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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Gillis, LMHC

Understanding the Wounded Child

Amy was a new second grade teacher this school year. She had just finished school a semester prior. Her internship went so well as the kids were very welcoming and receptive of her.

Amy had recently been hired at the same school she interned at. During the teacher preplanning week, Amy spent hours preparing her classroom for the first day of school. Amy was provided with an academic report for each student. There were no students that stood out. She was eager for the first day of school.

The first day of school seemed to be going seemingly well, until after lunch time. One of Amy's student seem to begin to demonstrate impulsive behaviors towards the other students. Amy figured there might be an adjustment time for the student. Days and weeks went on the behaviors became exacerbated. This student demonstrated social and emotional changes, in addition to the behavior changes. Amy knew a parent teacher conference was needed.

What Amy discovered during the conference was heart breaking and beyond what she had learned in college. This student had experienced traumatic events at an early age that wounded the child and was causing significant changes in the child's development.

The Developing Child

The development phase of childhood encompasses a period of rapid growth, learning, and maturation. Each of these stages involves a wide range of changes and developments, as children progress from dependency to increased independence and self-regulation. It's important to note that development is not a uniform process, and there can be variations among individual children based on genetics, environment, experiences, and other factors.

Trauma experienced during early childhood can have profound and lasting effects on a child's development across various domains—physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and psychological. This affect can transcend into adulthood.

Making the Connection

In order to understand, support, or even connect with those we teach, mentor, parent, or even our love one's it is important to understand how trauma can/has possible impacted their lives. Here are some ways in which childhood trauma can affect a person and even transcend into adulthood.

Emotional and Psychological

Childhood trauma can lead to a wide range of emotional and psychological effects, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, anger, shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. The experience of trauma during childhood can disrupt normal emotional development, leading to emotional dysregulation and difficulties in managing and expressing emotions in healthy ways.


Childhood trauma can also impact cognitive development. It can affect memory, attention, concentration, and cognitive processing, leading to difficulties in learning, academic performance, and problem-solving skills. Children who have experienced trauma may also have altered beliefs about themselves, others, and the world, leading to negative cognitive schemas and distorted thinking patterns.


Childhood trauma can have physical consequences as well. It can lead to changes in the developing brain and nervous system, resulting in long-term alterations in stress responses, immune function, and other physiological processes. This can increase the risk of various physical health issues, such as chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and other health problems.


Childhood trauma can impact an individual's ability to form and maintain healthy relationships. It can lead to difficulties in trust, intimacy, and social interactions, as well as challenges in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. Childhood trauma can also impact attachment patterns, leading to difficulties in forming secure attachments and trusting relationships with others.


Childhood trauma can influence an individual's behaviors and coping strategies. It can result in maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as avoidance, self-harm, substance abuse, and other unhealthy behaviors. Individuals who have experienced childhood trauma may also exhibit risk-taking behaviors, impulsivity, or other behavioral patterns as a way to cope with the effects of trauma.


Childhood trauma can affect an individual's interpersonal relationships, including relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and others. It can impact communication skills, emotional intimacy, and the ability to establish healthy boundaries in relationships. Childhood trauma can also affect trust, and individuals who have experienced trauma may struggle with forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

Benefits of Trauma-Informed

Understanding the signs and symptoms of childhood trauma can allow you to help those who may be struggling. This allows an individual to respond with compassion, offer appropriate support and resources. Early interventions and supportive relationships can have a positive impact on a child's overall well-being and future success.

It's important to note that the impact of childhood trauma can vary widely from person to person, and not everyone who has experienced childhood trauma will experience the same effects. The severity, duration, and type of trauma, as well as an individual's resilience, coping skills, and support system, can all influence the impact of childhood trauma. Seeking professional help from qualified mental health professionals can be beneficial for individuals who have experienced childhood trauma in order to address and manage the effects of trauma on their well-being.

1 comment

1 Comment

Aug 30, 2023

Thanks for the insight and information.

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