Gosport nursery chief explains how forces families' children can experience attachment trauma

CHILDREN growing up in forces families can develop ‘attachment trauma’ in their early years, according to a nursery head – who has made it her mission to help them as much as possible.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 3:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 4:11 pm
Staff Lauren Evans, Nicci Atkinson, Donna Charrrington, Lauren Kingswell and Julia Batley at the Alver Valley Family Centre. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The Oaktree Family Group in Gosport, which consists of Magpies Pre-School, Dinky Ducks Daycare, Outaskool Adventures, Lillipad and Little Barn Owls, has been presented with the Attachment and Trauma Sensitive Schools Award – the first to be awarded in Hampshire.

To obtain the award, staff have learned to get a deeper understanding of children who have attachment trauma and how to help them grow and thrive.

Attachment trauma is when the bond between children and their parents is disrupted, and can develop when children struggle with parents being away from home; a case often seen with youngsters growing up in forces families.

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Nicci Atkinson, head of the Oaktree Family Group, says staff have been working towards this achievement for about a year.

‘Awareness of attachment trauma is steadily growing and we feel it’s important to support our children in any way we can, from the moment they come through our doors.

‘We’re the only group in Hampshire to do this for early years so I’m really proud of everyone involved.’

The accreditation is given by Jennifer Nock Training and Consultancy, headed by Dr Nock herself.

It focuses on exploring the root cause of why a child might be disruptive or behave poorly, which in many cases stems from trauma elsewhere in their lives.

In Gosport, this can often be a part of growing up in a forces family, particularly when both parents are serving personnel and only mum or dad is at home at any one time.

‘There’s always something that’s going on with them,’ said Nicci.

‘In forces families children can find themselves growing up in a restless environment, with nursery ending up as their outlet.

‘For us, it’s about recognising that and working with the parents to see how we can help.’

This support for parents can come in the form of home visits, spending more time with a particular child and a closer relationship between the nursery and the family.

Overcoming attachment trauma early on in life means it won’t affect the youngsters later in life, Nicci added.

‘Small changes for children can make a big difference later on,’ she said.