based on our personalities and likes and dislikes. Some people like the outdoors, physical exercise, reading, alone time, etc., but all of it should come from and be done with faith toward God.
I enjoy fishing myself, but I can honestly say that I go fishing from a place of faith. So while I enjoy fishing, I do not need it for self-care as it relates to overcoming. Think of it this way: coping is a person thinking about and working toward their next fishing trip, but relationship is a person fishing who is thinking about God.
I do truly hope and pray that each of you are doing well. It felt important to me during this season of life to remind us all about self-care. Riley has recently been beating the drum of self-care as well, so please know from your leaders that it is because we care for you!