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Training Takeaways: Creating Safe and Resilient Spaces in the Wake of Trauma

The Training Takeaways Series highlights key points from recent MENTOR NY training workshops.

In July 2022's virtual training workshop, we explored mentoring practices to create safe and resilient spaces for young people — and how to navigate trauma in healthy ways. Facilitators Naomi Rodriguez and Erica Friedman Coburn identified four critical ways for adults working with young people to support them in the wake of trauma and violence.

Defining Trauma

Trauma is an intense emotional response to an event that threatens or causes harm, such as abuse (physical, mental, or emotional), the effects of poverty, or witnessing domestic or community violence.

When a young person is reminded of their original traumatic event(s), they can become “triggered.” Triggers range from a sound or smell to a place, feeling, or tone of voice. Responses to triggers are not deliberate or planned, and a mentee may feel like they have little control in these moments.

Recognizing the Signs of Trauma

The developmental stage of a young person will affect how trauma presents itself. Signs of trauma in children aged six to twelve include difficulty paying attention, talking about scary feelings or ideas, and exhibiting behaviors more commonly associated with younger children (such as thumb sucking or fear of the dark). In young people aged thirteen to eighteen, trauma responses may involve risky behavior, aggression, a refusal to follow rules, or denial that the trauma ever happened.

Five Ways You Can Support Youth in the Wake of Violence

There are a number of ways to care for young people as they navigate the effects of trauma:

  1. Consider what it means to be an ally to young people. Are you respecting and affirming their experiences? Are you creating a safe, non-judgmental space for them to be heard? If you experience a young person being aggressive or disruptive, try to reduce confrontation and offer them opportunities to be in control. A sense of protection can unlock their ability to learn and play.

  2. Take the time to understand the factors that influence the overall wellness of the young people in your programs (and communities). BIPOC youth are disproportionately impacted by gun violence, racial discrimination, health inequity, and many other factors that can negatively impact mental health.

  3. Conversations about race, privilege, and violence may be more harmful than beneficial if you’re unable to affirm, attend to, and support a young person in expressing their feelings. For more effective conversations, acknowledge what’s going on — and create opportunities for them to reflect on and challenge systems of inequity. Discussing what your mentee hears, reads, and notices is often a more comfortable starting point, and this can be helpful in understanding their feelings and perspectives.

  4. Recognize that your mentee is experiencing complex emotional reactions. Ask about their exposure to danger and sense of safety. Encourage them to commit to a routine of self-care. And, crucially, give them time. Young people who have been exposed to violence or had frequent negative interactions with adult authority figures may take longer to form trusting relationships.

  5. Build community. Bringing people together to discuss the issues impacting young people while empowering them to set the agenda, will deepen your impact.

To build upon these key points and learn more about how you can support a young person through trauma, watch the full workshop, and sign up for our next training session for more mentoring tools and techniques.

About the Workshop Facilitators

MENTOR New York's team includes experienced trainers with expertise in youth development, mentoring, program operations, and more.

Erica Friedman Coburn

Erica is the Program Engagement Associate at MENTOR New York. Erica’s professional career has spanned across mentoring, higher education, and human resources. In these fields, Erica gained substantial experience with program management, developing positive and productive relationships with people and organizations, and educating young adults.Erica is passionate about working at MENTOR New York because of the high quality of services that are provided to benefit the lives of so many young people. Mentoring has been an invaluable part of Erica’s life, both as a mentee and a mentor. Erica was matched to her hard-working, personable, and incredibly driven Little Sister from 2011 to 2015 and continues to be in touch with her today. Erica earned her bachelor’s in hospitality management from Drexel University and her Masters in Education from Temple University. Book an initial consultation call with Erica at no cost!

Naomi Rodriguez

Naomi is the Program Services Associate at MENTOR New York, where she plays a major role in developing and implementing processes to ensure services are delivered effectively to mentoring programs. For Naomi, helping organizations build intentional relationships that will facilitate growth for young people is the most rewarding part of the role.

Prior to joining MENTOR New York, Naomi gained experience in program development and implementing evidence-based practices for various populations at nonprofit organizations throughout Long Island. Based in Long Island, Naomi specializes in building relationships and strategic partnerships to move community- and youth-based initiatives forward. She is passionate about building and advancing programs that serve the youth. She graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology, concentrating in Human Services. Book an initial consultation call with Naomi at no cost!


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