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Thoughtful Parenting: Children and trauma

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No parent wants to believe his or her child has endured a traumatic experience. Children are generally protected in their day-to-day lives. Traumatic events are defined as any events that are outside a person’s normal, expectable life experiences and that are perceived as a threat to a person’s physical and psychological safety and even life.

Physical abuse, neglect, exposure to parental substance addiction, witnessing domestic violence, abduction and sexual abuse are experienced by children as traumatic events. Add to that list everyday, seemingly ordinary, events, such as seeing a friend hurt; being in an automobile crash; being bullied or watching another child be bullied; learning of the death of a friend, family member or beloved pet; being ignored or dismissed repeatedly when asking for help; being left alone; living in a divorce war zone; and having to spend time with a person perceived by the child as being untrustworthy or dangerous.

No parent deliberately exposes his or her children to any of the above traumatic events. Many of us do not consider the way we were raised by our parents to be abusive, much less traumatic. When we were children, some of us were spanked “for our own good.” As parents, we believe, perhaps unconsciously, that naughty children deserve to be spanked to teach them a lesson. However, when a child’s sense of self and psychological safety is threatened by parental deliberate or unintentional acts, those are encoded in the child’s brain as traumatic. Other writers in this column have pointed out there are many ways to teach children acceptable behavior without resorting to physical harm.


1 in 5 New York Kids Are Sexually Abused. Help Prevent That

The CDC reports that 1 in 5 children are sexually abused.

9 out of 10 of the perpetrators are never brought to justice and never appear on sex offender registries.

They are protected by New York State laws.

Sign this petition and change that. Protect NY Kids.

Sign Petition Now

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