What is trauma for a child?

Child trauma is typically caused by an emotionally distressing and painful event, sometimes resulting in long-term physical and psychological effects. For a child, traumatic experiences can be scary, violent, or dangerous events that threaten to (or do) cause them or a loved one physical and mental harm or death.

Events like car accidents, domestic violence, and sexual abuse have the potential to cause lasting trauma that may require therapy and medication to correct. A child may experience both emotional and bodily symptoms in response to trauma, including vomiting, loss of bladder control, and feelings of fear and defenselessness.

Traumatic events may cause emotional and physical reactions that can remain long after the event has passed, and can contribute to the development of mental disorders like anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

Not all distressing events cause trauma, however, and some children are less or more affected by certain events than others.

Parent quiz: Child mental health checklist

This 3-minute, online quiz can be used if you think your child is having emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties.

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