An argument that ends with a push of a parent, an absentee parent, an older sibling repeatedly name-calling or cursing a younger sibling, coaching yelling at a misplay, or child bullied is as common as watching the five o'clock news. What if I told you that what is common is causing the internal death of a child? What if at the moment we did these common things, we could literally see the child die? Traumatic experiences live the brain's in the part of our brain known as the Automatic Nervous System. The body's autonomic nervous system tells the brain to slow down or speed up quickly, which results in a loss of ability to reason and respond appropriately.
Trauma occurs when people endure dilapidated events that make the body desire to fight or flight. Two-thirds of children reported having had at least one traumatic event before 16 years old (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, SAMHSA). Trauma can be in the form of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Unfortunately, young children do not always have the right to allow their bodies to do what is automatic does fight or flight. Consider a baby who is in the room with two angry parents fighting, where can the baby run off? Can the baby join in the fight for his rights to a safe environment? What about a teen at the hands of an abusive coach and parents who believe that it is just the way coaches behave? Can the teen allow the fight or flight response to take over? Sometimes, teens flee by running away to places perceived as safer.
Trauma, like other forms of abuse, can become generational. Seventy percent of adults have experienced at least one traumatizing event (National Council of Behavioral Health). However, most adults are not aware and have not resolved issues regarding trauma. From a lack of awareness, we pass on to children the effects of our trauma. After all, we survived cruel treatment, and we often believe that we are stronger for it. We fail to realize the damaging impact trauma has on our lives and children.
To reduce the impact of trauma, we must first educate ourselves on what trauma is and how to recognize behaviors resulting from trauma. Positive relationships between others and with children decrease trauma's impact. Children, as well as adults, thrive better when environments become a safe place. Though we cannot prohibit all trauma-inducing events, we can work to reduce its impact.
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