Healing ・Empowerment ・Awareness・Regulation・Trauma-Informed・Strengths-Based
Big HEARTS is a short-term psychosocial program for children aged 5-12 years old with a focus on social and emotional learning. Big HEARTS uses trauma-sensitive yoga (TCTSY), movement, rhythm, mindfulness and kinaesthetic art and crafts to address self-regulation, impulse control and self-expression in children while offering space for healing and growth.
Utilising a range of somatic bodywork, mindfulness and kinaesthetic learning tools, Big HEARTS supports children to:
Increase their capacity for affect regulation
Explore body-based practices to manage emotions (rhythm making, mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga and movement)
Have the opportunity to be active participants and practice making choices to meet their needs
Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) is an evidence-based, trauma-informed intervention from the Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI in Boston, USA. TCTSY has been developed to support healing for those living with PTSD or Complex Trauma and other emotional conditions including anxiety and depression.
TCTSY aims to build trauma survivors’ experiences of empowerment, agency and control and cultivate a more positive relationship to one’s body through choice-making and remaining in the present moment.
“Inviting our thoughts and feelings into awareness allows us to learn from them rather than be driven by them.”
- Daniel J. Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
Mindfulness is a present-moment practice which acknowledges, without judgement, one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. As Daniel Siegel states, when we are aware of our thoughts and feelings we are no longer controlled by them. Through exercises such as breath awareness, mind jars for mindful moments and movement and yoga practices, children are exposed to a range of tools to increase their capacity to be aware of their thoughts, feelings and sensations.
“For a child or an adult, it’s extremely powerful to hear someone say, “I get you. I understand. I see why you feel this way.” This kind of empathy disarms us.”
- Daniel J. Siegel, No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind
Trauma-informed practice, at its core, “actively resists re-traumatisation” (Child Trends). It is an approach to practice that is aware of and responsive to the widespread impacts of trauma. This includes recognising behaviours as forms of communication and seeking to understand a child’s needs in any given moment.
Trauma is a fundamental lack of choice, where survivors have no control over what they experience or witness. Empowerment practices seek to reverse this power dynamic, placing choice and control at the heart of the work. In the context of programs with children, this means communicating with children to understand their needs and allowing them to be active participants in decision-making processes that affect them based on their age and capacity for understanding.
Children develop the capacity for affect regulation within the mother-child dyad. Our understanding of affect regulation is strongly informed by attachment theory and we recognise, as Dvir et al. state, that, “emotional regulation appears to develop in the context of responsive caregiving and peer involvement in early life” (2014, p. 8). Affect regulation is a learnt process which takes places within relationships. When these early attachments are disrupted, children may develop ‘hyperactivating strategies’ and negative senses of self and worthiness of love and support, as well as learning that distress is unmanageable and that stressors which cause distress are not necessarily able to be overcome. Through the use of tools such as rhythm making, building connections and relationships and trauma-sensitive yoga (TCTSY) practices, children are offered opportunities for co-regulation in order to develop their capacities for self-regulation.
In each child we recognise the strength and resilience they possess. We hold at the core of the program a strengths-based and person-centred approach with a belief that children have developed resources and skills to survive and that these strengths can be nurtured in order for them to thrive.
This program seeks to offer children the opportunity to recognise and value their own strengths and their capacity to respond to challenging circumstances. This is achieved through the language of hope and encouragement in every interaction, through collaborative problem solving and fostering empowerment and change.
TCTSY “aims to cultivate awareness of the mind-body connection and to build self-regulation skills to address the ways in which trauma is held in the body”.
- David Emerson, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy: Bringing the Body into Treatment