As a foster parent and educator, I am always thinking about ways to help teachers help children who have been through trauma. One project that foster (and adoptive) parents fear is the dreaded “family tree” assignment. Kids who don’t currently live with their biological families, kids who don’t know anything about their birth families, and kids who are in limbo waiting for an identified adoptive family are among the kids who might be triggered by family tree assignments. Students struggle with who to include in their family tree, and it can bring up memories of trauma that can cause hard behaviors in the classroom and at home.
I kept thinking about this problem over and over again, and decided that I wanted to give teachers a suggested alternative for students. Whether you completely replace the family tree project with this project, or you offer this as an alternative to students so they can decide to do something different, I hope that you find that the “circles of love” project will help your students to think about who is in their life and how they are loved, valued, and appreciated, even if they aren’t in a typical family situation!
How does it work?
Instead of thinking about the branches of their family tree, students can think about their “circles of love”—groups of people or individuals in their lives that love and care for them. This can be biological family, foster family, adoptive family, friends, mentors, friends, teachers. People who make a difference in your students’ lives by loving them!
Students can choose who to include and who to exclude from their circles, not feeling pressure to include “family” that they might not feel they should include, and having the freedom to include people who might not be “family,” but who are important to them.
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Thanks for loving kids who have been through trauma!
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