Understanding Kids who’ve Experienced Trauma

Below are some facts on traumatized kids:

1. Traumatized kids don’t mean to push your buttons. Neither do they mean to be challenging. They are usually feeling tense, anxious, stressed and afraid. They also feel unsafe and out of control. In addition, they’re afraid to trust, they don’t know who to trust, and they wonder what awful thing might happen next.

2. Traumatized kids find it hard to relax – for they’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. They find it hard to focus, and they can’t concentrate. They have to be on guard, to protect themselves.

3. Our definition of a trauma is individual and unique. What might seem small to you, may seem huge to a child. And it’s the child’s definition that matters, and counts.

4. There are so many things that can traumatize a child. The break up of the family (a separation or divorce); a loss of someone close (and especially a parent), abuse or shouting in the home; witnessing some kind of violence; bullying by peers …. The list goes on and on.

5. You don’t need to know what the trauma was, or elicit all the details, to be helpful to the child. The best way you can help is by being understanding, kind, accepting, warm, affirming and reliable. You don’t need to dig deep; you just need to be empathic. And the child needs to feels safe, and to believe you really care.

6. Traumatized children often struggle with strong feelings. They need help with self-soothing and with self-regulation. Also, they need more time to play, and to relax, and have fun as they easily feel stressed, and overwhelmed.

7. You can build resilience by finding things the child enjoys, and engaging them in tasks that tend to play to their strengths. This will help give them a sense of mastery and control. It set the child up for success, and thus develops self-esteem.

25 thoughts on “Understanding Kids who’ve Experienced Trauma

  1. I found this really relatable. I really did spend a good amount of my childhood traumatised, and was always self-soothing through getting lost in computer games. Thank god I was able to do that and to truly relax doing that. Later on when a teenager I became totally absorbed in astronomy, reading about it, getting a telescope and reading science fiction, and this gave me point number 7 in your list. And that really was the start of the way out of it.

    A funny thing about traumatised childhoods is that they only seem to grow more traumatised over time, not less, as you realise what really went on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for the article. Though it’s a short read, it still hits a nerve (at least for me).

    Trauma from unchecked toxic abuse, sexual or otherwise, usually results in the helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it acts as his/her starting point into an adolescence and (in particular) an adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It can make every day an emotional/psychological ordeal, unless the mental turmoil is doused with some form of lead-ball-and-chain-addiction chemical consumption.

    Intense addiction usually does not originate from a bout of boredom, where a person repeatedly consumed recreationally but became heavily hooked on an unregulated often-deadly chemical that eventually destroyed their life and even that of a loved-one. Serious psychological trauma, typically adverse childhood experiences, is normally behind a substance (ab)user’s constant self-medicating. The addiction likely resulted from his/her attempt at silencing through self-medicating the pain of serious life trauma or PTSD.

    Sadly, due to the common OIIIMOBY mindset (Only If It’s In My Own Back Yard), the prevailing collective attitude, however implicit or subconscious, basically follows: ‘Why should I care — my kids are alright?’ or ‘What is in it for me, the taxpayer, if I support programs for other people’s troubled children?’ It’s not at all right that they be abandoned by us, society.

    Also, I can’t help but wonder how many instances there have been wherein immense long-term suffering by children of dysfunctional rearing might have been prevented had the parent(s) received, as high school students, some crucial child development science education by way of mandatory curriculum? After all, dysfunctional and/or abusive parents, for example, may not have had the chance to be anything else due to their lack of such education and their own dysfunctional/abusive rearing as children.

    I sincerely believe that the wellbeing of all children — and not just what other parents’ children might/will cost us as future criminals or costly cases of government care, etcetera — should be important to us all, regardless of whether we’re doing a great job with our own developing children. Should not a psychologically and emotionally sound, as well as a physically healthy, future be every child’s foremost right, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter? Of course it should!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the detailed response.
      I wonder how many children are never identified as having experienced trauma. As you say, this has a profound effect on brain development and will typically effect them for the rest of their lives. I am so grateful for people like Gabor Mate and Peter Levine who have brought awareness to the general public. Education and knowledge are so important. If nothing else, it’s a starting place….

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Education and knowledge are so important.” Very important!

        Personally, I would like to see child-development science curriculum implemented for secondary high school students, and it would also include neurodiversity, albeit not overly complicated. It would be mandatory course material, however, and considerably more detailed than what’s already covered by home economics, etcetera, curriculum: e.g. diaper changing, baby feeding and so forth. I don’t think the latter is anywhere near sufficient (at least not how I experienced it) when it comes to the proper development of a child’s mind.

        For one thing, the curriculum could/would make available to students potentially valuable/useful knowledge about their own psyches and why they are the way they are. And besides their own nature, students can also learn about the natures of their peers, which might foster greater tolerance for atypical personalities. If nothing else, the curriculum could offer students an idea/clue as to whether they’re emotionally suited for the immense responsibility and strains of parenthood.

        “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.” (Childhood Disrupted, pg.228).

        Liked by 2 people

      • You raise a lot of really important points here – and great ideas. I also think there’s a lot of truth summed up in your final quotation. Thanks for sharing your insights and thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It IS very hard. Trauma changes the brain, and children are especially vulnerable since their brains are still developing. It sounds like you are very committed, and are a wonderful influence for good in those children’s lives.


  3. PTSD gets worse as time passes without a huge effort to improve.

    As a child our brain has not developed so trauma is the octopus entwined with brain development

    We do not realize that abuse and the reaction to survive is hard wired in our brains

    We live in survival mode which shuts down the normal development of attachment and support

    We become codependent without decent boundaries from an early age

    We will suffer or battle this until we pass away

    It is the road less traveled, we lost the lottery of birth


    • I think this is something we didn’t realize in the past … that PTSD gets worse as time passes unless we really do a lot of work on it. We don’t just learn to eventually move on. The effects have to be teased out and consciously dealt. Something that takes a lot of time, knowledge and consistent hard work. Thanks for emphasizing this Marty.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We think way to much which is the fuel of Ptsd

        Hell I got to fear my Ptsd symptoms as well

        I hated my fight or flight going off at nothing

        Those drugs tore me up

        It is a daily battle

        Or a daily awareness clinic

        Be aware and as much in this moment as possible


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