By Danshikah Vivekananda, Residential Care Worker

Trauma is an emotional response to unfortunate incidents. This includes accidents, abuse or natural disasters.

An individual may develop trauma as a response to an event that they find physically or emotionally threatening. Trauma can bring about physical, psychological or emotional harm which may lead to various disorders, as well as positive-negative coping mechanisms. For example, experiencing shock and denial during the event is common in trauma.

Signs and Symptoms

If the child is unable to cope with these stressful situations, they may exhibit responses of fight, flight, freeze and fawn. These are known as emotional or behaviourial dysregulation.

They can experience emotional symptoms like anger, fear, sadness, confusion and shame.

When overwhelmed with emotions, they will find it difficult to cope with how they feel and may withdraw from others. Trauma also causes physical symptoms such as, headaches, perspiration, fatigue, increased heart rate, anxiousness, and hyperarousal.

If left treated, it can develop into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the long run. This may result in anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and suicidal tendencies.

The child may also face learning challenges, such as, difficulty concentrating; inhibiting his ability to do well in school.

Create a Safe Space

Each child displays signs of trauma differently. It ranges from a loss of interest in activities the child used to enjoy; having sudden emotional outbursts; inconsistent eating habits; to experiencing nightmares.

Observing the child’s abnormal behaviour and triggers in school and at home can help identify the tell-tale signs of trauma.

A child’s reaction to a traumatic memory can also be influenced by responses from others as they tend to seek for safety, security and comfort from someone when feeling distressed.

Hence, it is important to address these events with the child safely, by being cautious in what is said, and by encouraging them to share their feelings and the events that happened.

Aside from addressing the trauma, it is also crucial to provide moral support. This involves trust and safety – encouraging recreational activities, keeping promises, acknowledging and validating the child’s concerns.

Lastly, it is important not to pressure them into sharing what they are not comfortable with sharing.

Three Types of Trauma

Acute Trauma: Develops from a single stressful or dangerous event.

Chronic trauma: Develops from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events like child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.

Complex Trauma: Develops from exposure to multiple traumatic events.

Ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) of Trauma

Physical abuse
Sexual abuse
Psychological abuse
Emotional abuse
Substance abuse
Physical neglect and emotional neglect
Exposure to domestic violence
Family members having mental illness
A relative who went to prison