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Day 21: Trauma Informed Parenting: Healing Trauma in Ukrainian Children: Part 1

Women sit looking at the camera, their faces are covered.

I’ve been watching my friends who are Ukrainian refugees in Krakow. They smile. They say that life goes on. They show positivity for their circumstances. They show pride for their country showing its strength as they fight the aggressor.

But then my friends also say that they can’t believe how forgetful they are since they moved to Krakow. They mention how much harder it is to motivate themselves. They talk about how tired they are all day long.

I want to tell them that it’s normal to feel off balance, but I don’t say anything.

They tell me that sometimes they stay in bed for days. That sometimes their children’s smallest demands overwhelm them. That there are times when doing laundry is a stark reminder of being far from home where laundry was easy and how small things are hard now.

Yes, I think to myself. This is normal, too.

They talk about nightmares, restlessness and how difficult it is to wake in the mornings.

I nod inwardly, thinking about all the ways life changes during or after a major life trauma, but I keep quiet.

I want to talk to them about trauma, but who am I to share this information? They are the ones who have witnessed the brutality of war. I’m just a writer and an early childhood educator from New York.

My understanding of how trauma affects the brain comes from my training in Trauma Informed Education. I know a lot about trauma and a child’s brain. I have spent years helping parents understand how a death, a fire or anything that is upsetting to a child can affect them.

Yes, trauma can change your brain.

There are things that you can do to help children heal after a trauma.

And then an idea sprouts. I will offer a class in helping children heal from trauma. And then if parents are interested, they can apply the same ideas to themselves.

I worked on the program for hours and called it, “Trauma Informed Parenting.”

I would teach refugees how to heal trauma in Ukrainian children.


I talked to the mother I met on my last trip to Ukraine. She lives in a refugee center in Krakow with 50 adults and 30 kids. She was eager to get the information as soon as possible and set a time for the following day.

Putting the program together wasn’t the most difficult part of this workshop. I have a side business where I teach tailored programs to educators around the world, but I always teach these programs in English; school districts provide their own interpreters.

I decided that I would figure out how to give this workshop, no matter the language barrier.

For starters I created each of my slides in English and Ukrainian. (Thanks Google Translate.) I hoped they made sense; you never know how clear translations programs are.

I could ask someone to translate the workshop live but didn’t want the burden of having one Ukrainian explaining how to heal trauma brought on by the war to a group of other Ukrainians; it wasn’t a right fit.

So, I started playing with Google Translate, a free app on my phone. It’s a difficult app to use, because if you pause while speaking, the app thinks you’re done with your idea and starts translating.


I turned on the program and started speaking.

Nope. It cut off too fast.

I spent hours practicing with the app. After trying different ideas, I figured out the rate of speech that worked best—fast with no pauses.


What if I used the little speaker that I traveled with?


When I spoke into my phone, the app translated the words to Ukrainian, then broadcasted them—in Ukrainian—through the speaker in a computerized voice.

The voice was loud and clear.

Oh, wow. It worked. I figured out a way.

When I arrived at the center, the mother I knew said, “My English no good for translate.”

I told her I didn't need her help.

She gathered seven mothers who were eager to learn how they could help their children deal with trauma. We set up in a room that had a table for my computer. All 8 women sat in chairs where they could see the computer screen.

I put the Ukrainian children’s books I bought last week onto the table so I would remember to talk about them and leave them as a gift for the center.

I spoke into my phone and asked if they could understand me. After a moment, the computer voice spoke through the speaker in Ukrainian.

Each woman gave me a thumbs up and a smile.

Wow. It was going to work? It was going to work.

I introduced myself by saying where I was from and how many years I’d been a teacher.

Then I waited while the app rebroadcast my words in Ukrainian. The women gave small gasps when they heard I’d been teaching for thirty-four years.

Yeah, I guess that does make me an expert.

As I spoke, children ran through the room, most under the age of ten. Sometimes they needed their mother’s help, sometimes they just wanted to run screaming through the room.

The moms tried to hush their children. They closed the doors to the room. Children opened the doors and joined us. Moms ushered children out again.

I spoke into the translation program and told them that the children could join us. I added that I wasn’t bothered by children or their noises.

The moms smirked at me.

“Now, now.” I said. “Don’t show me how terrible your children can be.”

I waited while the app spoke my words in Ukrainian. The women listened and then burst into laughter and said what I thought were snide comments, but all in fun.

I laughed with them. When the laughter died down, I wagged my finger at them, in play.

They got the message from my joke “Don’t show me how terrible your children can be.”

We all laughed again.

And then, we began.

Part 2 Tomorrow:

If you’d like to see the workshop slides on Trauma Informed Parenting, click HERE: (You might need to pause the movie to read the slides.)




Day 20: No Regrets

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