The Emotional Trauma of a Child

Emotional trauma; we’ve all heard of it.

Our mind automatically goes to some devastating thing that creates ongoing problems or long term mental problems.  And notice I said ‘something devastating.’

And yet, for a child, trauma is nothing like how we see trauma as an adult.

We aren’t talking about the physical here.

Emotional trauma is just as damning in a child’s life.  I would even go so far as to say that it can be more so.

How we unknowingly traumatize our children

We might underestimate how, what we do around our children, impacts on them emotionally.

Something as simple as telling them they have done something the ‘wrong’ way, may have a huge emotional impact on your child.

She might feel as though it’s the end of her world. The trauma for her (based solely on what she’s thinking and believing at that time) may be as high as a 10 out of 10.

At an event with Byron Katie I heard her say

Trauma is anything above a one!

When I sat with that I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of situations.”  A lot of things that create stress, suffering, an emotional reaction that are more than a one.

My childhood trauma

Looking back at my own childhood it was filled with emotional trauma above a one.  Here are some of the things I thought about:

  • being left alone on a blanket and thinking she didn’t want me
  • my Mum disappearing and me not knowing why (she went to hospital to have my baby brother)
  • having Mum yell at me for not cleaning up my cubby house and that meant she didn’t love me
  • getting into trouble for drawing on something other than paper
  • being yelled at for ripping a page of one of my books

These small things created trauma inside me, as a child, that I had no way of knowing how to express.

And so, I lived my life either disassociating, or stuffing the feelings inside me.  Neither was an effective way of dealing with my own emotional trauma.

Children don’t know how to manage their emotions

As a child we are not shown how to manage these extreme emotional reactions that we have.

We don’t know what to do or how to be, in these moments of what feels like extensive trauma for us.

Often your child feels so overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions that they become confused and then paralyzed or frozen in that moment in time. Similar to what happens with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

They may then withdraw and become silent.

These are trauma symptoms according to

The other way that a child’s trauma may manifest is in them becoming very angry.

How can you help your own inner child?

The first thing to do is to acknowledge that she is there, traumatized.  By acknowledging her, rather than berating her or denying that she exists you are supporting yourself to heal.

The next thing to do is to be willing to meet the emotions she is holding onto.

Often when we see the traumatized child inside us, it feels too overwhelming and scary to go anywhere near the strong emotions that she feels because we think we can’t handle them.

There are ways to support that inner child to be okay working with the emotions and not re-traumatizing her.

How can you help your own child, if you are a parent?

The best thing to do is to notice that your child appears unusually off key; either too quiet or very suddenly angry.

Talk to you child about what they are feeling.  Allow them to openly express their emotion, even if that is anger.  It is okay for your child to be angry.

Then walk through what happened for them.

Be kind, caring and don’t push.  They will open up to you when they are ready.

Sharing your own experiences with them will help immensely.  That way they will not feel so alone in their experience.

If you want support in working through your own childhood trauma, or in how to support your own child, reach out and contact me.



About Karen Cherrett

Karen has trained as a Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie and is also a Holistic Counselor. She wants to be of service to you to improve your love of life and all its experiences. Karen supports individuals, businesses and practitioners.

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