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Adverse Childhood Experience: The long-term impact on children who do not heal.

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The Brain is the only organ that is not fully developed at birth, as a child begins to grow different stages of their development are attached to different parts and functions of the brain. The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences is dependent on the stage of development at which the trauma occurs which will help to determine the way children shut down or hide their pain.

For example, if a child experiences trauma at a stage in which they are developing speech, they may become retracted and have difficulty expressing how they feel when they become older.

As parents, sometimes it is out of our hands and control when something traumatic happens to our children. But, if identified early, healing the trauma can help in moving forward and be a teaching moment for regulating and processing feelings. However, when you have a child that carries trauma and you have not healed your own traumas and pain it may have a stronger traumatic impact for that child making it harder for them to heal from it. The result of not healing adverse childhood experiences may later be a factor in mental health problems.

Many kids who carry trauma are labeled as difficult and impossible to deal with.

“the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways” – Russell Barkley

The truth is, the child is only trying to understand his or her own emotions and trying to process it all. But many times parents, family members, or closed ones get triggered by the behavior of that child.

They Take It Personal

When you aren’t grounded and haven’t healed your own traumas, you may feel attacked and perhaps that the child is behaving this way to get back at you, to hurt you, or that they just don’t love you. You take it personally because it gives you a reminder of your own pain.

When we take things personally, we automatically go into a victim mode state, in which we become defensive and ready to respond with negative or punishing behavior to protect ourselves. This only causes more harm to both. The child feels unloved, not understood, and guilty; while the parent feels unloved, frustrated, angry and hurt.

Inability to see the child’s pain

Many children who have experienced trauma already feel as if no one understands their pain, they feel alone, and they feel helpless. Honoring that child’s existence and being is very important especially honoring their pain and what they are feeling.

I hear from many clients, and honestly, I heard it myself as a child, of caregivers or closed ones who say “I too went through this and I turned out just fine”. Several things happen when we approach someone else’s trauma with this statement.

  1. We give no validation to their pain and dismiss it
  2. We establish the belief that going through that trauma is “normal” and “ok”
  3. Teaching our child to suppress their pain
  4. Giving them feelings of unworthy and not being good/important enough

It is true that the experiences we encounter make us stronger, wiser, and build resistance, but not because we ignore them, suppress them, or give them no validation. There is a process, the pain must be healed so we can understand the lesson, the feelings must be identified so we can give our experience meaning, and forgiveness must occur so we can move forward and let go.

Giving Up Easily

When our own pain is triggered, and we are not ready to heal it, we step away from what is causing it to come afloat.

Many times people will put the responsibility on the child and say “they are difficult”,” “they don’t care”, “they don’t want to be helped“, “They are taking it out on me”.

Because we don’t want to see our own pain, we want the problem to go away as quickly as possible. And end up giving up on the child because it threatens our own emotional imbalance.

Giving up on a child is even worse, it brings in feelings of not being loved. When a child goes through a traumatic event, they need their space to be held, they need to feel loved- even if they show you rejection towards it, they need to build trust again.


Trauma is different for everyone. What may be traumatic for one child may not be for another. We must not judge or determine the level of someone’s trauma based on our own biased experiences. No one can know 100 percent how someone else feels about their internal pain, and to say that you do shuts down the process of exploring and allowing those feelings to come through.

There are many children today who are shy, quiet, and people pleasers. They are a result of not expressing, honoring and acknowledging their own emotions. Carrying pain that goes unnoticed and unresolved.

We must get to know our children for who they are, not for who we want them to be. It all begins by healing our own wounds, by honoring our own pain and clearing our own blurred vision towards seeing things for what they are and not for what we think they might be.

What are some of the things you find difficult with children who have gone through adverse childhood experiences? leave a comment below.

Photo credit to Pixabay

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