Preventing the effects of childhood trauma

Posted on Nov 26, 2014 in Healing

Preventing childhood trauma

“Healing the Inner Child” by Willow Arlenea

It has been my honour to support a fabulous young lady recently, aged nine, in her healing and development, and she has been my catalyst for exploring more deeply how trauma can affect children, and how best to deal with it. If you’re already on the healing and spiritual path then you’ll know how effective working with your inner child can be, and how so often as adults we’re plagued by problems which have their roots in childhood hurts. As an energy worker, I totally believe in prevention, and the fact that you can identify and treat an issue in its early stages even before it begins to show up in the physical. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, then, if parents could help their children to process a trauma fully at the time it happens, so that it doesn’t lodge and fester in the body and psyche for years, causing all sorts of complicated issues in later life? Well it’s perfectly possible, certainly for the kinds of events that are common place and that you may not even label as traumatic.

What is a trauma?

Falling off a bike, bed or step, being shocked by a sudden loud noise, having to undergo surgery or medical intervention, moving house – all of these can be deeply disturbing and distressing (which is the dictionary definition of trauma). I live in the UK, land of the stiff upper lip where it’s traditionally considered inappropriate to express emotion, discomfort or dislike. Stoic acceptance and just getting on with things is often seen as a virtue. Every day on the streets and in shops you can hear parents telling children not to cry or make a fuss, that they’re being silly and over-reacting. So a child will pull themselves together as best they can, suppress their natural reactions, and store up a problem for the future.

What happens during trauma?

Whenever you undergo a trauma, your body instinctively shifts into fight or flight mode, flooding the system with enormous amounts of hormones and chemicals designed to supply the energy and muscle power you need to protect or defend yourself or a loved one. You’re essentially thrown into a hyper aroused state. For healing to take place, this excess energy must be released again through the body, or it will remain stuck there and cause all sorts of symptoms which can evolve the longer it remains lodged. Common signs of unresolved trauma are panic attacks, nightmares, recurring stomach or headaches, emotional sensitivity, dissociation, aggression, depression, and restlessness.

How can you prevent the effects of trauma?

Obviously if there is serious physical injury or you believe any kind of abuse has taken place, then you should consult the appropriate professionals. Ideally, you’d follow this procedure immediately after the traumatic event:

  • Make sure you’re calm and centred first. Children are incredibly tuned in to your feelings as their care-giver and will take their emotional cues from you. Your child needs to feel safe, to know that you’re confident and competent so that they can let go fully into the necessary healing process.
  • Try to keep your child sitting or lying still for a while (usually for a few minutes) to allow time for the trauma to process. Assure them that whatever they’re feeling is perfectly natural and acceptable, that you understand what they’re going through, and are going to stay with them until they’re ok.
  • Ask your child what they’re feeling in their body. Gently prompt them to be as specific as possible with the sensations (even if they can only point) such as where, how, and what it’s like. You can ask them about the shape, size, colour and texture of the sensation, using vocabulary best suited to their age and ability. Be guided by them and don’t push for a response if they’re not able to talk at first.
  • Allow any crying or trembling to continue until it stops naturally, indicating that the energy has been released, as tempting as it might be to try and distract them or get the pain over with as quickly as possible. Encourage them by saying things like “that’s right, that’s good, just let it all out”. Your child may give a deep sigh or breath, yawn, smile or stretch to indicate they’ve released the energy. Usually your child will begin to notice their environment and what’s happening around them when they’ve returned to a more normal physical state.
  • Know that sometimes there is more than one cycle of release, so keep your child focused on their physical sensations for a while, until you’re sure there’s no more to come.If your child is too upset or tired then stop. Don’t worry, as you can pick up the process at a later, better time.
  • Encourage your child to rest if possible afterwards so that the body and energy can settle, and continue the process of releasing without interference.
  • Finally, it’s important to address the emotional aspect of the trauma but make sure your child is fully rested and calm before you do this. Ask your child to simply tell you what happened and how that made them feel, giving your full attention to what they have to say. It’s important to let them know that all and any emotions they experienced are absolutely fine. It’s also helpful if, at this stage, you can share a story of something similar you’ve been through so that they’re reassured this is all a part of normal life.

Just a few minutes of carefully focused time can prevent problems which could persist through a lifetime, and you’re encouraging your child to gain an insightful awareness of their own body and feelings. You’re letting them know that what they sense and how they feel in any given moment is valid and of great importance to their health and wellbeing. They’re much more likely to be resilient to the ups and downs and traumas they experience in later life if they learn the basic wisdom of allowing this natural healing process to complete itself uninterrupted.

All of this advice is just as relevant for grown-up children too; it’s never too late to learn and we all carry our inner child within us. If you believe you’re still holding trauma from previous experiences, try the exercise in my article Healing emotions and feelings to help work through this same process for yourself and in your own time.

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Semele Xerri

© Semele Xerri is a psychic intuitive guide, healer, animal communicator, and Reiki Master Teacher. To find out more about her and her services, go to her Work with me page.

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