What are the Signs of Child Trauma?

Ashley Middleton Fronheiser has worked as a clinical social worker for close to two decades. Since 2012, Ashley Middleton Fronheiser has served as the chief clinical social worker at Living Resolutions in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, specializing in childhood trauma.

Child trauma occurs when children between 0-18 years are exposed to not only life-threatening or violent events, but also circumstances or events that have caused fear and uncertainty. Potential situations that could cause child trauma include violence within the family, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, abandonment, bullying, racism, discrimination, intense verbal abuse, neglect, serious illness, and cyberbullying. A child does not have to experience these types of events to be traumatized. Someone known to your child could experience traumatic events, and their seeing or hearing about it could affect them by proxy or vicariously.

Traumatic events can cause a child to have strong physical reactions and emotions that last for a long time after the event. As a parent, if your child who is below three years is clingy, irritable, easily startled, shows aggressive behavior, and has poor eating and sleeping habits, they could be traumatized. For children above three years, general fearfulness, emotional dysregulation, self harm or self injurious behavior, talk or focus on death and dying (including suicidal ideation), restlessness, pre-occupation, “spacing out,” sadness, physical exhaustion, panic attacks, inattention, and changes in close relationships could be symptoms of childhood trauma. Early detection of child trauma symptoms along with seeking mental health treatment can help reduce or resolve these symptoms.