Trauma is defined as an “event outside normal human experience”. These events are generally emotionally painful and distressing, and overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, leaving him/her powerless. Feeling powerless is an important concept when trying to understand trauma – especially as you apply it to trauma in children. Many think of trauma as the result of a specific “event.” But, being impacted by trauma has more to do with how your brain and body react to the situations. Early childhood trauma often falls into the realm of chronic traumatic stress, especially in situations where children are exposed to repeated neglect, abuse and maltreatment.
Attachment can be defined as a reciprocal relationship. In child development, it generally refers to the relationship that develops first between the infant/child and his primary caregiver (often Mother). The quality of this attachment impacts the child’s physical, emotional, psychological and cognitive development. This early relationship shapes the child’s basic ability to trust and how positively or negatively he views the world, himself and others. Attachment also influences a child’s ability to self-regulate. Children with attachment disorders have been impacted by significant trauma. Children impacted by significant trauma need stable relationships to help them heal.
The most important component in helping a traumatized child to heal is a strong, therapeutic parent (primary caregiver). You can learn more about becoming a Therapeutic Parenting.
The second most important component is trauma-sensitive, attachment-focused therapy. ATN actively encourages ALL families to work with therapists who specialize in attachment & trauma.
The field of childhood trauma is evolving. Children impacted by traumatic stress and those with attachment challenges may carry many diagnoses (or none at all). PTSD, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Developmental Trauma, Conduct Disorder and more. Focusing on healing the trauma and building resilience through attachment/relationships is critical for all of these children.