Childhood Trauma and Resilience

It’s not uncommon for a survivor of childhood trauma to ask of themselves – and sometimes their therapist – what is special about them.  In other words, why me?  Why did I have to experience sexual abuse, witness domestic violence, be raised by a drug-addicted parent, or experience the loss of someone close?  Sometimes the question is also about what made them still be successful later on.  How could I have gone through such trauma and still work, have friends, and develop deep meaningful relationships with others?

What we have known anecdotally and now scientifically is that children who have had an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) are at much greater risk for developing a mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, long-term health difficulties, and other concerns.  But that does not guarantee a life of hardship.  So the question becomes, what helps to develop this resiliency in a child?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published information resulting from one of the largest studies ever that address child maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.  What they found was not only related to what can happen to children throughout the lifespan once impacted by an adverse event but also what helps to mitigate these impacts.  When a child has safe, stable, and nurturing relationships (SSNRs), this can greatly reduce a child’s risk factors later on.  According to the results published by the Journal of Adolescent Health (Merrick, Leeb, & Lee, 2013), the three dimensions of SSNRs “represent significant aspects of the social and physical environments that protect children and promote development”.  Each represents a central and distinct aspect of a child’s relationships and environment.  Further, these relationships are fundamental to the healthy development of a child’s brain.

So what does this mean for us?  Based on what we know, this can help us help others.  Even if we at times feel helpless in making a difference in the life of one child, just the presence of a healthy, safe, stable, and nurturing relationship can mean a world of difference.  You don’t need to be a skilled therapist or have extensive training or education.  If you’re a teacher, caretaker, family member, friend, or neighbor, you can be consistent, open, helpful, comforting, and trustworthy.  Just imagine how your presence and relationship with a child may mean safety and stability for years to come.  Now that’s something worth doing!

If you or someone you know would like increased support regarding ACEs, feel free to call us at 201-488-6678 or visit Specialized Therapy Associates to schedule an intake appointment.