By Laraibah Hamid
Adults often sound out things like, “O’ when that happened, he was so young; he won’t even remember it as he grows up,” But childhood trauma undoubtedly have a lifelong impression on a person. Kids are resilient, they’re not made of stone. That’s not to say your child will be emotionally marred for life if they experience any terrifying incident. But it’s significant to acknowledge when your child needs professional help to deal with trauma. Early treatment may prevent your child from enduring the ongoing consequences of the trauma as an adult.
Many different experiences together can constitute and define trauma. Childhood trauma is any episode experienced by a child that jeopardize their life or bodily integrity. Physical, emotional or sexual abuse, can be evidently traumatic for children. One-time events like a car accident, natural disaster (like a hurricane), Death of a dear one, separation from a parent, broken family or medical trauma can take a psychological toll on children as well.
Living in a dangerous neighbourhood or being the victim of bullying, living in any war torn area or any area of political conflict, can be traumatic, even if it just feels like daily life to an adult.
Childhood trauma also doesn’t have to occur in a flash to the child. For example, watching a loved one endure any pain or suffer anyway can be highly traumatic to a child. Being vulnerable to violent media can also traumatize children, which nowadays is common.
Just because an experience is upsetting, doesn’t make it traumatic. For instance Parental divorce, will likely affect a child but it isn’t necessarily traumatizing.
Childhood Trauma and PTSD
At one point of life or another, many children are exposed to traumatic events. While most of the children experience psychological suffering after a traumatic event, the majority of them resume the normal way of functioning in a certain period of time. Some kids are much less resilient and thus least affected by their circumstances than others.
As shown by a survey, between 3% and 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys— develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) following a traumatic event.
It has been observed that the children with PTSD, re-experience the trauma in their minds over and over again. They may also try to ward off anything that reminds them of the trauma happened. They may need someone very close and reliable to share the traumatizing experiences. Many children, unfortunately and have to face or are helplessly facing multiple traumas in their lives.
Such children doubt themselves for they have missed the warning signs predicting the traumatic event. They attempt to prevent future traumas, by becoming hyper-vigilant for warning signs that something awful or severely sad incident is going to happen again.
Children with PTSD may also have problems with:
Anger and aggression
Difficulty trusting others
Feelings of isolation
Lack of self-confidence and self-belief
Insomnia and nightmares
Children who don’t develop PTSD may still exhibit emotional and behavioural issues following a traumatic experience.
Changes in appetite
Development of new fears
Increased thoughts about death or safety
Loss of interest in normal activities
Somatic complaints like headaches and stomach-aches
Oversensitive to pain perceiving.
Long-Term Health Consequences
Traumatic events can affect the brain development of a child and that can have lifelong worse effects. A study published in 2015 showed that the more adverse childhood experiences a person has, the higher their risk of health and wellness problems later in life.
Childhood trauma may increase an individual’s risk of.
Coronary heart disease
A study published in 2016 in Psychiatric Times noted that the prevalence of suicide attempts was significantly higher in adults who experienced trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and parental domestic violence, as a child.
Attachment and Relationships
A child’s relationship with their caregiver be it their parents, grandparents, or any guardian, is critical to their emotional and physical well-being. Good relationship and attachment help the little one gain the knowledge to trust others, handle emotions well, and interact with the world around them, which was otherwise scary owing to the trauma.
When a child goes through a trauma that instructs them that they cannot rely on a caregiver, they believe that the world around them is a scary and unsafe place to dwell and all adults are dangerous and a strong sense of insecurity develops in them—and that makes it incredibly difficult to form relationships throughout their childhood, including with peers their own age, and into the adult years.
Children who struggle to maintain healthy attachments to caregivers are also likely to struggle with romantic relationships during adulthood. This struggle is eased if fortunately such children as adults, find an understanding, caring, intellectual and reliable partner in their life, however.
How to Help Children
Family support can be key to reducing the impact trauma has on a child. Here are some ways to support a child after an upsetting event:
Encourage your child to talk about his feelings and validate their emotions.
Answer questions honestly.
Reassure your child that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe.
Stick to your daily routine as much as possible.
Befriend your child before any bad person lends hand
Children have fragile heart, only a good parenthood can help them overcome the trauma.
What if help was not given in childhood? How to help the adult
Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm.
Do not isolate them. It does not mean that you have to talk to them always about the trauma, but be available to talk.be available to talk.
Be understanding, patient and comprehensive. Healing from such traumas may take time. Pace of recovery may be slow and also every person’s response to trauma is different. Don’t be judgmental to your loved one’s reaction against your own response or anyone else’s.
Offer practical support to aid your dear ones get back into a normal life. That may mean helping with work and simply being available to talk or listen.
Don’t pressurize your dear one into conversation but be available if they want to talk. Some find it difficult to talk about what happened. Don’t force your loved one to open up but let them know you are there to listen if they want to talk.
Help them to socialize and relax. Encourage them to take part in physical exercise, seek out friends, and pursue hobbies and other social activities that bring them peace. Take them to a fitness class.
Such a person may become angry, irritable, withdrawn, or emotionally distant. Remember that this is a result of the trauma and may not have anything to do with it personally
Laraibah Hamid is a Research Scholar ,
NCB-GATE,Department of Zoology, University of Kashmir.