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Principle 5: Healthy Relationships and Interactions

Trauma-Informed and Responsive (TIR) organizations place a high priority on modeling healthy relationship behaviors and, when possible, developing caring mentoring relationships, while helping children build healthy relationships with their peers and family members.

Having one or more caring adults in a child’s life increases the likelihood that they will flourish and become productive adults themselves.

Some adults will have short-term interactions with children that may last a few minutes to a few weeks. These brief interactions can still have powerful effects on the lives of children and families.

Characteristics of TIR short-term interactions with children include:


Respect: Introduce yourself, explain your role, share which pronouns you use, and provide clear information about what to expect regarding any process they are going through.

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Effective Communication: Practice active listening, ask questions in a curious, non-judgmental manner, provide information in a developmentally appropriate manner in the child’s preferred language, and be mindful of your tone, body language, and nonverbal cues.

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Validation & Compassion: Recognize that children’s feelings are valid, demonstrate compassion and patience, and provide positive reinforcement of behaviors that demonstrate resiliency.

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Control & Choice: Consistently signal opportunities for children and families to have control and choices in the matters that pertain to them. For instance, offer children opportunities to pause or stop the process so they can have a sense of control and agency.


Other adults will have ongoing relationships with a child and their family that could last throughout their lives. TIR adults with longer-term relationships with children and families can build and promote healthy relationships by:

Paying close attention to what children and families say and asking intentional questions to get to know them and understand their perspectives better.

Talking with children and families about trauma and potential reactions to it.

Explaining to children and families that their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are normal responses to traumatic situations. They may have been helpful or critical to surviving difficult circumstances.

Teaching and modeling healthy ways of recognizing and expressing feelings and coping with stressful situations, which may include addressing family and cultural norms.

Coaching children and families on strategies for effective communication, boundary setting, and other interpersonal skills used across different cultural contexts. Also, role-modeling these strategies and seeking to understand existing communication strategies and skills.

Use the Four Building Blocks of HOPE to identify and support existing strengths of the family

Educating families about how to interact with children in trauma-informed and responsive ways.

Seeking additional formal and informal resources and facilitating connections when appropriate.

Survivors of trauma who have healed themselves are also a vital source of support for others who have experienced trauma. When possible, agencies and organizations should create formal peer support programs that connect children, youth, and families to other individuals in their community who have experienced similar trauma or connect them to existing programs in the community.

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A group of smiling teenagers walking together
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