Trauma impacts a child’s behaviour, emotions, learning and focus, relationships and long term future. 

 

‘It is known that from early infancy through to adulthood, trauma can change how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, how we process information, and how we behave in response to our environment’

(Cozolino, 2006) 

 

BEHAVIOUR

They can struggle to contain and control such huge emotions that they feel due to feeling terrified and powerless. They need help to work out how to get them ‘out’ without being destructive to themselves or others.   

What we can do

Help them feel safe by getting to know their needs and best ways of helping them feel known and cared for. 


Emotions

They have huge, strong emotions such as terror, anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration that they carry around and they need an adult to help them validate and understand these and then help them process them. 

What we can do

Help them learn what different emotions are by talking about emotions in stories and explaining how they can feel in our bodies. 

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Learning and focus

It can be really hard to focus and concentrate when a child’s brain is wired and focused on survival. It can lead them to struggle to concentrate or hyper concentrate and shut off the rest of the world. 

What we can do

Help them feel safe and understand when they can’t focus… 


Relationships

Children can feel very nervous about relationships and either want to withdraw and be on their own so that they don't have to risk further rejection and betrayal or they want to be in control and be in a position of power so that they can stop such frightening experiences.

What we can do

Give them opportunities to be in control by asking them to choose a friend, giving them jobs and making them feel wanted. 


Long-term future

Children can be impacted by trauma into adulthood unless they have enough repetitive experiences that can re-wire their brain to know that other people can be a positive experience and may not hurt them. The ACE study is research that evidences the long term impact of trauma on children that impacts their mental and physical health (The Scottish Adverse Childhood Experiences Hub, 2017). 

What we can do

This is where we can see our roles in church as such opportunities to see little lives changed for the better, forever. When we make space for long term repetitive, kind, nurturing, warm, empathetic relationships develop with children in our care, we can see them changed forever and the natural trajectory of their life changed. 

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...we can see our roles in church as such opportunities to see little lives changed for the better, forever.

 

Children pick up atmospheres

Children are also very impacted by the atmosphere of a home or other setting. They pick up on non-verbal atmospheres quite naturally and intuitively and can feel anxious when adults are anxious, even when everyone is smiling! They can feel excited, even when adults are trying to appear calm, they can pick up on anger and frustration even when the adults are trying to speak calmly. When they become frightened, they then learn to ‘read’ adults faces and atmospheres so that they can prepare for anything frightening. This is called hypervigilence and it can make them analyse everything you say, your body language, your facial expression and your words. It can then make them nervous and jumpy wherever they are as they learn to ‘check’ and ‘read’ adults to see what is going on. 

So it’s important that we recognise that we can create atmospheres that are warm, caring and safe. It’s also important to learn that sometimes children are traumatised by seasons of life in a family that can't be avoided and so we need to recognise that and never blame or shame parents for tough seasons. 


HOPE

 

There is hope for all children no matter what they've been through.


When there is a caring church who pray, care and understand trauma symptoms, there is huge hope that they can recover from the impact of trauma.


Sometimes specialist trauma centres are needed to enable the trauma to be processed and this works really well when the child also has a caring, supportive church.