More than two thirds of children reported at least 1 traumatic event by age 16. Potentially traumatic events include:
Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse
Community or school violence
Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence
National disasters or terrorism
Commercial sexual exploitation
Sudden or violent loss of a loved one
Refugee or war experiences
Military family-related stressors (e.g., deployment, parental loss or injury)
Physical or sexual assault
Serious accidents or life-threatening illness
The national average of child abuse and neglect victims in 2013 was 679,000, or 9.1 victims per 1,000 children.
Each year, the number of youth requiring hospital treatment for physical assault-related injuries would fill every seat in 9 stadiums.
1 in 4 high school students was in at least 1 physical fight.
1 in 5 high school students was bullied at school; 1 in 6 experienced cyberbullying.
19% of injured and 12% of physically ill youth have post-traumatic stress disorder.
More than half of U.S. families have been affected by some type of disaster (54%).
It’s important to recognize the signs of traumatic stress and its short- and long-term impact.
The signs of traumatic stress may be different in each child. Young children may react differently than older children.
Fear being separated from their parent/caregiver
Cry or scream a lot
Eat poorly or lose weight
Elementary School Children
Become anxious or fearful
Feel guilt or shame
Have a hard time concentrating
Have difficulty sleeping
Middle and High School Children
Feel depressed or alone
Develop eating disorders or self-harming behaviors
Begin abusing alcohol or drugs
Become involved in risky sexual behavior
The Body's Alarm System
Everyone has an alarm system in their body that is designed to keep them safe from harm. When activated, this tool prepares the body to fight or run away. The alarm can be activated at any perceived sign of trouble and leave kids feeling scared, angry, irritable, or even withdrawn.
Healthy Steps Kids Can Take to Respond to the Alarm
Recognize what activates the alarm and how their body reacts
Decide whether there is real trouble and seek help from a trusted adult
Practice deep breathing and other relaxation methods
Impact of Trauma
The impact of child traumatic stress can last well beyond childhood. In fact, research has shown that child trauma survivors may experience:
Learning problems, including lower grades and more suspensions and expulsions
Increased use of health and mental health services
Increase involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems
Long-term health problems (e.g., diabetes and heart disease)
Trauma is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders.
There is hope. Children can and do recover from traumatic events, and you can play an important role in their recovery.
A critical part of children's recovery is having a supportive caregiving system, access to effective treatments, and service systems that are trauma informed.
Not all children experience child traumatic stress after experiencing a traumatic event. With support, many children are able to recover and thrive.
As a caring adult and/or family member, you play an important role.
Assure the child that he or she is safe.
Explain that he or she is not responsible. Children often blame themselves for events that are completely out of their control.
Be patient. Some children will recover quickly while others recover more slowly. Reassure them that they do not need to feel guilty or bad about any feelings or thoughts.
Seek the help of a trained professional. When needed, a mental health professional trained in evidence-based trauma treatment can help children and families cope and move toward recovery. Ask your pediatrician, family physician, school counselor, or clergy member for a referral.
Visit the following websites for more information:
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