How to Identify If a Child Has Been Traumatized By an Event

As adults, we are responsible for the welfare of the young ones in our care, our utmost priority lies in ensuring their well-being.

As adults, we are responsible for the welfare of the young ones in our care, our utmost priority lies in ensuring their well-being.

While childhood is often synonymous with happiness, growth and discovery, it is important to acknowledge that children can also encounter distressing occurrences that can negatively impact their psychological and emotional growth. Recognizing these instances allow us to provide the essential assistance and intervention necessary for their healing and flourishing.


Anxiety is among the primary emotions that can indicate the possibility of a child having experienced trauma due to an event. While it is natural for children to encounter anxiety in certain circumstances, an excess or persistent anxiety that surpasses what is typically expected for their age and stage of development may raise concerns.

Traumatized children might demonstrate heightened anxiousness, show a tendency to become easily startled or frightened, and exhibit an intense fear specifically triggered by elements associated with the traumatic incident. For instance, a child who has gone through a car accident might display an extreme fear of or avoidance towards cars or driving. It is crucial to carefully observe and evaluate the intensity and duration of a child’s anxiety response. It can yield valuable insights into their emotional state and potential traumatic experiences.

Regular Crying or Tearfulness

Another significant indication to consider when attempting to identify whether a child has experienced trauma due to an event is the consistent presence of teary-eyed behavior or a propensity to cry. If you observe that a child frequently exhibits unexplained instances of sadness, tearfulness, or excessive crying, it may serve as an indication of unresolved trauma.

Traumatic encounters can leave profound emotional imprints, causing the child to feel overwhelmed by their emotions and encounter challenges in effectively managing them. They might shed tears without apparent cause or undergo intense emotional outbursts that prove challenging to console. Comprehending and demonstrating empathy towards their emotional difficulties can enable you to establish a secure and supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions and commencing the healing journey.

Regressive Behavior

When a child experiences regression, they exhibit behaviors that align with an earlier phase of their development. For instance, a child who had previously mastered toilet training may start having accidents, or a child who had been self-reliant in dressing themselves might suddenly require constant assistance.

This regression is often a coping mechanism employed by the child to navigate the overwhelming emotions and stress linked to trauma. Through regressing, they seek solace and a sense of security reminiscent of earlier stages when they felt more protected and cared for. It is vital to approach regressive behaviors with empathy and patience, offering reassurance and a nurturing environment that enables the child to regain a sense of stability and gradually resume their regular developmental trajectory.

Expressing Concern About Their Safety

It is usual for children who have experienced trauma to show increased worry for their own safety. They may pose frequent inquiries about personal safety or the well-being of their loved ones, seeking reassurance and affirmation of their protection. This heightened focus on safety can manifest as persistent worries, anxious thoughts, or an incessant need for reassurance from their caregivers.

The traumatic incident might have shattered their perception of security, leaving them feeling vulnerable and unsure about their overall welfare. Addressing these concerns openly and honestly is of utmost importance, providing explanations and reassurances that are appropriate for their age and understanding. By doing this, we can help them feel safe again and gain faith in the people and things around them again. Establishing a secure and nurturing environment is vital for the child’s healing journey and the reconstruction of their sense of security.

Reenacting Trauma Subconsciously

Children who have undergone trauma may unconsciously recreate the traumatic incident through activities like play, drawings, or repetitive actions. It serves as a way for them to process and comprehend their experiences. This is especially the case when they lack the verbal ability to express their emotions directly. It’s crucial to recognize that these reenactments may bother the child and might even exacerbate their trauma symptoms.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has proven highly effective in aiding children’s recovery from trauma, including reenactment behaviors. EMDR therapy facilitates the child’s processing of traumatic memories by employing techniques such as bilateral stimulation, which involves eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones. These bilateral stimulations assist the brain’s innate healing processes, allowing the child to gradually integrate the traumatic experiences within a safe and controlled environment.

During these therapy sessions, the child is guided to recall the traumatic event while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation. This process helps to diminish the distress associated with the memory and reframe the child’s beliefs surrounding the traumatic incident. By addressing the underlying emotions and thoughts connected to the trauma, EMDR therapy supports the child in diminishing reenactment behaviors and developing healthier coping strategies.

Self Harm

One concerning indication that a child may have undergone trauma due to an event is the engagement in self-destructive behaviors. Self-harm can manifest in various ways, encompassing actions like cutting, burning, scratching, or hitting oneself. These behaviors often serve as coping mechanisms employed to navigate overwhelming emotional anguish or to regain a semblance of control when feeling helpless. Traumatic experiences can instigate profound internal turmoil and confusion. The child may resort to self-destructive behaviors as a means to cope with their distress.

It is essential to act quickly if you notice any indications that a youngster may be self-harming. Approach the situation with empathy and seek immediate assistance from a mental health professional who possesses expertise in trauma-related matters. Therapeutic interventions can prove instrumental in addressing the underlying trauma and imparting healthier coping mechanisms.


Accurately identifying whether a child has experienced trauma stemming from an event necessitates careful observation and comprehension of their behaviors and emotions. By discerning the indications highlighted in this piece, we can intervene and extend the crucial support required for their healing process. Seeking assistance from qualified therapists proficient in trauma-related matters and employing evidence-based interventions or cognitive-behavioral therapy can significantly contribute to helping the child navigate and overcome their traumatic experiences. Establishing a secure and nurturing environment that cultivates open communication, empathy, and unwavering support plays a pivotal role in facilitating their recovery.