Children are commonly thought of as resilient humans, with the capacity to learn quickly, grow and develop, regardless of the limitations that are placed on them.
However, while it’s true that children have an aptitude to adapt and change when faced with challenges, a profound experience can make a lasting impression that could carry into adulthood and shape the way they engage with the world.
When we think about trauma therapy it is common to picture adults working with adults following an accident, witnessing a violent incident or learning of the sudden death of a relative or close friend.
However, failing to consider that children have an appreciation for the gravity of such events, no matter what age they are, can often result in the formation of psychological issues, which when left untreated can develop and lead to negative patterns of behavior.
Physical abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, sustained or ongoing stress, surviving a catastrophe or even the loss of the family home all impact children in the same way as they do adults.
The difference between children and adults is that there is a greater chance that they are not prepared to cope with what happened and, therefore, have even less of an idea as to how best to move forward.
The older we grow, the more aware of the nature of the world around us we become. We build safeguards and learn how to protect our bodies and minds from sustaining harm and, as much as is possible, we can try to keep trauma out of our lives.
Children that experience trauma can react in many different ways. While the term PTSD or “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” is commonly associated with members of the armed forces, or those that go through high-stress, life-threatening situations, children can also present with this disorder after going through a traumatic experience.
In the aftermath of a formative, traumatic event, some children react by becoming hyper-vigilant. This means that they assume some of the responsibility for what happened and strive to avoid a repeat occurrence by looking for the worst possible outcomes in all situations.
Trauma therapy for children is often sought where emotional and behavioral issues persist following a traumatic experience. Parents that suspect that something is wrong can look out for many different identifiers, which include, focusing on death, sleep problems, angry outbursts, the development of new fears, sudden loss or gain in appetite and a loss of interest in engaging with their peers or with activities.
Over time, where trauma is not properly addressed and treated, further symptoms may present that are much more serious and require professional care. These can include, depression, anxiety, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even asthma.
On an interpersonal level, those that experience trauma struggle to bond with others and form relationships that last. This stems from a lack of trust. As such, a crucial part of helping children through tough times is supporting them and showing them that they can trust their caregivers.
The bottom line is that any child that has experienced a traumatic event or been through a traumatic experience can still find help. It is never too late to reach out, to trust in the power of trauma therapy to help overcome negative mental blocks and to take back control and live a healthier, more fulfilling life.