Helping Kids Cope with Trauma
The Healing Hearts Club uses Bible-based stories to bring God’s healing love to children.
Sami and Rose, a brother and sister in Africa, fled to the bush when armed soldiers set their village ablaze. Amidst gunshots and chaos, families scrambled to keep their loved ones together. But Sami was separated and couldn’t be found.
That night would be the start of terror and trauma for the siblings, who witnessed unspeakable horrors. Each felt the pain of separation, anxiety and loneliness, which would persist until they were reunited years later.
Sami and Rose are composite characters based on the stories of real children. They’re also the subjects of the new book, the Healing Hearts Club,™ Story and Activity Book, released in January by American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute (THI). This ministry unit helps restore lives disrupted by trauma through a targeted encounter with God’s Word; the book is the next logical step in ABS’ trauma healing program, which began with She’s My Sister™.
“There is great demand for Bible-based trauma healing for children in the countries where we and our church partners serve,” says Peter Edman, THI content and communications manager. “Where adults are hurting, children are hurting more. They don’t have words for what they’re going through. They have no means to articulate their pain.”
The Healing Hearts Club materials, however, give them a way to connect with children just like them. And in so doing, it helps them find healing for emotional and spiritual wounds that would fester and impair their growth as beloved children of God.
Ten stories spotlight the experiences of Sami and Rose, and 10 additional stories—taken from the Bible—mirror their pain and show them that a loving, living God is present throughout their experiences.
Activities, such as drawing a picture of happy and painful memories, help them understand what they’re feeling so they can deal with their trauma and eventually work through it.
Pilot testing for the book, geared for kids ages 9 through 13, began in Kampala and Nairobi last year.
Children used the book either in a camp setting or in separate sessions with trained facilitators. Most children improved significantly, according to reports from the facilitators, says Edman.
“They started performing better in school,” he says. “They played better and were not as disruptive or aggressive with each other. And they were more open to talking about what they experienced and how they felt about it. I’m struck by what one child told us: ‘Now I know I am important to God. I am not rubbish, no matter what people say.’”
In tandem with the Healing Hearts Club, THI also released Healing Children’s Wounds of Trauma, a training book that equips churches and facilitators with the skills to run effective trauma healing programs for children.
“We are excited about the Healing Hearts Club program and believe it’s essential to our Bible-based trauma healing work. It’s a direct response to the requests of our church and Bible Society partners,” says Edman. “Along with helping children work through their pain, the program gives them an opportunity to encounter God’s love for them, no matter what has happened.”
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