According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children can experience trauma because of intentional violence—such as child physical or sexual abuse, or domestic violence—or the result of natural disaster, accidents, or war.
Childhood trauma can impede emotional development and physical well-being and lead to long-term emotional, social, and behavioral challenges if not identified and treated early on. Nearly 35 million U.S. children have experienced at least one or more types of serious trauma according to the National Survey of Children’s Health. Studies also show that children who have experienced trauma such as physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence are at risk for relationship disruptions throughout their lifespan.
Signs of Trauma
Trauma in children can manifest itself in different ways, including:
- Emotional outbursts
- Low self-esteem
“If trauma is not addressed early on, children may develop unhealthy coping behaviors to protect themselves from negative feelings associated with the trauma,” said Jimmy Venza, Ph.D., executive director at The Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness (Lourie Center). “Over time, these attempts at coping can interfere with a child’s ability to function, learn and grow.”
The Lourie Center works with young children who have experienced trauma to help them learn how to process and manage their feelings and communicate with others in healthy ways. The Lourie Center offers four support programs: Therapeutic Nursery Program; Head Start Program; Parent-Child Clinical Services, and The Lourie Center School.
How to Support Your Child
Comforting and reassuring your child that they are safe can help them heal. Dr. Venza provides the following tips to help parents support their children:
- Look for changes in your child’s emotional state and be curious about your child’s feelings
- Welcome your child when they seek your physical comfort & offer your soothing voice and touch
- Act calm by not showing any of your anxieties about their traumatic experience
- Maintain consistent routines as much as possible
- Help your child enjoy themselves by encouraging to play with others
- Share age-appropriate information about the traumatic experience and allow your child to ask questions
- Help your child relax with breathing exercises to keep them calm
- Seek professional supports for your child and entire family
Knowing how to support your child if they have had a trauma experience can set them on the path to a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life.