Post-Traumatic Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… quote from Anxiety and Depression Association of America… Click highlighted link for more on this topic…
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.
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story & My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books…