“Childhood traumas of various sorts can cause kindergartners to struggle in class as well as life, new research contends.
A study of more than 1,000 urban children showed those with difficult experiences up until age 5 had math and reading difficulties and difficulty focusing in kindergarten, and were also more likely to have social problems and to be aggressive toward others.”
The referenced report was shared with me by my good friend, Byron, who is also a child advocate. His work with Sharecare is often a great resource in my own research and is an excellent reference for parents, teachers, and mentors.
Too many children are caught in the middle in early life when there is violence in the home caused by the symptoms connected with family circumstances of post-trauma stress; including, alcohol, drugs, crime, domestic violence, and poverty, lack of education, developmentally delayed parents, and overall chaos in the home or neighborhood. Some homes are just plain scary, causing kids to retreat and become silent at home and school. These are the kids we need to help the most before they reach age 6 or 7, when at that time the challenge of changing brain development becomes a longer term retrofit process and treatment regimen.
Please take a closer look at the referenced Sharecare News article. Think about the children in your life who are just starting school for the first time. Pre-school and kindergarten can be an opportunity to help kids who have experienced traumatic events at a young age, if we know what to look for. As trauma informed adults we can make a big difference in helping youngsters get a positive kick-start on the first day of school.
Two or more of the following symptoms can emerge in young children who experience traumatic and toxic circumstances.
irritable, angry, or aggressive behavior, including extreme temper tantrums
exaggerated startle response
problems with concentration
difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
I’m asked often why I worry about babies and younger children the most when thinking, talking and writing about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and the toxic circumstances that often go with a family who suffers from PTS. These are typically families with parents who served in hard combat as warriors and come home with the nagging symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger that affects the entire family, especially kids. I have taken the opportunity in this blog post to help answer this most important question with the goal to educate parents, teachers, mentors, and loved ones to be particularly sensitive to young children age 6 and under. These are the little ones impacted the most. This is the time of a child’s life when parents, teachers and loved ones who care for children can make a big difference in mitigating the potential long term emotional damage caused by PTS.
I started an exercise on a blank piece of paper keeping in mind the question, “why I worry about kids in toxic circumstances.” I took a break after writing down about 35 “trigger” words that came to me from my own life experience. These are words that needed to be transformed from fear to constructive healing over the years…redefining myself in a more positive context. Then, I found the above link connected to trauma affected children age 6 and under. These are the little ones I worry about the most…they are completely at the mercy of the grown ups in a toxic world that is often not even remembered…I have significant memory loss from my childhood, but the feelings of fear of this time remain with me. I do have vague but painful memories of kindergarten and 1st grade. My memory then fades until around age 10. Most all the “trigger” words can be organized and connected to the narrative in this link. The bottom line in my journey of healing that pushes me forward with joy each day is forgiveness of self and others.
I worry the most about the babies, toddlers, preschoolers and K-1 kids who are damaged emotionally and must then face the real world for the first time with limited socialization. They are scared, very scared of themselves, others, and everything else they encounter. Kids like this (me during my early childhood) are on alert for danger and behave defensively. They are isolated, emotional, and often act out. The ability to focus and concentrate is difficult at best. There is little or no trust in adults. While other typical kids are laughing and playing and learning, trauma affected kids shy away and hide, minds wondering without self regulation or a positive structure… These kids most often feel detached and out of place with peers.
The “trigger” words caused me to drift back in time and remember how it felt as a kid…So I now worry about children in this way, especially if it is clear they are troubled little souls. I ask not what is wrong with these children, I ask what happened to them? There is much sadness in my heart when thinking of children who must endure and survive a toxic home culture.
My goal as a trauma survivor who has done significant research and writing on the topic of PTS, is to produce a trauma informed work book to serve as a lay persons reference guide for parents, teachers, and mentors. The process of developing a work book is at the beginning stage. I anticipate a hardcopy publication to be completed by the end of 1st quarter 2016. We adults must become trauma informed to be better equipped to help young children who have suffered from traumatic experiences. Our children represent the best hope for the future. It is during the younger years of a child when we have the best chance to mitigate the longer term emotional damage caused by exposure to traumatic circumstances.
“CAHOOTS was formed in 1989 as a collaborative project of White Bird Clinic and the city of Eugene public safety system to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations, specifically the homeless and those suffering from addiction or severe and persistent mental illness. Each team consists of a certified medic and a trained mental health crisis worker.”
I was honored to represent the City of Depoe Bay at the 90th Annual League of Oregon Cities Conference in Bend, Oregon. This was one of the most robust learning opportunities for me since being elected City Councilor, Depoe Bay, Oregon. The focus of the conference was to show elected and non-elected officials from city government how to use resources effectively to build a 21st Century sustainable community. I write about the entire conference in in separate report in a pdf format with rich hyperlink references, which can be requested from www.cityofdepoebay.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much of the discussion during the Mental Health concurrent session referenced in this link, was about the need for “Trauma Informed Care” and different levels of response so that we are NOT sending citizens with mental health challenges directly to jail, and potentially making matters much worse. We are learning that there are essentially three levels of care evolving, and these include: 1. Education and Mental Health 1st Aid. 2. The “Cahoots” model in Eugene, Oregon, to help address the needs of marginalized and alienated populations. 3. Finally, the 911 Public Safety Emergency response, where it is apparent that lives are in danger. The three levels work collaboratively and successfully in many communities right now.
“In my experience, plus the 30 years my colleagues have worked in public schools, we have learned that student misbehavior and “acting out” are often indicators of trauma. Poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental drug use, incarceration, or mental illness are just some of the issues that contribute to traumatic experiences that have a profound impact on a child’s developing brain and body. Through our team’s professional experiences, and research supports our findings, we have found that children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, such as witnessing or being the victims of violence. They also struggle with pernicious daily stressors, including food or housing insecurity, living in overcrowded households with overworked or underemployed, and stressed-out parents.”
From my own experience as a trauma survivor, non-fiction author and blogger related to post trauma recovery, it is the early life of children during the years up to age 6, when we can have the most impact in helping the fabric of our society heal and mitigate the painful symptoms and damage of the effects of severe trauma, including life long mental health implications. But we must stop the stigma of mental health…“Mental Health and Stigma” by Graham C. L. Davey, PhD. The consequences of long term stigma and lack of awareness in our culture is life threatening and terribly dangerous as we have observed too many times over the years, including last week in Roseburg, Oregon when 9 innocent students and educators were killed at Umpqua Community College. Many others sustained severe injuries, and will no doubt suffer from post traumatic stress and need extended treatment to recover.
As a society we continue to be at risk at 1000’s of soft targets, including schools, movie theaters, open spaces, and in toxic homes, where mentally challenged and potentially dangerous citizens will hurt or kill innocent people. We can change this pattern going forward and some progress is apparent; but we must be more vigilant, compassionate, and empathetic as a society. We must talk about mental health in our schools, institutions of learning, and public places. We must be aggressive in teaching others mental health 1st aid, and trauma informed care. If we don’t become more serious and have the will to mitigate and treat the symptoms of mental health behaviors early, we stand by and wait for the next mass shooting or tragedy. Mental Health: “Can’t we do better?” I know we can!
Crittenton Children’s Center has excelled for more than a century at effectively treating themental and behavioral health care needsof children, adolescents, and their families. Our facility offers achild and adolescent psychiatric hospital, foster care and adoption case management, intensive in-home services, school-based intervention, and more.
Crittenton Children’s Center:
Provides more actively practicing board-certified psychiatriststhan any other similar facility in the region
Uses multiple evidence-based therapy interventionsto ensure the best outcomes for patients
Islicensed as a psychiatric hospitalby the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Is licensed as aChild Placing Agency and Residential Child Care Agencyby the Missouri Department of Social Services-Children’s Division
Trauma Smartprogram is ahighly successful early childhood trauma intervention programdesigned to help heal children 3-5 years of age
My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, will be released on Friday August 14, 2015. The non-fiction narrative represents 4 years of outreach and research captured in my blog, Children and Families in Life after Trauma. Selected topics are organized in 8 chapters focused on trauma affected family circumstances and positive outcomes.
This 3rdbook release isabout my personaljourney of healing. I write as a survivor of childhood and early adult traumagrowing up in a toxic military familytorn apart by WWII and Korean War. My blog, Children and Families in Life after Traumaprovides rich content for this e-book. The narrativecarriesthe reader ona story of inspiration, passion, and discovery of the roots oftrauma-affectedchildren andprovidesstrategies for parents, teachers, and loved onesto help mitigate the suffering.