With help, a child can go from trauma to triumph

Posted 4/22/24

As a director of an Early Childhood program, I have to keep my credentials active and up to date.

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With help, a child can go from trauma to triumph


As a director of an Early Childhood program, I have to keep my credentials active and up to date. One of the ways to meet the requirements is writing an article to be published. I decided to write about trauma in young children. As I researched, I found some interesting facts written by The National Child Trauma Stress Network (NCTSN). I also have some personal experience that I will be sharing towards the end of the article.

To begin with, according to NCTSN the most source of trauma come from, children facing or witnessing violence, child abuse and neglect; serious accidental injury; and the treatment of a life threating medical condition. These traumatic stressors affect around 25 percent of children; they are at risk of developing PTSD, depression or anxiety disorder when they are expose to or experience face to face violence. More than 25 percent of children will experience a serious traumatic event by the age of 16, and some will experience multiple and repeated events. Children are most vulnerable because of their age, size, and dependence on adults for day to day living (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2007).

Furthermore, trauma can seriously affect the child’s overall development. To begin with, in infancy it affects the development of the brain and body, causing them to be delayed dramatically. Children who have experienced traumatic stress will struggle with concentration, ability to learn, how they view the world, and their own future. Moreover, there will be changes in their behavior even as, how they relate to family members and their personal interest might change. In the long run, it will affect their future education, school attendance as well as relationships with peers and teachers (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2007).

Although trauma can deeply damage a child, there is hope and children can overcome, as well as triumph over the severe side effects of trauma. Seeing first hand and experiencing how a child has many challenges with emotional damage, it almost seems impossible for them to heal. In 2012, I was asked to take in a four-year-old little girl who was removed from her home due to trauma. I recall her curiosity to discover her surroundings even when it was a random person’s purse. She had everlasting energy that lasted past 11 p.m. and would awake as early as 6 a.m. Furthermore, her ability to break down old and new toys just to see what was inside and how it was constructed. Her innate sensitivity to smells and gestures that caused her to stop in her track and stare into space. Lastly, her boldness and openness to speak with anyone and also receive hugs and physical touch from strangers, but yet lacked the ability to emotionally bond to anyone.

As an educator, I faced many challenges helping her go through the effects of childhood trauma. I had to be consistent by giving her boundaries, which also allowed her to express her interest. She was given the freedom of expressing all her feelings the good and the ugly. Although there were many days of daily crying as well as screaming from frustration, and hurting herself physically. I was there to hold her, reassured her I was there, while helping her through the pain, many times I rocked her until she fell asleep. I wanted her to know she was safe, that her feelings were valid and I was not going to leave her.

To sum up, I witnessed how trauma can bring helplessness to a child’s self-esteem, and emotional growth. Yet, I personally experienced what kindness, patience and consistency can do for a child in distress. I saw how she began to trust, become more open with her thoughts, in addition to her ideas. The crying turned into hugs; the screams turned into laughter and her sadness into true happiness. My life has forever been changed through this process. I was blessed to be chosen to walk with her on this journey to triumph. I have learned the true meaning of providing a safe and warm environment.

Delma Gallegos is the center coordinator of RCMA (Redlands Christian Migrant Association) in LaBelle.