Developmental Trauma can also arise from experiences which are not relational, for example, in babies who have sensitive, dedicated parents but who undergo years of invasive medical procedures and life threatening illness.
When babies and children are faced with parenting that is either ‘too much’ and/or ‘too little’ time and time again; they naturally adapt to this threat to their sense of safety. In other words, they develop a wide range of behaviours and emotional survival strategies which have two simultaneous goals:
- To reduce the likelihood of physical, emotional or sexual harm and
- To bring key adults close enough to give comfort and protection, but not too close that it feels threatening
It is these very survival behaviours (otherwise known as ‘adaptations to danger’) that are often understandably described as ‘symptoms’ or ‘challenging behaviours’, and which leave parents and teachers feeling lost in a push-pull dance with the child. We like to re-frame these challenging behaviours and celebrate them as ways the child learnt to survive life’s lessons – and thank goodness they did!
We invite all adults who are caring for, or working with, complexly traumatised children to shift from an individual perspective (“the problem is in the child and the child needs to change”) to a relational perspective (“the child is relating to me as if the danger is still here, and I need to adapt my behaviours to create extra safety so that the child can over time, learn that she or he is now safe”).
Click here for an image which helps to understand Developmental Trauma in children.
Click here for our comprehensive article on Developmental Trauma.
Take a look at our two animations about how to understand and support children who have suffered early trauma too:
Here – Window of Tolerance
Here – The Repair of Early Trauma, a Bottom Up Approach
You will find a rich range of resources about Developmental Trauma on our resources page.