Has anyone in your family experienced trauma?

Trauma is when a person has an experience that threatens their life or physical/psychological wellbeing. Trauma can also occur while witnessing an event occur with a loved one. According to the NationalCenter for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Provention, 26% of children in the United States will witness or experience some form of trauma before the age four. More than 60% of youth under the age of 17 have been exposed to crime, violence or abuse, either directly or indirectly.

The range of traumatic experiences affecting young people is quite broad, and all kids react to trauma very differently. What might seem to some as a minor incident may have incredible impact on one child’s emotional stability, sense of self worth and behavior, while another child experiencing a similar event may not show any signs of stress after the event.

  • Accidents
  • Natural Disasters
  • Acts of terrorism or violence
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Bullying
  • The loss of a parent, sibling, or other relative or family friend
  • Divorce
  • Mental illness
  • Domestic violence in the home

Recognizing the Signs

Everyone, both children and adults, react to a traumatic events in different ways. Having intens emotions or feelings or “acting out” with troubling behavioral displays can certainly be upsetting to witness, but it is important to recognize the signs of trauma and respond appropriately.  How young people respond to trauma often varies depending upon their age. Signs to look for include:

Ages 1- 5 Years:

Wetting the Bed

Fear of being left alone

Separation anxiety/clinginess

Bad dreams

Disobedience or excessive tantrums

Excessive crying

Loss of skills (speech, toilet training)

Avoidance of eye or physical contact

Ages 6-12 Years:

Loss of appetite

Aggression/bossy

Difficulty at school or concentrating

Withdrawal from friends

Tummy aches, headaches, or other complaints

Sexual knowledge beyond their age

Irritability

Sleeplessness

Lack of confidence

Ages 13-17 Years:

High level of aggression

Problems at school

Drug/Alcohol abuse

Suicidal thoughts

Self harm, such as cutting

Poor self esteem

Loneliness/Isolation

Inappropriate behavior (stealing, etc.)

Radical changes in attitude

What Can Parents Do?

When recognizing signs of stress in relation to trauma, parents should watch their child closely to see if their behavior patterns continue or progress. Providing a calming and physically comforting environment is important, as is providing the child with the attention they need. Express patience and tolerance, while also remaining the voice of structure in their life. Encourage interaction with family and friends, while also encouraging discussion about feelings surrounding the event. If you are unsure of how to help your child, call YouthZone today and arrange for a parent consultation to address your concerns and to find out how an assessment by a therapist may help your child.