12 Things Educators Must Know About Childhood Trauma

Teachers have an essential role to play in the life of their students. They provide a safe, nurturing environment for children to learn and grow as individuals.

Since children spend a lot of their time at school, instructors can identify behavior patterns resulting from past traumas.

Hence, teachers are also responsible for identifying child abuse or neglect when they see it. While many teachers take this responsibility seriously, some do not. Studies show that between 10% and 23% of educators fail to report suspected child abuse and neglect incidents.

These incidents may be where children exhibit unusual behavior such as shyness, screaming, or bullying.

Childhood trauma is one of the most common reasons kids struggle with schoolwork and social development. It can manifest itself through low self-esteem, behavioral issues, depression, anxiety, and more.

Child protection agencies like the Department of Children and Families (DCF) often require teachers to report any signs of potential child abuse.

Trauma can have many shapes and forms. Additionally, different children have separate ways of releasing their frustration. In the end, they really just want to be heard. 

Schools need to hire exceptional counselors to deal with such situations where a child suffers from trauma. However, teachers can also opt for an MS in Education Crisis and Trauma School Counseling degree program to help them understand what childhood trauma looks like academically. 

The following 12 facts about childhood trauma should give you a better understanding of its effects on children.

By learning more about this topic, you’ll be able to identify traumatized children better and offer them the support they need.

1. Trauma Begins Before Birth

Trauma begins long before children experience it directly. Fetal alcohol syndrome affects babies born to mothers who drink while pregnant.

As a result, these infants may have a higher risk for developmental delays, including impaired cognitive ability and behavioral problems. Some children are even born addicted to drugs or alcohol.

2. The Effects of Trauma Can Last a Lifetime

Children’s brains continue developing until around age 25. Therefore, trauma during early development can affect a person’s behavior for years to come.

For example, an infant exposed to domestic violence may experience behavioral disorders later in life.

3. Traumatized Kids May Be More Likely to Develop Depression Later in Life

Research shows that people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are at increased risk for depression. This link holds regardless of whether the trauma occurred before or after adulthood.

4. Childhood Trauma Is More Common Than You Think

According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, 1 in 5 children suffers from a mental health condition.

Most experts attribute this statistic to exposure to adverse life events, including child abuse and neglect.

5. Children Who Witness Violence Are At Increased Risk for PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression

Witnessing violent crimes like murder, rape, and assault has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children who witness these events are also more susceptible to anxiety and depression.

Researchers believe witnessing violence could lead to a lifetime of mental health problems.

6. Abused Children Have Higher Rates of Substance Abuse

As a result, abused children are more likely to use drugs and alcohol to cope with their traumatic experiences. They may also begin abusing substances earlier in life than other kids. These behaviors can cause further psychological damage and increase the likelihood of future addiction.

7. Many Parents Fail to Report Signs of Child Abuse

In most cases, parents are aware of the signs of child abuse. However, many choose to ignore them out of fear of losing custody of their children.

When parents don’t seek help for their troubled kids, they put them at greater risk for developing lifelong mental health problems.

8. Children With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Are More Likely to Become Criminals

Research shows that children who have PTSD are more likely to commit crimes later in life. People with PTSD are up to seven times more likely to end up in prison.

9. Traumatized Children May Suffer From Learning Disabilities

Children exposed to trauma may have difficulty paying attention, focusing, and retaining information. Children with ADHD often struggle with reading comprehension.

10. Children Who Witness Violence May Struggle to Form Healthy Relationships

Witnessing violence in early childhood can make it difficult for children to connect with others. They may distrust people and find it hard to trust those around them.

As a result, they may struggle to form healthy relationships in adulthood.

11. Child Developmental Trauma Can Lead to Psychosis

Children who’ve experienced trauma may develop psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

In some cases, they may become aggressive or violent. If left untreated, these behaviors could lead to violence against themselves and others.

12. Most People with Trauma Have Difficulty Recovering

According to estimates, only half of the people who’ve suffered childhood trauma fully recover. Others may continue to experience symptoms of trauma even decades later.

How Can You as A Teacher Help?

These facts will help you understand the effects of childhood trauma on children. But what can you do to help? Here are five ways to help traumatized students:

Create a Safe Environment for Your Students

Safe environments foster emotional growth and development. You can create such an environment by taking steps to minimize your students’ anxiety.

For example, you can use positive reinforcement when interacting with your students. Also, please encourage them to share their feelings and express themselves openly.

Teach Empathy

Teaching empathy is essential to helping traumatized children heal. When teachers teach students how to empathize, they help them learn to recognize emotions in others.

This skill can improve their relationships and reduce the likelihood of committing crimes later in life.

Foster a Growth Mindset

Fostering a growth mindset helps children realize they can overcome adversity and achieve success. You inspire them to do the same when you think positively about your students. You also give them hope for the future.

Encourage Peer Support

Peer support groups allow children to share their experiences. They also provide a place to receive encouragement and support from other people.

Research shows peer support groups can significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

Offer Additional Resources

Some children require additional resources to aid their recovery. For instance, they may need therapy, medication, or both.

An excellent way to identify such children is to ask them open-ended questions like “What would make you feel better?” If they mention anything related to mental health or counseling, consider referring them to specialists.

Final Words

Childhood trauma can impact children for the rest of their lives. That’s why it’s so important for teachers to take their responsibilities seriously.

By educating yourself about childhood trauma, you’ll be able to spot the signs and respond appropriately. This will help your students heal and reach their full potential.

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