Adopting a Trauma-Informed Approach

Trauma-informed education is an empathetic approach to teaching that recognizes that most students have experienced trauma or may be experiencing trauma of some kind at any given time. A trauma-informed approach is one that recognizes that reality, and approaches topics with gentleness and care. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Honour multiple perspectives: All voices and points of view should be heard in a respectful way to remind students about listening to learn, respecting other choices, and accepting 'alternate' viewpoints.
  • Pre-warning is preparation: If you know you are broaching topics related closely to students’ lives and experiences, let students know in advance. For example, “Tomorrow we’ll be talking about vaccinations” and a brief summary of what the lesson will include e.g., enhancing knowledge, opportunity to explore questions they have, thinking about factors that affect their decisions and choices, and right to make personal choices. This helps students know how the topic will be approached and what might be expected of them. 
  • Maintain a safe, supportive, predictable environment: Understand that sign of agitation, fidgeting, jokes, disruptive behaviours, or lack of engagement might occur if a student is uncomfortable with the topic. Avoid making assumptions about disruptiveness when discussing these types of topics. These signs may be evidence that a student is affected by the topic. Approach these situations with sensitivity and compassion, maintain a safe, supportive, and predictable environment. 
  • Trust your gut: If you sense that a student is struggling, check in with them privately. Broach the subject in a way that lets them know you are available to support them. They might not be comfortable talking at that very moment, but they will certainly know that it is a safe space for conversation. 
  • Be mindful: When engaging students in learning about vaccinations, be mindful of discussions about COVID-19 in a medical context. Inequities and discrimination in the health care system in Canada have been a cause of trauma for Indigenous and Black people and communities across Canada and a deep mistrust of the health care system2,3. Additionally, students may have experienced direct or indirect loss or trauma as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider these tips for adopting a trauma-informed approach when engaging students in healthy living topics such as vaccinations.

1Government of Canada. (2022). COVID-19 vaccine uptake and intent: Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) insight. Retrieved from:

²Gunn, B. Ignored to Death: systemic Racism in the Canadian Healthcare System. Retrieved from and Government of Canada. (2022).

³Social determinants and inequities in health for Black Canadians: A Snapshot. Retrieved from