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Educators, Health Professionals Learn Strategies Dealing with Children and Trauma

Updated: June 12, 2019 09:44 PM

It can be the death of a parent, poverty and many other circumstances that can cause trauma in child's life. Learning how to better help children navigate through those experiences was the goal of the Adverse Childhood Experiences conference on Wednesday.

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"What we know about adversity is that it isn't one sector of our community," said Molly Harney, a UMD professor and one of the speakers at the two-day conference. 

Harney knows the struggles for children firsthand. Aside from being an educator, she's been a volunteer and has done research specifically in Duluth's Central Hillside community.

"What I know is, there is a 14-square block area of Duluth, where 13,000 plus people live and 64% of the children are living in poverty," Harney said.

How to support children and families dealing with that and other forms of trauma was the question the room full of professionals aimed to understand. 

"Families often times have experienced the same kind of trauma in their lives whether it's mental health, whether it's addiction, or poverty," said Lynn Haglin, Vice President of the Northland Foundation.

She says the conference builds on what they are doing to help already through their THRIVE initiative, focused on early childhood health.

"We continue to learn from the people who are in our audience, our participants, what is it you really need to be even more effective with the children and families with whom you are working," said Haglin.

As a Psychologist, Jessica Schilling says this kind of thing is integral in understanding children's behavior, one of the ways they show something may be going on with them.

"This gives us a lens to figure out why they are behaving how they are," said Schilling.

It also gives them the tools needed to come to children because reaching out for help is often the hardest part.

"Sometimes, there is a lot of fear in reaching our for help, in particular seeking out mental health services and our job as psychologists and therapists is really to help people and not to judge people," she added.

The hope is that new research can spark a new way of approaching adversity.

"We can take a movement that has been wonderful and has informed our understanding of the impact early life has on long-term health and wellbeing and we can bring it to our community using science, social science and other research to make us all stronger community members," said Harney.

The conference goes through Thursday.

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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