In the last blog post, we talked about this idea of resilience in children and why children are seen as resilient. We encourage you to read that post to understand why resilience is seen as a skill that many children have, and why that term is used to describe them.
But today, we wanted to elaborate on a small but important point from that article:
“…what we see as resilience may actually be just growth around adapting to their difficulties. For example, a child with anxiety that experienced a traumatic event may still be affected by the anxiety and the trauma, but has learned to navigate life around those issues.”
Let’s talk about what this means.
Children with Trauma May Not Be “Over” the Trauma – But They Have Learned Life Around It
There’s this common belief that children are resilient because they overcome their trauma, or their anxiety, or their self-esteem issues. We look at our teens and young adults, compare it to the issues they had as children, and feel like they’ve successfully grown out of them.
In a sense, it’s true that children are resilient. One moment they may cry immensely over something, and 5 minutes later they’re laughing like nothing happened. It’s remarkable.
But trying to determine their mental health based on how they act as young adults may be missing the point. While children that have these struggles may overcome them as they learn emotional coping skills, other children may simply learn how to navigate life with them.
- A child with anxiety may grow up to be a teenager that masks their anxiety through humor, or experiences something other than anxiety instead but gets the anxiety itself under control.
- A child who experienced abuse may create less close relationships to avoid risk, but enjoy the relationships they do have in a way that makes them seem fine.
- A child who experienced extensive anger from a parent may be affected by that anger in ways that are not necessarily easy to notice. For example, maybe they have lower self-esteem, but their anger and sadness is under control.
The child may also be learning how to communicate in ways that avoid these topics. For example, a child that is still struggling with their relationships in school may know not to share their feelings with the worried parent. They haven’t solved the issue, but they’ve learned how to communicate around it.
Some of these children are learning to live around the mental health challenges and traumas, not necessarily overcome them. They developed their emotional regulation, communication, and more with the mental health issues present, and so their entire personality can be built around the issues, or the issues may manifest in other ways.
Childhood Trauma and Resilience
Resilience in children does exist. Some children do overcome trauma, without anything more than the help of parents and the coping skills they learn in life. But expecting children to is also a risky choice. Many children learn life around their challenges, rather than overcome them. Some children also forget about their traumas during the fun and excitement of young adulthood, only for it to show up in other ways. If your child is struggling, seeing a therapist can still provide great benefits that help them become who they were meant to be. Contact us today to learn more.