Gina McTigue and Alyssa Vasquez are Child Advocates at Safe Inc, of Transylvania County which is an organization and shelter for victims of Domestic Violence.
When many of us think of trauma, we think of something very catastrophic happening. While catastrophic events are often traumatic, trauma has different forms and doesn’t always have to be caused by one specific big event. We all identify trauma in different ways due to our beliefs, perceptions, past experiences, values, as well as how we were taught to handle difficult or stressful situations (Resilience). One of the ways we identify traumatic events is by labeling them “Big T” Trauma or “little t” trauma.
“You may not control all events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” – Maya Angelou
“Little t” Trauma
“Little t” trauma are events that cause distress, but aren’t life threatening to oneself. If a person experiences a “little t” trauma, they can usually bounce back; but this is also due to how the person perceives the trauma. Some examples of traumas are divorce, relocation, financial issues, death of a family pet, and bullying. These traumas can often be manageable when they occur separately or at different periods in a person’s life. Having multiple “little t” traumas happen at once can be very detrimental to a person’s mental state if that person hasn’t learned the skills of resilience (which we will speak further about a little later).
“Big T” Trauma
“Big T” Trauma are extremely significant instances in a person’s life that usually leave them feeling out of control. This kind of Trauma is linked to fear of getting hurt or even dying. Some examples of Trauma are assault, car accident, natural disaster, death of a loved one, and illness. Even if a person wasn’t physically harmed in these instances and was just a witness; it could still cause major distress for that individual. With Big T Trauma events, it is generally easy to identify the single major stressor that causes the trauma response.
Help your children be their own superheroes…
Resilience: why does this matter?
Being resilient doesn’t necessarily mean we will always be protected from the negative events that could occur in our life, but it does help us manage how we handle those situations. This is why it is beneficial to teach our children resilience from a young age. When our children- and even us as parents- have the skills of resilience, we are able to manage the distress caused by major life events or every day negative life stressors. The skills that are involved in building resilience have to do with thoughts, actions, and behaviors that are learned in order to handle the stressful situations that may come up throughout our lives.
So how do we help our children build resilience?
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg developed the 7 C’s of resilience that help us understand how we can help our children and ourselves build resilience.
Competence: Help your children to focus on their individual strengths; Empower them to make decisions
Confidence: Focus on the best in each child; Express their qualities clearly, such as kindness, integrity, and persistence; Recognize when they have done well
Connection: Build a sense of physical safety and emotional security in your home; Allow expressions of all emotions; Create a common area where the family can spend time together
Character: Demonstrate how behaviors affect others; Help your child recognize themselves as a caring person, Demonstrate the importance of community
Contribution: Speaking about how not everyone in this world has what they need; Demonstrating generosity; Creating opportunities for each child to contribute in some way
Coping: Modeling positive coping strategies on a daily basis; Guiding your child to develop positive coping strategies
Control: Helping your child understand that life’s events are not purely random and that most things that happen are a result of another person’s choices and actions
So really what does all of this mean?
With the tools of resilience, our children are more likely to be able to work through their trauma and stress, and are better equipped to handle situations that are unexpected, difficult, and even traumatic.
For more information on how to help your children build resilience, use the below resources: