What is considered trauma?
Ada, a 15-year-old, was withdrawn and often ill. She eventually shared with her teacher her horrendous story of how she had been sexually abused several times by her uncle.
Jose became violent with other children after the gangs invaded his town. He did not trust others and had a hard time building friendships.
Nine-year-old Mary struggled to learn. She was often told she was lazy and stupid. At home, Mary struggled to care for her three younger siblings, often giving them her portion of food so they would not cry with hunger.
In all three of these examples, the children have suffered trauma. Some trauma is obvious such as sexual abuse. Other is a result of difficulties in the home or community. Trauma affects children deeply because their brains are still forming. Trauma can be one time or ongoing. It can come from things such as missing a parent, abuse, or violence inside or outside the home.
How trauma affects a child:
- He seeks instant rewards and has difficulty with long-term planning
- She has difficulty learning
- He lacks trust and has difficulty building relationships
- She may act aggressively or hurts others or herself
- He may strongly resist whatever is seen as a threat
- She is more prone to health issues
- He may have difficulty sleeping
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3, NIV
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.
Psalm 107:19, NIV
The Bible is clear, the Lord heals physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What can we do to help these children heal?
When a child experiences trauma, her brain is changed, and she responds with fight, flight, or freeze responses. Trauma affects a child’s brain, body, and relationships. Trauma is stored forever in the brain, but it can be healed by overwriting it with new positive experiences, emotions, and gratitude.
How to help a child who has experienced trauma:
- Pray for the Lord to heal the child
- Try to build connection through encouragement and empathy
- Create an environment of physical and emotional safety
- Teach the child to name big emotions like fear to begin to overcome or disarm them
- Encourage physical activity as a healthy way to release strong emotions
- Establish routines to help build safety for the child
- Communicate often that she is valuable and loved
- Use creative activities like art and music to express emotions and memories
- Spend time expressing gratitude each day for big and little things
- Seek professional help for the child if available
Helping a child heal from trauma is challenging, but the reward is great! When they do overcome their difficult past, these children have a new perspective and greater empathy for others which, in the end, brings them closer to Jesus.