Have you seen that magic wand? You know – the one you whip around a bit and it makes all problems go away?
Yeah… me either.
In my work with clients, I’ve encountered times when I wish that wand existed. I’ve also experienced quite a few times when a child or a parent looks at me with those eyes – searching, hoping I have that wand in my back pocket.
Most of these occasions involved a child that experienced trauma.
What do you think of when you hear that word?
Perhaps September 11th, an experience you’ve had, Newtown, brain injury, abuse, bullying…
The word itself can seem intimidating, vague, dramatic and overused.
The reality is there are over 8 million children suffering with a trauma-related disorder at any given time. The term is actually more comprehensive and clinical than you think. My previous post highlighted how experience and genetics interact. Working with children with diagnoses ranging from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) to PTSD and ADHD, it has been rare to meet a child who does not have a history of trauma. So what came first? The diagnosis or the trauma? Most likely the trauma influenced the onset of symptoms that may or may not be accurately treated.
Trauma is any personal experience that ignites a stress response and is outside of a person’s ability and tolerance to cope with it. There are different types of trauma and the brain is affected – altered – as a result of these experiences (the extent depending on situation, age, social connectedness, etc.). We can think of trauma as a range of experiences and a range of how its effects manifest.
It is important to know the meaning of the word trauma as its many forms often hinder the growth and existence of healthy relationships. When we refer to RAD or “the ugly,” it is usually caused by a chronic or severe form of trauma. When we refer to an adult challenged by emotional regulation and meaningful relationships, it is usually rooted in a less than desirable experience.
Below you’ll find the scope of trauma.
Most of these categories can be experienced at any age and each can vary in severity.
- Medical Trauma: pregnancy complications, birth complications, surgery, medical procedures, injury, serious illnesses, overnight stays in the hospital as a child
- Early Separations: removal from caregiver, being separated from caregiver for an extended period of time
- Maltreatment, Abuse, Neglect: lack of emotional attunement from caregiver, lack of a consistent caregiver, lack of primary needs being met (food, shelter, safety), physical/sexual/emotional abuse, exposure to harmful experiences or things, domestic violence
- School Violence & Crisis: school shootings, bullying, school lockdowns, physical fighting, gangs, time-outs/restraints
- Traumatic Grief: death of a loved one
- War, Disaster and Terrorism: exposure to war, serving in the armed forces, participating in combat, natural disasters, terrorist attacks
- Other: divorce (yours or your parents), “breakup” of a relationship, betrayal, accidents (yours or a loved one), fearful experiences
You may have recently read about Katie Beers, a woman whose story of overcoming severe trauma has a happy ending. Studies have shown that when a person has meaningful relationships and a system of support, trauma has less of a poignant impact on functioning. At Project Bond, we focus on the past and present of our children in order to build future success and we do this by strengthening relationships.
Magic wands do not exist and this is why we founded Project Bond –
to be a place to turn to.
Find this helpful? You may be interested in our Parenting from the Inside Out Workshop!