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How to Identify Signs of Trauma in Children
It’s estimated that nearly 35 million children in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lives. Children involved in adoption or the foster care system may make up a large percentage of that, as many of them come from traumatic circumstances.
Some of those children might be struggling with symptoms of trauma without even realizing it. That’s why it’s so important to understand what those signs and symptoms are. The more you can recognize some of the physical and emotional “tells” of trauma, the sooner you can ensure a child receives the help and support they need.
If you’re a parent or caretaker, you can be better equipped to take care of children, especially foster children, if you pay attention to the possible signs of trauma. With that in mind, let’s cover a few of the common signs and how you can help to ease trauma responses.
The Most Powerful Signs
Children respond to trauma differently. Some may even repress it and have to deal with it later in life, as an adult. But, there are often signs you can look for that can hint at traumatic experiences. Some of the most powerful and important signs of trauma in children are:
- Physical effects like rashes, insomnia, or severe pain
- Reactions to triggers, including flashbacks and anxiety attacks
- Attachment disorders or difficulty building new relationships
Stomach and digestive issues are also often associated with trauma. Conditions like GERD and other acid reflux problems can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety. If a child in your care seems to have a sensitive stomach or is constantly sick, it could be the result of an underlying, unresolved sense of fear from trauma.
Again, some children might internalize the effects of their trauma. That makes it difficult to notice physical signs that they could be in distress. So, keep your eyes open for other issues that might arise. For example, trauma often impacts a child’s self-image. If your child starts to struggle with their esteem or develops body image issues, it’s important to get to the root cause as quickly as possible.
What Should You Do?
It’s important not to jump to conclusions when it comes to identifying trauma signs. But, it’s just as crucial to be diligent if you’re concerned. One of the best things you can do is reach out to experts. Counselors, caseworkers, and even pediatric forensic nurses can all be wonderful resources in confirming trauma symptoms and giving you support as you ease the effects of trauma for that child.
When it comes to easing trauma responses, the best place to start is creating a safe, nurturing environment for the child. If you’re a foster parent or new adoptive parent, keep in mind that your child might be coming from a situation that wasn’t safe or comfortable. They might feel as though they need to keep their guard up, so they might not open up right away.
Keep your home as quiet and as soothing as possible, and be consistent in the way you talk to your child. Earning their trust is a great way to eventually initiate conversations about what they might be dealing with. But, don’t force them to talk before they’re ready, or you might end up driving a bigger wedge.
If you’re worried that your child might be struggling with the effects of trauma and the symptoms are severe, use your resources. Don’t wait to get your child the help they truly deserve. It might not be easy for anyone, at first. But, providing a comfortable environment and utilizing professional help are great ways to help your child ease their trauma experiences and start living a happier, less anxious life.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn