Emerging Minds

Supporting children who disclose trauma

About the course

This course examines practice strategies for supporting children who have disclosed trauma or abuse directly to you or another person, or children who you know have experienced trauma or abuse.

Feelings of self-blame and secrecy are common following physical or sexual violence. These feelings are often exacerbated by adult perpetrators, whose tactics are designed to make children feel complicit in their negative experiences. The strategies and activities outlined in this course aim to help children move away from self-blame and secrecy towards contextual and overt understandings of the power misuses that led to their experience of trauma.

The course will examine the four P’s of helping children move beyond self-blame following experiences of abuse:

Power – helping children to recognise the power differences between children and adults; and in cases of abuse, how adults use tactics to manipulate children and accentuate their powerlessness to ensure the abuse remains a secret.

Protest – how to make visible children’s actions during their experience of trauma and abuse, through the assumption that nobody is a passive recipient of abuse. This involves a consideration of the steps that children take in the interests of their own safety and the safety or wellbeing of other people in their lives.

Purpose – in developing a clear purpose, practitioners avoid children recounting traumatic experiences for unclear or unknown reasons. Practitioners explain to children and parents why they are interested in the retelling of particular events, and are committed to listening for examples of children’s resilience, hope and connection.

Participation – helping children to fully participate in their engagement with you by ensuring that adult language and communication don’t get in the way. Allowing for genuine participation will safeguard against children becoming overly distressed in the professional setting, as they become involved in negotiating what, when and how topics are discussed. Genuine participation will support children to tell their stories where they have communication or developmental challenges or delays.

This course follows on from two previous Emerging Minds online courses: The impact of trauma on the child and Supporting children who have experienced trauma.

The impact of trauma on the child introduces key understandings about trauma and adversity, and the impact of these on children. It explores the ways in which a child might respond to trauma, and how children and families can recover from trauma. It describes a trauma-aware approach to supporting children who have experienced trauma or adversity and invites you to reflect on how you can integrate this into your interactions with children. 

Supporting children who have experienced trauma focuses on the early stages of engagement, acknowledging that children who have experienced trauma are often ambivalent or anxious about sharing their stories. It explores five perspective shifts practitioners can use to demonstrate curious and collaborative practices with children and their families. These shifts can help to support families as they experience therapeutic engagement in new ways, and help them to value their strengths, know-how and stories of resilience.


Power and protest

In this module you’ll consider how an examination of power and protest can help children move away from self-blame.

Participation and purpose

In this module you’ll examine practices of participation and purpose that help overcome the effects of secrecy in children who have experienced trauma.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed for practitioners who work specifically with children who are known to have experienced trauma or are likely to disclose trauma. This includes professionals who may receive referrals for support, such as paediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, child mental health practitioners and specialist counsellors. It also includes GPs, allied health professionals and child protection workers.

Learning aims

As you progress through this course you will explore strategies and practice shifts to help children and parents to:

  • identify the ways that self-blame operates, how it has been used by perpetrators and what can be done to help children move beyond these negative thoughts and emotions
  • consider how the power difference between children and adults can be made overt in sessions to help children challenge their feelings of complicity
  • acknowledge that no child is a passive recipient of trauma and that all children have stories of actions or choices they made throughout their experiences that kept themselves, or their loved ones, safe
  • consider the effects of secrecy in the child’s life, and how this secrecy affects their ability to move past the negative consequences of trauma; and
  • find a common language that helps children and parents to participate fully in conversations that will move them beyond secrecy, and form a team around the child that will support their recovery.


It is estimated that this course will take you approximately three hours to complete, including reading the material, watching the videos and completing the reflective activities.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.


In this course the term trauma refers to inter-personal trauma that children experience, most commonly child abuse (physical, emotional or sexual), control, coercion, threats or fear. It also includes trauma that children experience through witnessing adult coercive control or violence, or through situations where their safety is undermined by continued neglect. This course specifically examines trauma that is perpetrated by an adult rather than trauma that children experience from other children.

For the purposes of this course the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising a child.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths, and is a facet of child development.1

In broad terms social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

‘Social and emotional wellbeing’ is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.4


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course, and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.

This course depicts fictional demonstrations of skills between a practitioner and a child. While some of the subject matter touches on the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, the videos were filmed in a way so that the child actor was not exposed to this material, or present when this content was being filmed.


This course draws on the latest research, clinical insights, and the lived experience of our child and family partners. We’d like to thank the professionals and families who played an integral role in shaping this course, generously offering their time, wisdom and unique perspectives.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: development of a Children’s Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6.
  3. Everymind. (2020). Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Newcastle: Everymind.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW.

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