During the development of a child we are introduced to resilience, the capability to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness (Merrian-Webster, 2018). Resilience is tested by stress that is introduced in their life, as a child, such as going to school/daycare and leaving your parents, riding a bike for the first time or performing for an event, are some forms of stress that helps their brains to grow and new skills to develop (Goodman, Brown, Cloitre & Gallagner, 2017). Trauma takes place when a stressful experience; such as being abused, neglected, or death of a significant person, devastates the child’s normal capability to handle stress (Cohen, Mannarino, 2011). These events will cause “fight, flight, or freeze” to become active, changes in the body take affect that can include but not limited to, faster heart rate and higher blood pressure, as well as changes in how the brain perceives and responds to the world (Nickerson, Bryant, Aderka, Hinton, Hofmann, 2015).
Trauma interferes with normal development and can have long-lasting effects. A traumatic event that specifically deals with children can stem from many aspects, family, environment, personal experience are some examples. Death is one type of traumatic experience, it is inevitable, but death can also be unexpected and shocking, for an adult and as a child, who is still in need of a parent to help love and raise them. The effects of a passing loved one can be tremendous to a child, having a long-term impact on a child’s well-being and has been linked with a wide range of serious and enduring health consequences ranging from schizophrenia to major depression and suicide (Goodman, Brown, Cloitre, & Gallagner, 2011). The symptoms and syndromes associated with childhood bereavement are generally considered in terms of the immediate reactions that occur in the weeks and months following the death, the intermediate reactions that can appear later in childhood or adolescence, and the long-range or ‘sleeper’ effects that may appear in adulthood either as enduring consequences or delayed reactions to the loss (Cohen, Mannarino, 2011).
As a part of the crisis guide for teenagers, developed by The Institute for Trauma and Stress at The NYU Child Study Center, for coping with the death of a parent, some trauma behaviors that would help and support the grieving stages that can be experienced (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2014):
When a child experiences a loss of a parent the effects of that trauma could be expressed in different setting like the home, the school/community. In an aggressive behavior toward peers, siblings, and/or adults, no control over emotions during an intense situation, nightmares, irritable, feelings of guilt (Cohen, Mannarino, 2011). A child can have trouble during the school day by expressing anger, moody behavior, become bored with classes that the child may have shown interest in previously, difficulties with peers and adults, distracted, and feeling overwhelmed (Goodman, Brown, Cloitre & Gallagner, 2017). Teachers, and supporting staff members may become aware of the changes in a child’s focus and their behavior around important dates; like the deceased family member’s birth date or the date of their death.
Some behaviors can be experienced differently in the home the child way feel very clingy to family members, this may be due to the cause of the loss, and in the fear of losing another family member, depending on how and where the family member had passes away, the child can be fearful of anything that reminds them of the traumatic situation. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) is a term used to identify potential negative impacting childhood events, that correlate with adult medical issues because of the childhood events (ACE, 2017). Based on the types of impactful experienced based upon ACE, it could potentially inform you if you are to experience premature death, due to the number of traumatic experienced that you have faced. If you were to experience one form of traumatic experience it is expected that you are to experience another form of traumatic experience.
Experience the death of a family member was a measurement of ACE, and the data showed that 3% of children from ages 0 – 17 had this experience, 5% were ages 12 – 17. This information only reflects children that lived with the parent or guardian and not the parent outside of the household (ACE, 2017). Trauma can affect a child’s behavior in ways that may be confusing or distressing for caregivers. Trauma interferes with normal development and can have long-lasting effects. A traumatic event the specifically dealing with children can stem from many aspects; the environment that the child has come from the parents or guardians background, and how the events have affected the child through behavior and actions. It can impact the long-term health and well-being of the child and his or her family members. However, with understanding, care, and proper treatment (when necessary), all members of the family can heal and thrive after a traumatic event like death.
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