CJL Blog: Staying Aware

The Insider to Trauma, Substance and Relationships

Mental Health Awareness: Children and Trauma

As a parent living in Chicago, one of my biggest concerns has always been the impact the violence has on the development of our children. In my role as a therapist, this continues to be my concern. Far too often, I meet a child, who has either become numb to the violence around them or unable to manage their emotions due to the violence. Just as often as I sit with that child, I sit across from a parent that has a harder time understanding the reason behind the behaviors. Unfortunately, as adults, we tend to forget the confusion, we felt at their age. Trying to identify who we are in a word that continues to beat into us the way we should be versus who we need to be. No room for uniqueness. Now, add into the pot the impact violence has on their outlook on life.

The objective of this blog is to debunk the myth associated with Mental Health. Let’s begin debunking the idea that children are always able to be resistant to the violence around them.  My not so favorite line from parents is…

What do they have to worry about? They get everything he or she needs.

They have everything to worry about. Just having shelter, food and clothing is not enough when it comes to trauma. A development depends on the mental and emotional support he or she receives from an adult. Just like an adult, a child yearns for someone to just listen to them. Without the emotional support and with the increase of feeling alone in their thoughts and feelings. A child will begin to experience trauma.

Trauma can be defined as an emotionally painful response to direct and/or indirect to events and situations. The impact does not have to be a direct impact. Meaning the child does not have to experience the violence being a witness, or seeing a video can also cause the same response. No one way can describe the feeling a person has when they have experienced trauma. Even the person going through it has a challenging time with describing the feeling and thoughts associated with it.

From what is known about trauma, it alters a person's ability to interact with others appropriately. In some situations, a person (including a child) will come easily angered or they will become extremely withdrawn.  

For mothers and fathers reading this post, take a moment and think back to watching a video of a person being harm. Unfortunately, this is our reality in society today. Far too often, we are witnessing the death of someone’s love one on the internet or television. Do you remember that moment of confusion? That moment you question why this had to happen. The feeling of remorse for the family. As an adult, it can be hard to understand. In this moment, your perception has begun to change. You become more alert about your surroundings. More concern about the person walking behind you.

If these are our thoughts as an adult. Imagine being an 8-year-old child being bombarded with the same images, listening to people talk about the incident, and seeing other forms of violence everywhere. Starting to feel scared, confused, and angry at the same time. You go to your mother or your father to talk, but no one will listen. Leading to believe no one will ever listen. So, you keep everything on the inside only to start acting out. Becoming a “problem child”.  Your trust in adults will slowly disappear.

Here are some common symptoms to look for in children suffering from trauma:

·         Changes in eating and/or sleeping

·         Frequent nightmares

·         Angry Outbursts

·         Behavioral Problems at School

·         Unable to Stay focus/Concentration

·         Physical complaints

·         Verbally and Physically Aggressive

These are some the symptoms to look out forward. The moment you see them in your child. The best way you can help them is to be present for them. The judgmental thinking will need to cease. Thinking a child cannot be indirectly impacted by violence in untrue. They are just learning to communicate their feelings. Most importantly, get them the professional help they will need. As a parent, this does not mean you are a horrible parent because you child needs therapy. Instead, it speaks to your ability to do what is necessary for them.

This video by Dr. Sylvia Gearing. She does a wonderful job with describing the impact trauma has on the development of the child. - Dr. Sylvia Gearing describes how an early childhood trauma could derail your child's future. For more information and tips, please visit and follow @DrGearing on Twitter!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at