What defines trauma, you may ask? Trauma can come in many forms. The most common is physical, emotional, sexual, and/or medical. Most people, when they think of trauma, assume it has to be a severe experience. However, what can appear minuscule can actually be damaging to a child’s development when it is repeated over time.
Trauma can take place not only within the home, it can also occur in public, in schools, and even in the womb or at birth. Once you understand what causes trauma and how to identify if your child has experienced it, you can help your child move through it.
Some examples of trauma that children can experience are: a bad injury from a fall or recurring medical issues, parental fighting/ domestic violence, verbal abuse, lack of affection or love, divorce, violent media, instability in the home (moving from home to home), remarriage, getting accustomed to a new family or bullying from other kids, parents and/or caregivers.
Trauma can come in the form of belittling, degrading, and ridiculing. It can also come from making a child feel unsafe, including the threat of abandonment. Even time-outs or allowing your baby to “cry it out” can be considered traumatic experiences where a child can feel unloved, insecure, and unsupported.
Those mentioned above are more apparent causes of distress, but there are more subtle causes, too. One example of a less noticeable cause could be when you have a child that has a higher need to move their body but instead is expected to sit still for long periods of time in school or at home (which unfortunately can lead to children being labeled ADD/ADHD).
Another prevalent stressor is not being able to connect with nature. The importance of being in nature is often overlooked. And nature deficit can become detrimental to a child’s development. In today’s age, unfortunately, the natural environment has sadly declined as television, video games, demanding schoolwork, and technology continues to skyrocket. Even though evidence has shown that being outdoors relieves children who are highly stressed out, statistics continue to show more children are less in touch with Mother Earth.
So what happens when a child is highly stressed out? Stress and trauma can affect his or her ability to think and feel, which affects their behavior.
Several behaviors include:
Delays in development
The development of new fears
Separation anxiety (particularly in young children)
Sleep disturbance, nightmares
Feelings of depression; angst
Feelings of blame and guilt
Loss of interest in normal activities
Reduced focus and possible decline in schoolwork
Anger, acting out
Excessive somatic complaints of physical ailments