This is a common question. A traumatic event can be any situation that is frightening, dangerous, or violent making the individual believe that his or her life is in danger. When individuals experience a traumatic event, they respond to it in many different ways. Some individuals can be fine immediately after the event, yet suffer distressing symptoms years later. Some are traumatized immediately after the event. When the traumatic event happens to a child, the child may develop symptoms that, if left untreated, will affect them well into adulthood. These children develop mental health and behavioral disturbances that cause disruption within the family and struggles in school and in the community. These struggles can be severe, especially for children who have been adopted or who have been in the foster care system.
Danger is all around us. Trauma can occur in many forms. Trauma can be experienced from natural disasters, car accidents, community violence, domestic violence, school shootings, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, sudden loss of a loved one, major illness, substance abuse within the family, refugee and war expereinces and stressors due to military deployment. Childhood exposure to traumatic events often results in various ailments. These ailments include intense and ongoing emotional upset, poor emotional regulation, depression, anxiety, behavioral changes, attachment disorders, relational disorders, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, eating disorders, aches, pains, attention and academic struggles, substance abuse, risk taking behaviors, and sexually acting out. These symptoms cause the child to experience difficulty in their day to day functioning. They struggle with family relationships, peer interactions, and experience long term health problems.
How can these children be helped? The first step would be to recognize that these children have experienced an event or event that has severely traumatized them. It is essential for parents and caregivers to have their children evaluated and to seek therapy that is trauma-focused in order to help children manage trauma symptoms. Parents and caregivers should look for a therapist who is trained in trauma-informed care and uses trauma-focused interventions. Therapy should not involve just the child. A child’s trauma response affects the entire family. Family therapy is an essential part of caring for a child who has experienced trauma. Parents and caregivers need support as well, because the trauma responses of children include behaviors that can be overwhelming to everyone.
There is hope for children who have experienced trauma and their families. The first step is having an evaluation and then seeking out a well-trained trauma-informed therapist. Treatment can go a long way in helping traumatized children develop the skills needed for resiliency and a happy and healthy future.