Helping the traumatized child

Helping the traumatized child

Identifying trauma in children is difficult because a child’s normal behavior can be similar to traumatized behavior. Diagnosing trauma usually falls into the hands of educators and school personnel, but when armed with the following facts they will be equipped to help children in their care and start the healing process.

The brain develops from the bottom up, focusing first on survival; once safe, it moves towards bonding. Traumatized children’s brains are stuck in stress, the stove is always hot. When the brain is so focused on stress, it is difficult or even impossible to engage in school, impacting the child’s ability to connect to classmates or learn.

Changes to a child’s normal routine is overly stimulating, Without the ability to self-sooth, traumatized children will frequently act out. You may observe bullying, aggressive behaviors, or difficulty focusing, or paying attention.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, trauma effects learning and behavior in 1 of 4 children. When developmental delays such as speech problems or difficulty reading presents, be sure to consider trauma as a potential cause.  

The circumstances surrounding the trauma are also important to consider. The severity of the event, whether the child witnessed, heard, or only saw the aftermath of the event, the caregiver’s response, and whether racism or discrimination were present will increase the risk to the child

After the trauma, when the child hears a sound, smells a scent, or sees an image associated with the traumatic event, the brain increases the amount of stress hormones in the body. In order to cope with the stress, the child may zone out, experience sleep problems, or even seem to revert to earlier stages of development.

Trauma impacts the entire body, and health problems like bedwetting, headaches, and gastro-intestinal distress are common. Additionally, difficulties with emotions and feelings might arise, potentially leading children to abuse substances to cope.

The healing process begins when child is able to process his or her feelings and know that what happened was not their fault.

There are many ways educators and school personnel can help, including encouraging the use of drawing or journaling to express feelings, and providing structure throughout daily activities. Talk with the child’s caregivers about how to respond supportively.

The sooner the child gets help the better. The brain is able to heal when engaged in healthy relationships, social activities, and physical activity. It’s never too late to get help and start healing, but starting early will prevent the most severe developmental issues, reducing the need for intensive work later in life.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationships

Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationships

When someone expresses anger, frustration, or fear is expressed by someone close to you, how do you react?

Do you shut down? Do you feel anxious or fearful?

How it Works

Until age two the human brain is being prepared and primed for emotional connection.

Tiny humans spend most energy on searching and establishing stability and security.

Above all, the tiny human needs our help to do this, especially if they are going to learn, grow and explore their world.

The Problem

When a caregiver unavailable, the little one is distressed and aren’t given what to behave or act.

If the parent is abusive or neglectful the child avoids contact, maybe even preferring a stranger over the caregiver. The child learns to not seek help.

From a caregiver with inconsistent behavior children act chaotic. You will notice extreme shifts from one emotional state to the next.

Fifty percent of babies experience insecure attachments. Without intervention these relational patterns will continue into adulthood.

What’s going on here

Dr. John Gottman, a relationship researcher out of Seattle, shows that people are failing in the area of meta-emotions. Meta-emotions are how one interprets and feels about their emotions.

An example is if someone feels sad, but doesn’t believe it’s ok to feel this sad.

What do I do now


Emotional Coaching takes relationships through a step-by-step processing including:

1) Calming yourself first – Deep breathe and connect with the feeling. The goal here is to calm and relax the emotions.

2) Connect and create safety – Connect emotionally. This is done with touch, tone or attitude. The goal is safety.

3) Empathize – Next, welcome the emotion, and reflect them back. “You look worried,” or if you don’t know the emotion say “I hear how upset you are.”

4) Double-check – Check to see if they feel understood. Ask, “Am I getting that right?”

5) Deepen the conversation – Let yourself feel what the other is feeling. Offer support, continue to validate their emotion, or ask to hear more.

Over time it has been shown people can change their attachment style thereby increasing the quality of their relationships.When you change the lens from which you see the world you create a new narrative, one that helps you understand your past and allows you to evolve and grow today.

When we work together stable and fulfilling relationships occur. If your unsure where to begin try one-on-one sessions with a trained clinician at Brain Health Northwest.