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Children who suffer from child traumatic stress have developed reactions to trauma that linger and affect their daily lives long after the traumatic event has ended. (Source: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.)

Trauma is an emotional wound resulting from a shocking event or multiple and repeated life threatening and/or extremely frightening experience(s).  It may cause lasting negative effects on a person, disrupting the path of healthy physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual development.

There are numerous kinds of traumas, such as automobile accidents, intense and ongoing emotional upset, medical procedures, unexpected death just to name a few.Not every child experiences difficulties after a trauma.  All children are different and many are able to adapt to and overcome difficult situations. However, one out of every four children will experience a traumatic event before the age of 16 and some of these will develop trauma.

How parents, caregivers and the community respond to the trauma will also impact the recovery of the child.  The trauma can interfere with healthy development and lead to long-term difficulties with school, relationships, etc. if not treated.  The trauma can continue to be a priority in the child’s thoughts long after the trauma is over.  Even very young children can be affected.

The diagnosis of Trauma usually is based on three elements:

  1. The repeated reliving of memories of the traumatic event
  2. The avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event
  3. A pattern of increased distress (hyper-arousal)

Some Effects of Trauma


  • Eating distur-bances
  • Sleep distur-bances
  • Low energy
  • Chronic pain

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive and obsessive behaviour
  • Anger
  • Difficulty in relationships

  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Suicide attempts



  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Self-hatred
  • Turning away from faith or obsessively attending services


Early intervention for the child and family are critical to deal with trauma.  Therapy can greatly improve the situation for both parents and child.  Look for a therapist that is trauma-informed.

There are varying degrees of Trauma – from the milder end of the spectrum to COMPLEX Trauma which is a history of severe, long term trauma that may include caregivers that were inconsistent and unresponsive.  We will not examine this issue in this guide but there are numerous websites if you wish to explore this domain further.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Child Traumatic Stress are different.  PTSD has many similarities to trauma but includes an anxiety disorder and can be severely disabling.


Useful resources/links for TRAUMA:
Child Trauma Academy -
Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN)
kidsLINK (a program of Carizon) -   or via Front Door – 519-749-2932
Klinic Community Health Centre –
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network -
The Association of Chief Psychologists with Ontario School Boards -
Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute –