Trauma is our emotional response to an event that causes significant distress and pain in our lives. Despite being deeply unpleasant, trauma is nevertheless still a part of everyday life. The trauma response is a natural way of responding to these kinds of events, and it helps to think of trauma as something we all experience at some point in time.
It is important to remember though that while the vast majority of us experience some trauma in our lives, for many people the effects can be devastating.
Everybody responds to traumatic experiences in different ways. While there are many what we might call ‘universal’ types of trauma - catastrophic accidents, deaths of close relatives, neglect, violence and assault - the extent that such experiences are traumatic depend on how they impact the individual’s sense of safety.
It would be a truly fortunate child to experience an entire childhood free of trauma. Almost all of us go through times of great pain and suffering during our developmental years – it’s just a natural part of life.
I strongly suspect that if you are reading this article, you probably don’t need to blame yourself for the trauma your child might have experienced - clearly, the wellbeing of your child is important to you, and that is not usually the recipe for intentional trauma.
Your child occupies a complicated world, surrounded by many influences beyond your own. As this TED article put it, “Stop blaming yourself as if you’re in control of your child’s path. You have influence — but you don’t have control”.
There are several different types of childhood trauma:
Trauma can also lead to the onset of different trauma-based conditions:
When a child exhibits continued symptoms of distress in response to a traumatic event, they may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can be deeply upsetting and have a significant impact on a child/adolescent’s well-being.
Signs a child/adolescent may have PTSD include:
Developmental trauma disorder (DTD) is a diagnosis specific to children, with symptoms that impact emotions, thoughts, behavior and relationships. These symptoms vary depending on which developmental period the trauma occurred in. That is, the symptoms will be different for a 2 year old compared to a 9 year old, and different again compared to a 14 year old.
Signs a child/adolescent may have DTD include:
The best way to help your child to recover from trauma is to listen to and support them. If the impact of your child’s trauma is having a negative effect on their well-being, they should consider consulting with a trained therapist who specializes in trauma-informed care which can take the form of many different types of therapies including body-based therapies.