For children younger than two years old, talking about their traumatic experiences is usually impossible. But just because babies and toddlers can’t verbally express themselves doesn’t mean that they’re not affected by traumatic events. Below are some tips about recognizing the symptoms in traumatized child:
- Withdrawn. If you’re normally outgoing toddler is suddenly quiet all the time, it may be a sign that they’re being affected by trauma. The same goes for babies—if your baby stops crying and is nonresponsive to your playfulness, you may have a traumatized child. No matter what their age, babies and toddlers can be affected by domestic violence, war, natural disasters, and abuse even if they don’t understand what they’re experiencing. For example, constantly hearing the loud arguments of their parents could possibly traumatize a toddler or baby.
- Attention seeking. Every family has the outgoing child who can be a little too much to handle, but if your normally outgoing (or shy) toddler suddenly goes to the extreme in seeking attention, you may have a traumatized child on your hands. For example, if your child provokes you by picking fights with siblings or lashing out at adults, this could be a child who is traumatized. On the other hand, a child who is too eager to please you or others may also be showing signs that they’ve experienced trauma.
- Regressive behavior. Any behavior where a child regresses to an earlier development stage may signal that they’re struggling with trauma. For example, if your potty-trained toddler suddenly begins wetting the bed, this may be a sign of trauma. Or, if your baby suddenly stops crawling, it could be because of trauma.
- Emotionally unstable. While the terrible 2s are a reality, if a child displays volatile behavior such as throwing too many tantrums, being aggressive, or constantly crying it may be because they’re dealing with the fallout of trauma. In the case of babies, if they are unusually cranky it may be because of trauma. It’s up to you to determine if your child’s behavior is out of the norm for them.
- Fear. Children with new or unusual fears may be struggling with trauma. For example, a child who suddenly acts afraid around adults or who is easily startled may be on edge because of the trauma they’ve experienced.
- Weight and appetite changes. If you notice rapid and/or large changes in your child’s weight or appetite this could be a sign that they’re struggling to cope with trauma. Other signs of trauma could include a child who steals food, hides food, eats until it hurts or refuses to eat.
- Sleep difficulties and nightmares. If you notice that your child is unable to sleep or has recurring nightmares this could also be a sign of trauma.
To determine if your baby or toddler is suffering from trauma, you need to know the signs and have a good sense of what behavior is the norm for your child.