6 Essential Signs of Untreated Emotional Trauma in Children

Children are constantly learning, growing, and developing new skills. They’re also highly aware of their environment and the people in it. Moreover, they can quickly take in a lot of information and process it all in ways that may surprise you. Kids are highly intuitive and often know when something is just not right with the people they love most — parents, family members, friends, etc. And when they feel disconnected or distrusting of someone because of an experience or series of events, it can cause emotional trauma. Below are some signs that your child has experienced emotional trauma from past events. Whether it was a one-time event or a prolonged period of abuse, your actions can have a lasting impact on your life.

1. Regression

When kids are under stress, they often regress to behaviors they had in their younger years. For example, a child may begin sucking their thumb. At times, they may also regress in their language skills, such as not saying words they previously knew or taking a few steps backward in their toilet training. A regression in language skills is not always a sign of your child being “stuck” at a certain developmental stage. Although it could be, more often than not, it is a sign that your kid is stressed or worried about something. A regression in language skills could signify that they need help relaxing and gaining a sense of security again.

2. Trust Issues

If your child has experienced an event that left them feeling betrayed, they may struggle to trust others. This can occur after being betrayed by a loved one, like a parent, or by someone else in their life. Trust issues are very common in kids who have been sexually assaulted. If your kid was sexually abused, they might not be able to trust another adult again, which can be detrimental to their mental health and development. Trust issues can be treated with counseling, but seeking help as soon as possible is vital. Without treatment, trust issues can lead to a feeling of isolation, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

3. Change in Behavior

If your child shows a drastic change in behavior, it could be a sign that they’re dealing with emotional trauma. This behavior change could take the form of regression, sudden withdrawal, extreme aggression or anxious behavior, or even a dramatic change in sleeping patterns. Other changes may include extreme mood swings and anger.

4. Depression and Anxiety

If your child shows depressive or anxious symptoms, it could be a sign that they’re struggling with emotional trauma. This could include a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy, trouble concentrating, or extreme feelings of sadness. Kids who experience sexual abuse or other traumatic events often exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s important to seek help if your child is experiencing these symptoms.

5. Nightmares and Sleep Disturbances

A nightmare is a dream that causes feelings of fear and anxiety. Nightmares are common in children of all ages, but after a distressing event, nightmares become more frequent and can last longer. If your youngster has frequent nightmares or is experiencing sleep disturbances after such an event, it could be a sign that they’re dealing with emotional trauma or anxiety.

6. Becoming Immature or Irresponsible

Another sign of trauma is when your child becomes immature or irresponsible. This is often a sign that they are trying to shield themselves from the world around them. Trauma, especially when it is a child’s first encounter with difficult emotions, can make them feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle the situation. Accordingly, they may try to shield themselves from the world around them by being immature or irresponsible. This could look like acting out in school or making bad decisions. This can also happen when a kid feels like they have lost control of their life and do not know how to regain it.
Untreated emotional trauma can have long-term effects and lead to further traumatic events later in life. If your child is struggling with the aftermath of an event, you might be unsure how to help them process their emotions and move forward. It is important to recognize the signs in your youngster so that they can get the help they need and begin to heal.



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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