Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Paediatrician, Dr David Tan, helped break down the meaning of childhood trauma.
“The first thing to explain is trauma. Trauma tends to be the effect of events that threaten your wellbeing, your safety and your life. The effects of this event that causes the trauma is experienced with fear, helplessness and horror.”
Dr Tan further explains that there are two types of trauma that children usually encounter.
“There’s type 1 trauma which is one single event such as a car accident. If we think of Ngalu Fānifo, this trauma is a big rough wave…a singular experiential event.
[Whereas] Type 2 trauma is trauma that is repeated. Unfortunately for children, this is the common type of trauma because it often comes from the people in their household and the people they love.”
Dr Tan says the effect of trauma experienced by children manifests itself in a more challenging way, compared to someone older.
“Their brains are growing, they’re starting to understand language and when you add trauma to a young person who is going through all of these developments, it can affect them more deeply than it would for someone who’s older, who has some experiences to draw on to manage the trauma,” he says.
He says for parents looking to approach conversations around childhood trauma, it is important to talk about their feelings rather than the trauma itself.
“When you experience a trauma, it gets put into the action part of your brain. Sometimes that trauma stays in that part of your brain rather than being processed and being put away as a memory.
So, it’s about trying to talk to a child about the feelings they have rather than about the trauma because sometimes when people go through the trauma again, that can be a bad thing.”
Dr Tan refers to what is called the safety chain and says it is important that children are reminded of their various support systems.
“The safety chain is where the child knows that mum and dad love them and will support them; outside of that they have extended family and friends of the family to care for them and support them.”
The Ngalu Fānifo segment will be back on air in February 2022 on 531’s Pacific Days show with Ma’a Brian Sagala. You can listen in on the radio or livestream on the 531 Facebook page here.
Date: Tuesday 11 January 2022