Real-Life Implications of Childhood Trauma

You have wrapped your parental head around this idea that maybe your adopted child actually has experienced trauma. Next you realize that perhaps their night-waking and meltdowns could be about that early mistreatment. Let us explore the areas that seem to be most effected in their brains that truly impacts their everyday lives. This translates to how you child acts socially, behaviorally, and emotionally.

Does your child seems constantly afraid and sometimes even has a difficult time telling when there is real danger present? Because you are a loving parent, you thought you could love that fear out of them. But their brain has created permanent memories that were necessary to keep them safe in their previously hostile world. This real brain change can lead to PTSD or other anxiety disorders later on.

Does your son or daughter appear overly-sensitive to eye-contact or touch? Do they have trouble learning in school and been labeled ADHD? This could all be attributed to something called “hyper-arousal.” An abused child’s brain pathways have created memories that trigger fear with no conscious thought.  Thus if you touch their arm to get their attention, they may startle, as your touch has triggered a fear response. Or while they are in school, are they constantly looking around: vigilant to a potential threat? Do they have real trouble remaining calm, which is when learning takes place? This is a genuine response that their brain inherited from their tough backgrounds. Clearly this type of response can lead to academic delays and your child can get labeled with a learning disability.

Is your child labeled with a developmental delay? Well, trauma can do that. Imagine a baby babbling but those cute sounds are ignored time and time again by their neglectful birth parents. This is a crucial time of rapid brain growth in language development: those first 2 years. Since the back and forth of language stimulation does not occur, your baby stops cooing, thus the neural pathways do not develop and flourish as they should. This is why your child may have a speech delay. One thing to keep in mind is that your child may not reach their developmental milestones on time but they are still growing and developing under your care. Meaning it may take them longer, but they can and do continue to learn.

Executive Function is a crucial set of skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We all use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, achieve academic success, manage social interactions, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things. Sound vaguely familiar? This highly sophisticated neurological process is impacted by early childhood trauma. Please keep this in mind if, as your child grows, they struggle in these areas. It will help inform the type of interventions you put in place to best support your child.

If you want to dig deeper into the brain-body connection and how trauma impacts parenting, check out: The Whole Brain ChildBeyond Behaviors, and Building The Bonds of Attachment.