The Kids Matter website describes trauma like this,
“Trauma describes the impact of an event or a series of events during which a child feels helpless and pushed beyond their ability to cope. A range of different events might be traumatic to a child, including accidents, injuries, serious illness, natural disasters, war, terrorist attacks, assault, threats of violence, domestic violence, neglect or abuse. Parental or cultural trauma can also have a traumatising effect on children; for example, the impacts of the Stolen Generations are still felt years later among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”
But what does that mean for kids and subsequently, their behaviour?
Here is a picture of a ‘normal’ brain vs one of someone who has experienced Trauma through ongoing abuse.
I am not a brain expert (by any stretch of the imagination, but I have sat through enough trainings and witnessed enough children and their parents trying to cope with the effects of trauma to know that events, whether in utero or after birth can rewire the brain. That can mean a child even though they are in a loving and peaceful home (now) can still display behaviours that are extreme, lack empathy and show an irrational amount of fear to simple things or the opposite, no fear at all.
There is no “at least he was young enough not to remember what happened”.
Or, “She has never lived with her ‘real’ parents so she won’t have any crazy behaviours.”
Science has taught us that the brain develops the most from conception through the first 5 years of life. While the conscious brain may not remember the yelling or not eating for a whole day, the child’s brain sure does.
Thankfully, God has created us as Amazing beings and there is hope that a brain that has experienced trauma can be rewired. But this takes time, lots and lots and lots of time. Patience. Love. A team of professionals working well together and other caring adults who are willing to continually speak life into the child’s life.
You can read another carer’s take on trauma and the brain here.
When you see a mum or dad struggling with their child, take a moment before judging. They may be a foster child, they may not. Trauma of course does not just affect kids who end up in the foster care system. Watch to see if the parent needs an encouraging word. Or if the child needs to hear what the parent is saying from someone else. You can bring life into that family simply but trying to understand.