Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tough Topics | Posttramatic Stress and Its Effect On Children

This post is written on behalf of all children who have experienced trauma in their life. Thanks to McKenzie for inviting me to write a guest post for her series and thanks for being brave enough to talk about your struggles.

Everyone should be familiar with the research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Go here to learn more  Basically, the researchers identified 10 adverse experiences children might have. For each experience of the ten, your likelihood of disease and early death increases exponentially. If you have experienced four of the ten ACEs your life expectancy is 20 years shorter than someone who hasn't experienced any. Adverse Childhood Experiences are linked to things like obesity and cancer!

Currently our school and justice systems are not exactly what I would call trauma informed. Children who experience trauma are not able to regulate themselves. They are often given labels such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. In reality, their brain's development has been stunted by their traumatic experiences. The brain literally develops differently in children who experience these traumatic events. Kids who act out in school or in the community often act out because their brain does not work like a regular brain! They do not react to situations the same way that most of us do.

The good news is the brain can change and heal. This is called neuroplasticity. It requires a great deal of time and effort and is not usually completed with just talk therapy. Often physical activities, like yoga, create sensory motor awareness that can bring about greater change than talking with a therapist. More research is completed each year and if you would like to learn more you should read about Bruce Perry and Bessel van der Kolk. They have done a lot of tremendous research on how to best help children who have experienced trauma.

Every responsible adult needs to watch out for the children in our lives. You can go here to learn more about keeping kids healthy and safe.

As an intern I counseled children who recently disclosed sexual abuse. Did you know that 1 in 10 kids will be sexually abused and 90% know their abuser? Often the abuser is a close friend or family member. Go here to learn more about child sexual abuse and how you can learn to prevent it or watch the trailer for the training. 14% of children in the US suffered some form of abuse in the past year and it's estimated to cost the US over $100 Billion each year (read about it here).

As someone who works with many traumatized youth, I am passionate about changing the way we deal with difficult kids. They need someone who cares about them and will ask them about the things they have had to go through. No one chooses the family they are born into and the family you are born into has an incredible impact on the person you become.

We need to have more empathy for people who act differently than we do. If we had experienced many of the things that they have, we might act a little differently too.

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