What is trauma?
Trauma happens when any experience is just too much for us to handle, it overwhelms us, leaving us altered and disconnected from our bodies. We are left feeling totally helpless and hopeless. The impact of trauma differs from child to child taking into account many factors, like age and trauma history. Younger children may be more likely to become overwhelmed by common occurrences that may not impact an older child. While the nature of the trauma is important it does not define trauma. The trauma resides in the child's nervous system and their self-protective process is now out of balance. Many children are fairly resilient when traumatic events occur, but many are deeply impacted and may require childhood therapy.
It is important that parents know what to look for when a traumatic event occurs so they can seek medical and psychological support.
The following list is some signs that your child may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
- reverts in development such as bedwetting, thumb sucking or other behaviours they had mastered
- becomes clingy and fears separations
- acts different
- difficulty sleeping and nightmares
- becomes emotional easily
- withdrawn from usual activities
- aggressive with peers or siblings
- becomes startled by noises, smells, related to the trauma
Children often tell us that they are traumatized through their play, sleep patterns, altered activity levels, exaggerated emotional responses (fear and anger) and somatic complaints. These complaints can involve things such as tummy or headaches and regression to an earlier developmental stage.
In summary your child is not the same child before the traumatic event; the above list is not exhaustive and can also be related to other things. If the signs persist you should seek the assistance of a child therapist, as the sooner (PTSD) is treated the better the long term outcome of your child will be.
Depending on the child and the trauma, your child will be treated in the practice with play therapy, trauma therapy or EMDR. Bonnie has worked with children and trauma for the past 25 years. All child therapists within the practice are in clinical supervision and consultation with Bonnie Mason.