Can young children actively engage in healing trauma while their brains are prioritizing growth and development? I have wrestled with this question for many years.
I recently had the opportunity to spend 3 days training early childhood program staff. This experience re-kindled my deep interest in this topic.
From a neuroplastic perspective infants and preschool brains are very nimble and malleable, which means they have great capacity to heal traumatic memories.
From a brain development perspective infants and preschoolers have a built-in auto generating “survival” and “growth” hardwired program. This means their brain’s have the tendency to compartmentalize and lock away trauma for future processing. Exposing and unearthing these trauma memories in the very young is both a delicate and high stakes therapeutic endeavor.
Here are some of my personal thoughts for the journey of healing for infants and preschoolers who have experienced trauma:
1. Hope trumps pragmatics. I start with hope: hope for healing, hope for a miracle, hope for the impossible. I then recognize the deep complexities of the make-up of young brains. This results in a slow, careful process with the long view in mind.
2. Infants and young children are basically powerless. This means even if they could muster up the human agency and self determination to heal their trauma they are still very reliant on the systems that support them. As a result I take a family systems approach to the healing journey for the young. You can help heal a lot of children by helping the adults in their lives.
3. While the young may not be able or willing to access and process trauma head on they are more than willing and able to build new neurological pathwaysthat counter the trauma memories. What this means is we can help the young by giving them consistent experiences and evidence that a part of their world is safe, secure and fuelled by love. Over time these experiences have the potential to form their core identity. In the future this foundation of identity will greatly increase their capacity to process and heal historical trauma.
Consider joining the Switchback team and take a moment to thank all the childcare providers, parents, volunteers, professionals and experts who serve, often in the background without recognition, our infants and preschoolers.
We see you.
We value your dedication.
We believe in the healing journey for all.
P.S. Don’t forget, People Can Change and The Power of Success is in TEAM
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