You often hear people saying “children are resilient”. You have no doubt witnessed it for yourself, but we must also be aware that generalizing and using this thinking to minimize the effects of trauma on our kids can be harmful for them.
It’s not only military personnel in conflict zones that experience trauma. It can also result from general threats to someones wellbeing or development. Clinical Counsellor Andrea Chatwin frames it as: “Trauma is any event that is unexpected and makes a person feel confused, overwhelmed and powerless”. One out of seven to ten children in the general public have experienced trauma!
Trauma can either be a one-off event like witnessing violence or an incident of bullying, or it can be more complex and long term. It could be the child was neglected by important people in their life at a developmentally vulnerable time. It could also mean the loss of a birth parent, experiencing multiple caregivers, or the loss of a pet.
"Trauma can affect brain development in children"
Complex trauma can affect brain development in children at a time when the human brain is developing faster than any other period of life. Stress and fear can cause different neuro-pathways in the brain to be strengthened and result in a very different brain structure to that of a child who has not experienced trauma. You can’t expect a child who has experienced trauma to react in the same way as a child who has not!
If your child has experienced trauma, they may have a hard time falling asleep, and/or wake every couple of hours looking for comfort. It might affect their relationships, causing them to have a hard time getting along with family or friends, and they might also avoid people, places and things that remind them of what happened. You might also expect a regression in their development with a return to bed-wetting or thumb sucking, changes in appetite, or a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
The effects of complex trauma on your child’s development can be:
If trauma changes the structure of your child's brain, healing will take patience, understanding and an awareness of the gut-brain axis to heal it.
If you are patient, a stable environment can help your child build new neuro-pathways through neuroplasticity, which means their brains can heal and re-wire themselves!
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