Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012: It was a Good Year for Trauma

by: Julie Beem

Let’s say Goodbye to 2012…one of the best years for early childhood trauma we’ve seen in a long time.  Yes, I suppose you could see that as a crass, rather heartless prospective.  But parenting traumatized children is an isolating experience.  You feel as if you’re on your own private island of despair with a child who you long to reach, to comfort, to heal – and you’re pretty sure that the rest of the world has no idea what this is like.

Then you look at the top news stories of 2012, and you realize that early childhood trauma hit prime time more often than not this past year.  First it was the Penn State scandal bringing child sexual abuse under the spotlight and tarnishing the career and reputation of one of football’s greats.  Lesson learned:  Ignoring child abuse, suspected or otherwise, is just plain wrong.

Then the weather brought us Hurricane Sandy, devastating both the Caribbean and the East Coast, leaving families homeless and wreaking nearly as much havoc as Katrina did five years ago.  But this time, there were many more places parents could go to get information on how to handle the emotional impact of this storm – how to talk with their children about what was happening and connect to counselors.  Lesson learned:  We have made progress since Katrina, with many more psychological and emotional resources dedicated to helping children deal with the trauma! Yea!

But nothing prepared the nation for the trauma on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut.  And unless you were already a parent of a traumatized child, you probably didn’t think to shut that TV off before your home was filled with those faces of early childhood trauma.   Interestingly, those of us who are trauma mamas (or trauma dads) were not as surprised by this tragedy as we were saddened. We recognized immediately that this was not a random 20-minute tragedy…but one that had been brewing for years.  Many of us immediately related to the shooter’s family, knowing that this was the act of a young man who had been deeply troubled for a while and whose parents, and specifically his mother, may have been the only barrier between his illness and this tragedy happening sooner.  So many of us parenting traumatized and attachment disordered children can identify with the weight of that enormous responsibility.

While the nation is shocked, there are many asking great questions about how this happened, how it can be prevented, and why something wasn’t done earlier.  No one can yet say what lessons will be learned, but those asking questions about mental illness, childhood trauma, and what resources are needed are on the right track.

As we move into 2013, join ATN here.  This blog will include a variety of voices – ATN volunteers and Board members  parents and professionals with the single purpose of increasing awareness and understanding of the impact of early childhood trauma.

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