Traumatized children often exist in a state of fear, and that impacts how well they're able to learn, socialize and participate as a member of a family. Children can become traumatized for a number of reasons, and knowing the behavioral characteristics that often accompany trauma help parents, teachers, doctors and other caregivers provide these children with the help they need to heal properly. If you notice any of these characteristics in a child important to you, call his doctor right away.
Causes of Trauma
When a child views a situation as threatening, she's likely to become traumatized once the situation has resolved. Child abuse is one cause of trauma, particularly when the abuse isn't an isolated incident but occurs on a regular basis. Being abused at the hands of parent or other adult a child loves can be particularly traumatizing. Other types of violence, such as witnessing a shooting, watching someone else get abused, a car accident, the death of a loved one, separation from a parent, natural disasters, serious illness, bullying and being humiliated can all cause trauma to children, as well, according to article, "Healing Emotional and Psychological Trauma," by Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D, on the Help Guide website.
Immediately following a traumatic event, a child might become easily afraid and panicked. She might also cry a lot, be unusually scared of things she wasn't afraid of before and show displays of sadness more often. Right after the event, a child can also be confused, angry and appear to be in a state of shock. In some cases, a child might have trouble sleeping, a decreased appetite and physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches. Usually, these characteristics are temporary and gradually fade as the days and weeks pass.
Certain traumatizing events, particularly ones that occur repeatedly like child abuse, can have life-long effects that impact behavior. Many children who are abused have a difficult time making friends and interacting with peers appropriately, according to the 2008 article "Understanding the Behavioral and Emotional Consequences of Child Abuse," published in "Pediatrics." Any kind of traumatic event can lead to mood disorders, depression, guilt, shame and anxiety. Often children who are the victims of a traumatic even withdraw from friends and family, as well.
Additional Behavioral Characteristics
In extreme cases, older children might resort to alcohol or drug use to help them cope with their feelings, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. Children might also become aggressive as a way to deal with their feelings following a traumatic event. Younger children might reenact the traumatic event during playtime or draw pictures of what happened, the Scholastic website reports.
- Scholastic.com: Principlies of Working With Traumatized Children
- National Association of School Psychologists: Identifying Seriously Traumatized Children: Tips for Parents and Educators
- Department of Health and Human Services: Abuse-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Child Physical Abuse
- HelpGuide.org: Healing Emotional and Psychological Trauma
- Pediatrics: Understanding the Behavioral and Emotional Consequences of Child Abuse
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images