How Trauma Affects Kids in School and How to Recognize the Signs

Many of us think of trauma as a result of an isolated, violent, scary, or upsetting event that we keep on reliving in our heads and can’t quite get over without professional help. However, people can experience trauma without even realizing it, through ongoing exposure to abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and much more. Kids and young teens who grow up in a traumatic environment or are exposed to trauma in their community develop behavioral problems, making it difficult for them to connect and socialize with their peers. Moreover, a child’s education can also be severely impacted by the effects of trauma, dampening their ability to learn and properly engage in schoolwork.

Chronic trauma can severely alter a person’s brain functions and behavior, and if left untreated, it can be passed on to other people through the same type of behavior and abuse that caused the damage in the first place. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), roughly 50% of U.S. children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood traumas growing up. These stats are alarming because the chances of passing on trauma to future generations are very high. Children with developmental or intellectual disabilities, children who come from military families, as well as LGBTQ children have a greater risk of being exposed to trauma. Substance abuse, economic stress, or even homelessness can also cause chronic or complex trauma, and even PTSD.

How to spot children suffering from trauma

Spotting trauma in kids and teenagers can sometimes be tricky, as children can hide their personal problems and sufferings pretty well. Parents and teachers can have a difficult time recognizing victims of trauma, but here at Da Vinci Collaborative, we decided to share some insight on this subject. In this article, we’re exploring how trauma affects children in school, and how to quickly identify signs in students.

It’s highly important to know that the effects of trauma go deeper than just behavior. Trauma can affect a child’s cognitive abilities, impair their focus, damage their memory function, and more. Moreover, as children cannot regulate their emotions properly at a young age, traumatic experiences might often make them angry, moody, and cause them to act out in different ways. Schools often punish children who behave this way, by sending them to detention or even expelling them, making the situation even worse for children.

The top 15 signs of trauma in children

There are countless ways trauma can manifest in children. Depending on how deeply rooted the problem is, symptoms and signs of trauma can vary. Below you can find several potential signs of trauma in children:

  1. Fight and flight states
  2. Fearfulness
  3. Violent behavior
  4. Anxiety
  5. Sadness
  6. Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  7. Irritability
  8. Lack of focus
  9. Memory issues
  10. Poor emotional regulation
  11. A lack of relationships
  12. Isolation
  13. Depression
  14. Poor academic performance
  15. Trust issues

Keep in mind that one or more signs can be present in a child suffering from trauma, and seeking professional help is advised in serious cases.

Why creating a trauma-informed environment in school is key

Punishment is a very counter-intuitive way to handle “bad” behavior, and can often worsen the situation. When teachers recognize these outbursts, instead of punishing children, they should make an effort to try to talk to them, make them feel heard and seen, and come to a resolution without isolating the child. Children often act out because of the lack of attention they receive at home or school, and the only way they’re acknowledged is when they behave badly.

A first step in helping children suffering from trauma is creating trauma-informed schools and educating both teachers and students on its effects. By having a solid understanding of the matter, teachers can tailor their courses to better fit their student’s needs. This can lead to overall better student-teacher relationships. Plus, once students understand the effects of trauma, they can also empathize more with each other, which in turn will improve their relationships with their fellow peers and friends.

Do you think your child or student is suffering from trauma? We can help

At Da Vinci Collaborative, we offer mental health support for children going through rough times, and our services also include private tutoring sessions to help students progress more fluidly in school. If you’re curious about our services, we encourage you to reach out and we can answer any question you have.

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