Dealing with emotional trauma is a matter for the experts, but there is so much of it around that we need to know something about it – even if it’s just enough to realize that a lack of knowledge can do more harm than good. This is especially true when dealing with childhood emotional trauma among sufferers who are still children.
Children’s Homes are filled with traumatized children. Even if they haven’t been abused, the very fact that they are there is a result of a traumatic life event. Sudden death of a primary care-giver is a huge factor in causing childhood emotional trauma.
Even if the reasons are purely economic, being wrenched away from their family and their known environment into that lonely, unknown world, cannot escape causing them severe trauma. In too many cases, however, abuse or neglect was the cause of their being relocated.
The circumstances leading up to a child’s incarceration into an institution ensures that the child is already traumatized by the time admission takes place. From that moment on, there will be many circumstances to add to their trauma, not least, their sense of abandonment and loneliness. For them, childhood emotional trauma is already a reality that will shape their futures.
Childhood Emotional Trauma: Volunteers and Hosts
Volunteers and hosts who visit children in institutions, or take them to their homes on a regular basis, should be aware that their own lack of training in childhood emotional trauma could very easily undo all the progress that the children’s therapists have made.
For example, abused children do not see normal discipline from the same perspective as emotionally secure children do. Childhood emotional trauma changes a child’s perception of discipline and punishment. When you smack your child’s bottom, indignation is probably the only result.
When you raise your hand to an abused child, even playfully, the moment your hand is raised, all trust disappears and immediate distress is triggered. No matter how much you reassure the child, that trust is gone – and the child is convinced that yet another adult has proved that adults cannot be trusted.
Another consequence of childhood emotional trauma is that these children often have a very low self-esteem. ‘Normal’ teasing may inadvertently trigger responses in them that take you by surprise. Careless use of words can cause immense damage to already-fragile self-esteems.
Childhood emotional trauma carries devastating consequences. My purpose is not to discourage volunteer activities. I URGE more people to get involved. You CAN have a HUGE positive influence. My purpose is to emphasise the need to understand the issue and to encourage more people to do one of the many short study courses offered in childhood emotional trauma before volunteering.