I just read an article titled “Trauma-exposed Infants and Toddlers: A Review of Impacts and Evidence-Based Interventions” by Alysse Melville. This article focused on birth to two years old and it caught my attention because very few studies have been done on this age group as it relates to trauma. What follows is a summary of the findings of this review.
Trauma under 2 years of age
Infants and toddlers are exposed to abuse and neglect at disproportional rates compared to other children. Part of the article focused on caregiver–child based interventions that work to repair disrupted attachment patterns, repair impaired regulatory processes, and return the caregiver–child relationship to a healthy developmental path.
Current national estimates suggest that children from birth to age two years old make up over 25% of substantiated cases of child maltreatment and almost 75% of abuse and neglect-related fatalities. The historical assumption has been that very young children are naturally resilient. This however has been challenged by research showing trauma symptoms developing in children as early as three months of age. The purpose of this article is to provide help to social workers and care-givers.
Dr. Perry’s advice
I have previously blogged about the effect of trauma on the nervous system of children, if you would like to read more about this please click on the link at the end. Dr. Perry in his article “Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children”, gives great advice to caregivers concerning how to help very young traumatized children:
- Nurture these children: These children need to be held and rocked and cuddled. Be physical, caring and loving to children with attachment problems.
- Be consistent, predictable and repetitive: Maltreated children with attachment problems are very sensitive to changes in schedule, transitions, surprises, chaotic social situations, and, in general, any new situation.
- Play with these children: One of the most pleasurable things to do is just stop, sit, listen and play with these children. When you are quiet and interactive with them you find that they will begin to show you what is really inside them. Yet as simple as this sounds it is one of the most difficult things for adults to do – to stop, quit worrying about the time or your next task and really relax into the moment with a child.
- Take care of yourself: Caring for maltreated children can be exhausting and demoralizing. You cannot provide the consistent, predictable, enriching and nurturing care these children need if you are depleted. Make sure you get rest and support. Respite care can be crucial. Use friends, family and community resources.
The Center is here to help
These thoughts are easy to read but difficult to consistently implement. The Center’s team is here to help in any way we can. Please reach out if we can be of any assistance.