Even very young children can be affected by traumatic events and have serious problems later in childhood and adulthood. But the great news is that, with help from families, providers, and the community, children and youth can demonstrate resilience when dealing with trauma.
Traumatic experiences can range from a one-time incident, such as a sudden death of a loved one or a natural disaster, to ongoing exposure to experiences, such as bullying or family violence. Identifying that a child has experienced trauma is not always easy because emotional and behavioral responses to trauma vary depending on a child’s age, personality, the type and severity of the incident, and availability of adult support.
Studies on stress response in children show that there can be physiological and structural changes in the brain and neurological systems and can, without intervention, result in enduring problems such as depression, anxiety, aggression, impulsiveness, delinquency, hyperactivity, and substance abuse.
There is a range of behaviors that could be signs that a child is having difficulty dealing with a traumatic event, such as, but not limited to:
What can teachers, caregivers, and other adults do to help a child who has experienced trauma? The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers these suggestions:
With the support of caring adults, children can recover from traumatic events, reestablish a sense of well-being, and obtain treatment and other services if needed. The more you know about trauma and children, the more you can do to help them. For more resources on early childhood and trauma, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/children/earlychildhood_trauma.asp.