May 2024 Newsletter – Impact of Trauma on Children: Recognizing the Signs of Trauma and Traumatic Stress in Children

Recognizing the Signs of Trauma and Traumatic Stress in Children

A great number of young children experience one or more traumatic events and associated Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These experiences can have a lasting effect on the well-being of children. Studies have found that the greater the number of ACEs a child is exposed to, the greater the chances they will have physical and mental health conditions throughout their life.

Traumatic events can cause reactions that impact their daily lives. These reactions are known as Child Traumatic Stress. These stress symptoms may develop as the child attempts to manage negative emotions that emerge in response to memories of the event. The symptoms may be seen immediately or show up later. They may also continue for days, weeks, or months after the traumatic experience and may resurface at different periods throughout a young child’s life. Some children may be more susceptible to developing traumatic stress reactions than others.

What are some signs and symptoms that we should be able to recognize as a possible result of Child Traumatic Stress? The signs and symptoms of traumatic stress look different in each child and at different ages, making it difficult to recognize. Young children may exhibit some of the following stress-related symptoms:

  • Feelings of helplessness and uncertainty
  • Fear of being separated from their caregivers
  • Excessive crying
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Bedwetting or regression in toileting skills
  • Regressions in speech and/or language development
  • Delays in meeting expected developmental milestones
  • New fears
  • Nightmares
  • Recreating the trauma through their play
  • Concerns or questions about death

These symptoms of childhood trauma, difficulties learning, playing, communicating, interacting, and creating relationships are often misunderstood and viewed as intentional acts, or they are diagnosed as disorders not specifically related to trauma.

To fully understand children’s challenging behaviors, a teacher must communicate with families regularly to understand whether the behaviors seen in the classroom might be connected to traumatic experiences. Children who have experienced trauma need loving and nurturing adults who can support them.

Studies have found that a young child’s brain can change and reorganize in response to new experiences. Having healthy and consistent interactions with early childhood educators can greatly influence their brain development and their ability to engage successfully in an early learning environment. As educators, we need to recognize these traumatic stress symptoms and use trauma-informed practices in our classrooms to the benefit of all children.


For the main article Impact of Trauma on Children, CLICK HERE

For the article The Impact of Traumatic Events, CLICK HERE

For the article Helping Children Who Have Experienced Trauma, CLICK HERE

For the article How Do We Meet the Needs of Families Whose Children Have Experienced Trauma?, CLICK HERE