I asked Santa to put my special gift right there.

“It’s not here,” I shouted inside to myself, “It’s not here.”

In my conversation with Santa before I fell asleep, I asked him to put a “special gift” in my dresser.

That was the year that I knew my parents were lying to me.

That was the year that I knew the rumors about Santa were true.

That year took me deep inside myself for no one to ever see again.

 As a first-grader, the trauma of one more betrayal took me down a road to mistrust, dislike, and poor self-esteem and confidence.

Three years before, my mother “left” me to be with my brother. In reality, he was in the hospital in the infectious disease ward. At 15-months, it must have been a traumatic experience for him when mom left to return home because the hospital did not permit her to stay.

Side note, what they thought was an infectious disease was curable by an antibiotic by today’s research and is not a contagious disease.

Three weeks later, my mother went into labor with my little sister. In my mind, “she left me again.”

My parents’ dream of a growing family was coming to fruition. My brother was healthy. A new baby arrived.

Meanwhile, at 3-4 years, I felt betrayed, abandoned, and alone. In reality, I was surrounded by an amazing, loving family.

Fast forward to first grade; I was bullied at school because I believed that Santa was real. Confused. Feeling abandoned and alone. I tested their theory. Was Santa real?

Before I fell asleep that night, I spoke directly to Santa. If you are real, put a present in my dresser cabinet. That way, I can tell those kids at school they are wrong and my parents are right.

Just like me, kids today are dealing with so much trauma. We can’t even imagine the stories they are telling themselves. My parents never knew why I was so upset that Christmas. I never told anyone.

Neurologically, elementary students have not fully developed their frontal lobe. Developmentally, the prefrontal cortex grows during puberty. The prefrontal cortex is the resource that allows critical, reality thinking. That’s why students fully believe what you tell them.

Engage in their perspectives.

Identify their truth.

Problem-solve how they arrived at their perspective and truth.

Tell them they are brilliant for problem-solving that way.

Without disillusioning them, redirect their truth and perspective to help them discover the correct answer. This discovery does not need to happen at the same time. In fact, it is better to leave it to hang, unresolved.

If I had allowed people into my misconception that day, I might not have withdrawn so hard into my own disbelief. Instead, my self-esteem plummeted. I had future traumas in first grade of my own making that set me on a path to feeling alone in many situations in my life.

Teaching self-regulation reduces trauma. Before engaging in writing activities, it is a good practice to first prepare the body. Here is one example of a body warm for writing.

 Example of warm-up activity

Provide students with a stimulus. This stimulus could be an image, numbers, letters, symbols.

Engage their perspectives.

Meanwhile, engage them in a core exercise to stimulate their entire body and mind.

I like to engage classrooms in full-body extension exercises. Engage in conversations with the stimulus to discover their perspectives. Download my Exercise Guide as an example:

“Very interesting. Tell me more. Brilliant.”

These are my responses to whether a student provides the right or wrong answer.

Then, we engage in the writing activity.

In whole classroom activities, the teachers, occupational and speech therapists, and classroom aids can all help every student engage in the writing process.