Resilient Lehigh Valley and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley are committed to raising awareness of trauma and its effects on our community. This, however, might leave you with the question: What is trauma? For our mission to come to life, we must establish a common understanding of trauma, how many people it affects, and how it manifests in our community. 

What is trauma?

Trauma is the result of an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that an individual sees as physically or emotionally harmful or even life-threatening. The event(s) leave lasting negative effects on the individual’s mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. 

What are ACES?

The acronym stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Traumatic events that occur between the ages of 0 and 17 can have lasting negative impacts throughout an individual’s adult life. Some ACES might include violence, abuse, neglect, or growing up in a household with substance abuse.

How can you recognize that a child might be experiencing trauma?

The signs of trauma vary depending on a child’s age, and there are behaviors that, when appearing consistently, might tell you that a child has experienced a traumatic event. Symptoms might not appear for days, months, or even years. However,  it’s still good to know the signs for when they appear. Below are a few examples, and you can view the complete list here

  • Preschool children:
    • Fear of being separated from parent 
    • Crying, whimpering, screaming
    • Regressed behaviors (thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of darkness, etc.)
  • Elementary school children
    • Inability to pay attention 
    • Nightmares/sleep problems
    • School refusal 
  • Middle and high school children 
    • Depression 
    • Substance abuse
    • Withdrawal/social isolation

How many people have trauma?

About two-thirds of American adults have been impacted by childhood trauma. 64% of American adults say they have experienced one ACE before age 18, and roughly 1-in-6 report experiencing more than four. 

How does childhood trauma affect adults?

Those who experience ACES are more likely to have adverse effects on their education and career potential. Additionally, they are at an increased risk of injury, STIs, substance abuse, homelessness, and behavioral health disorders. At Resilient LV, we believe that the right approach to care can lessen these impacts and help adults lead healthy lives despite their trauma. 

How can children be protected from ACEs?

While there are multiple ways a child can be protected from ACEs, a great place to start is with PCEs: positive childhood experiences. PCEs stem from safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments in and outside the home. Whether at home, school, or a friend’s house, children feeling cared for and protected has immense positive effects. This can certainly protect them from trauma. Focusing on creating PCEs is a proactive way for parents and caretakers to lessen the effects of trauma later in a child’s life. 

Starting the conversation around trauma and its effects is an important step in reducing its impacts on individuals, families, and our greater community. This blog only scratches the surface of the vast research and knowledge of trauma, but Resilient LV is committed to making future discussions more common and comprehensive.  For more information and to start your journey, visit here. 

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