Are childhood traumas affecting your relationships in adulthood? Uncover the answers with our March Childhood Trauma series. With insightful and thoughtful discussions about this kind of trauma, you will gain an understanding of how childhood experiences shape our adult lives.
“Childhood trauma comes back as a reaction, a symptom, or a core belief.”DR. Nicole LePera
We will start by acknowledging that every child has a set of core emotional needs to thrive. These core needs include feeling safe, secure, and loved; feeling accepted and respected; having a sense of belonging; and expressing their emotions. When these needs are not met or denied by caregivers, it may lead to childhood trauma which can have long-term effects on a child’s development.
Thus, childhood trauma is a form of psychological distress caused by any type of abuse or neglect experienced during childhood between the ages of 0 and 18. It can have implications such as poor academic performance, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It also alters the way a child relates with their caregivers and other people. For instance, when a child is used to being physically beaten each time they ask their caregivers questions, it may lead to an adult who is afraid of expressing themselves in relationships.
Child abuse and neglect are serious problems in our society, with five main subtypes of abuse that can devastate children. Here is a definition of each:
- Physical abuse involves physical harm or injury, such as hitting, kicking, or burning.
- Emotional maltreatment is the infliction of mental anguish through verbal or nonverbal acts, such as belittling or terrorizing a child.
- Neglect is the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care for the child’s needs.
- Sexual abuse includes any sexual act with a minor or any act that results in the exploitation of a minor.
- Lastly, witnessing family violence can include exposure to physical violence between parents or other family members.
It is common for adults who survived childhood trauma to struggle with forming and maintaining healthy adult relationships. For example, those who have experienced physical or emotional abuse as children may struggle to develop trusting relationships with others, leading to difficulty in establishing intimate connections and maintaining healthy boundaries. Additionally, they may find themselves engaging in behaviors that are detrimental to their romantic relationships such as avoiding intimacy, withdrawing from social situations, or becoming overly dependent on their partner.
Trauma experienced in childhood can also lead to unhealthy relationship dynamics. It can lead to an inability to connect with others and create distance in all forms of relationships including romantic relationships, friendships, and professional relationships. Such difficulties can be challenging to overcome without the proper support and healthy coping mechanism. However, you can get professional help and support.
Healing from this kind of trauma is a complex but necessary process. One of the evidence-based healing paths is Cognitive Processing Trauma Therapy (CPT). It is a specialized type of trauma healing process that helps adult survivors to recontextualize and understand how their experiences impacted them. The other one is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). This is a type of therapy that solely focuses on dealing with the impact of childhood by helping people change destructive patterns into positive solutions.
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