Developmental trauma involves multiple occurrences over a period of time, bringing on an intense amount of stress to the mind and body of a child. It can seriously impact a young person’s brain development, health and wellbeing.
In comparison to those who have not, young people who have experienced trauma will exhibit different behaviours, ways of doing and saying things, ways of relating to people and ways of coping with stress. They may demonstrate difficulty in managing stress, a lack of empathy, have low impulse control, exhibit escalated anger responses, and/or over-eat or hoard food.
The impacts of trauma on a young person’s development can be seen through a lack of motor coordination, difficulty understanding and expressing language, misinterpretation of social cues and difficulty interacting with peers, cognitive difficulties including concentration and retention.
PARENTING A YOUNG PERSON WITH A TRAUMA BACKGROUND
As we recommend with any child, maintain a consistent home-life. Children are more settled and calmer if they know what to expect in their daily routine. Try to keep the main sections of the day (meal times, bedtime routines, etc) as consistent as you can and discuss changes to plans prior to introducing them.
Invite your child to be physically close to you, rather than sending them to “time-out”. If your child is stressed and scared, bringing them close to you will help them feel safe and secure. You can help them think through and discuss their actions and choices.
Support your child to articulate their feelings by describing and naming what you see; “I can see by you are frustrated with this toy, I’ll help you choose another one.”
Parent according to your child’s emotional age. If they are feeling stressed or fearful, they may regress to a younger age. It will be easier to soothe them if you meet them where they are emotionally, at that moment eg: your emotional 10-year-old could still benefit from sitting on your lap for a cuddle in that moment
Finally, have realistic expectations. Your child may have some significant hurdles to overcome which may take time. Even if some days feel like you’re not making any progress, remember to celebrate the success you do achieve.