Most of us remember a major life event that disrupted our lives in some way. It could be a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, a medical treatment or the memory of abusive words or physical assault. Different people feel trauma in different ways. A child’s coping skills can be overwhelmed, resulting in extreme emotional, psychological and physiological distress.
Trauma can involve actual or perceived threats to the safety and well-being of a child, or to someone close to them. These experiences result in feelings of fear and helplessness. These are normal responses to disturbing events, not signs of weakness.
A child can be affected at any developmental stage, beginning at infancy. Some children recover quickly, while others have more extreme reactions. For some, the response is immediate; for others, it is delayed. These reactions may have wide ranging effects on a child’s physical health, emotional responses, behaviors and school success.
Children need to know that they’re safe and that people care and will help them through whatever events they have experienced. Caregivers, teachers and service providers should be trauma-informed and sensitive to a child’s needs.