One of the most sensitive topics explored in psychology and psychiatry is childhood trauma. Childhood in general is studied extensively by developmental psychologists, and for good reason. It forms the basis of an individual’s personality, shapes their attitude and emotions, and affects brain activity in the long run. Childhood trauma has been handled subjectively throughout cultures and generations. It includes direct involvement with a traumatic experience, indirect involvement (hearing of someone else’s trauma as a child), and disasters like war or climatic ones. However, this does not minimize the universal fact that a painful past can effect adult life and that the aftermath of abuse has to be dealt with – and that no child deserves an unhealthy or an unsafe childhood.
Talk About It
Whether you have gone through a traumatic childhood experience or know of a loved one in pain, it’s never too late to speak up. Speaking to a trusted family member or friend will give you strength to acknowledge your pain and avail the support and comfort of those you turn to. Someone will always be aware of how they can shelter you from certain triggers and will always look out for you. This sort of support will make you feel safe.
Speak to a Professional
Whether you decide this on your own or are urged by loved ones, speaking to a professional is key. A psychiatrist will be able assess how those experiences have shaped your mental capabilities; a psychotherapist will be able equip you with coping skills to deal with painful thoughts and strengthen your resistance to triggers; and speaking to a counselor can be very cathartic.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault, visit a physician to assess your sexual health and visit therapists or psychiatrists specializing in Sexual Abuse Therapy.
Whether you are a victim, a loved one of a victim, an adult who has to work with children – or even just a new parent – get educated. Learn about ways you can protect children, and monitor their activities. Educate yourself on how to deal with adults who have gone through childhood trauma and how you can make them feel safe. Understand the effect of abuse on the neural workings of a child’s mind. Studies have shown that childhood trauma creates a larger influx of stress hormones which suppresses the immune system, and dysregulates brain areas of fight-or-flight, attention and learning. Accept that the trauma is a part of the past, and that there is help out there. Accept yourself - or your loved one - for who you are, and be proud of your accomplishments and the resilience you have shown in conquering the pain. Practice positive affirmations to remind yourself to let go. Childhood is a glorious time, and must be treated as such. As a community, and as human beings, we must collectively promote the rights of children and especially their right to a safe, healthy and thriving life.