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Supporting Children and Young People with a Refugee/Asylum Seeker Background

All children and young people are unique and have unique circumstances, and those who have a refugee/asylum-seeker background are no exception. They will all have had different experiences and lives before arriving in the UK.

Here are some key resources for educators to support children and young people who have been impacted by trauma, loss, grief and bereavement:

Written articles:

This article by Mentally Healthy Schools is a very useful guide for staff on:

  • what a child or young person may have experienced;
  • signs of stress and trauma to look out for;
  • suggestions for how to support, including the initial welcome and getting to know a child or young person and their family (if they have one) by gathering information gradually and with sensitivity.

The National Education Union has produced a very helpful guide: ‘Welcoming refugee children to your school’

It includes some key principles of effective practice that may be particularly helpful if you are not familiar with working with children from a refugee/asylum-seeking background.


My Bright Kite community interest company is ‘a specialist non-profit organization working to improve the inclusion and well-being of young refugees through a range of professional services and bespoke youth projects.’

They have made a series of powerful films of young refugees talking about their lives and hopes which can be used to raise awareness of the real life experiences of young people in migration.

It helps you to develop a greater understanding of the levels of loss, grief, bereavement and trauma that they have experienced, but also what they have achieved, are achieving, and what they want for their future lives.

Suitable for key stage 2 upwards and for all adults working with children and young people.

Yusra Mardini, A Young Refugee, Finds Safety in Her New Home

A video from the United Nations about Yusra Mardini, who left Syria because of the war and went on to swim in the Olympics.


The British Council has a course on Future Learn which is focused on educators working with migrants and refugees.

The course stresses the importance of :

  • learning about children and young people as individuals and not stereotyping as this can cause harm, especially if they have already experienced trauma;
  • using the term ‘refugee background’ instead of ‘refugee’;
  • phrasing introductory questions so that it enables the child or young person to decide what they want to say about themselves – ‘Tell me about yourself’ rather than having to answer questions that may touch upon traumatic things that may have happened to them and their family;
  • enabling children and young people to use their first language in school as it is part of their identity and may be one of the few things they bring with them;
  • using a language that is familiar to them can reduce harmful effects of trauma – getting to grips with a new language may cause overload and retraumatise, Being enabled to switch language when needed can help a child or young person control their ‘emotional thermostat’;
  • being empathetic whilst also maintaining boundaries;
  • enabling those young people who have had to be the adult in their family to make choices over where to sit and their learning rather than getting into power battles with them;
  • planning activities that are low risk: ones that don’t require children to talk about their family when you know there is a child who has been bereaved.

Useful Worksheets:

"I need you to..." Stepping into the shoes of a young person who has experienced trauma, loss & change:

Compensate for my Brain State - Dr Bruce Perry’s Arousal Continuum:

6 Steps of Trauma-Sensitive Connection:

Supporting the Return to School with Hobfoll’s Five Principles of Recovery:

The Learning Triangle: A Model of Attachment & Learning by Heather Geddes:

“What if?” Using a trauma-informed lens to reframe behaviour:

The Trauma-informed Classroom - Providing a Safe Base:

Treating Trauma with Hope and Optimism:

Applying the 4 Rs of Trauma-Informed approaches in the return to school:


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