Updated: Jun 29
No matter which side of the fence that you are on, you can’t escape all of the talk of Prince Harry in the news. The twelve year old that we all remember walking behind his mother’s coffin, after her unexpected death from being involved in a car crash. As Prince Harry has been sharing in interviews, Netflix specials, and his book, the death of his mother in his childhood, really had an impact. So many big life events have happened for him too, to getting married and becoming a father, which is when you can think more of the loss and grief, as that family member should have been there for all of those events.
So what is childhood trauma and how can it impact the rest of your life? Whether you are someone who is now grown but experienced trauma as a child, or are the parent of a child who has experienced something traumatic, read on.
A traumatic event from childhood is anything that was frightening, violent or even dangerous, that could have even posed a threat of violence towards you. By witnessing a traumatic event of this level, especially when it involves a loved one, can also be extremely traumatic. Young children get a sense of safety from the people around them. So if they were to witness a traumatic event that happened to one of their attachment figures, it can have lifelong consequences.
Any traumatic event can lead to some strong emotions, as well as physical reactions. These can, of course, be immediate, but they can go on and on through life, long after the actual event. There can be feelings of helplessness, terror, as well as feelings of fear. There can be physical reactions too, from vomiting to uncontrollable bladder, to an extreme feeling of the heart pounding. All of this combined, physical and emotional, can be overwhelming for children.
Normally, loving parents and carers will be doing all they can to keep their children safe. However, circumstances can come up that are shocking and traumatic, from a community event, violence in the home, or the unexpected death of a family member. The latter is an example of Prince Harry, and how the unexpected death of his mother when he was only aged 12, has shaped the rest of his life.
Child Traumatic Stress
Children who suffer from traumatic stress are those who have been exposed to these traumatic events throughout their life, or even just experienced one significant traumatic event. After this, they have experienced reactions that impact their daily life, even long after the event. The responses could be depression, deep upset, anxiety, changes in behaviour, difficulty forming attachments, regression, nightmares, and difficulty sleeping, to name a few. As again, with the example of Prince Harry, older children can use drugs or alcohol, or perhaps behave in risky ways, just as a way to ‘escape’ their usual emotions or to feel different.
These symptoms can come and go throughout their life, but can be triggered when there is another traumatic or stressful event in their life. Ultimately, these reactions can impact daily life, and inhibit a child’s ability to function. Age doesn’t matter when it comes to trauma; it can impact babies and toddlers too, with the stress result varying depending on their development.
Without getting any help or treatment, repeated childhood exposure to traumatic events can ultimately impact the brain, as well as the nervous system. This can lead to an increase in health, as well as risky behaviours. That is why if this is you, and you experienced something traumatic in your childhood, or your child, who you know has witnessed something or experienced something traumatic, then seeking therapy with us at The Wellbeing Therapy Hut, can make a difference in your life. There are strategies that you can use to help you to cope better, and to stop you indulging in any risky behaviours that could ultimately make your life harder as you go on.
Please get in touch with our team if you would like to find out more about childhood trauma and how therapy can help.