Trauma is a word that’s often used but seldom understood in today’s culture. Most of us recognize it as something emotionally disturbing or bad. We may say a friend experienced a traumatic divorce, for instance. Modern science tells us that true trauma is not only far more life-altering and lasting than once thought, but that true healing is possible and comes in surprising ways.
Fostering Hope applies this science “behind the scenes” in our programs, and here we’ve provided resources to help foster a deeper understanding of this complex subject.
The wrong question
It’s not unusual for children who have been abused or neglected to be difficult and unruly, and too often they are inaccurately labeled as “bad kids.” The most common response from teachers, work supervisors or others in their life is, “What’s wrong with that kid?”
Science shows there’s now a different question we should be asking: “What happened to this kid?”
Toxic stress from a chaotic, abusive or neglectful environment changes the way a child’s brain and body develop. It impairs a person’s normal ability to calm down, trust, concentrate, learn or plan ahead.
Imagine encountering a bear on a hiking trail. Would you be able to do a simple math problem in that moment? This fight, flight or freeze response is a constant for these kids, and it only worsens with frequent moves through foster care.
It can eventually lead to loss of self-control and self-direction. This comes with loneliness and alienation. Studies show even poor health and early death become far more likely.
Learn more about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study to discover why seven out of 10 adverse experiences shorten a life by nearly 20 years.
Healing is possible – and probable – with help
Science tells us that healthy relationships and the right environment are key to healing from trauma. The odds of success increase substantially when an environment is:
- Safe and predictable, with structured routines
- Enriched with normal developmental experiences that come with childhood
- Created by calm, attuned, loving adults who connect to the child and help him connect to others.
Most recently, we’re discovering that simple techniques, once limited to professional therapy, can have big impacts.
For example, teaching a work supervisor that sucking applesauce through a straw can calm a teen and help them stay focused on the job, can mean the difference between long-term success and termination.