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How Trauma Can Impact Our Children’s Lives

Updated: Aug 7, 2023


Adolescence and young adult years are a time of growth, change, and discovery. However, for many youth, this time period is marked by emotional trauma, which can have a profound impact on their development and well-being. In this article, we will review the nature of emotional trauma, its neurological implications, and how it can impact the body and mind. We will also discuss the concept of intergenerational trauma and the potential negative outcomes of trauma for teens. Finally, we will explore the benefits of therapy as a means of helping our youth to heal from emotional trauma.


"Big T" and "Little t" Trauma:


Trauma can come in many forms, both big and small. Big T trauma refers to major, life-altering events, whereas little t trauma refers to smaller events that can still have a significant impact. Both big T and little t traumas can have lasting effects on an individual's mental health and well-being.


Big T Trauma:

- Physical abuse can include any form of violence or harm to the body, such as hitting, kicking, or sexual assault. This type of trauma can have lasting physical and emotional effects, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

- Sexual abuse is any form of sexual contact or behavior that is forced or coerced. This type of trauma can have a lasting impact on an individual's sexual health, as well as their mental and emotional well-being.

- Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis, can cause significant physical and emotional harm to those who experience them. The trauma of surviving a natural disaster can include feelings of fear, helplessness, and loss.

- Life threatening events can be incredibly traumatic for those who experience it. This type of trauma can include exposure to violence, death, and injury, as well as the psychological stress of being in a life threatening experience.


Little t Trauma:

- Bullying is a common form of little t trauma that affects many teens. This type of trauma can include physical, emotional, or cyber bullying, and can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

- Neglect is when a caretaker fails to meet a child's basic needs, such as food, clothing, or medical care. This type of trauma can have lasting effects on an individual's mental and emotional well-being, as well as their physical health.

- The death of a loved one can be a traumatic experience, particularly for teens. This type of trauma can cause feelings of grief, sadness, and loss that can last for a long time.


Trauma can have a significant impact on the brain and nervous system. When an individual experiences trauma, their brain activates the "fight or flight" response, releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones. This response is designed to help the individual respond quickly and effectively to the perceived threat, but it can also have lasting effects on the brain and nervous system.


For example, repeated activation of the fight or flight response can result in the release of excessive amounts of stress hormones, which can lead to changes in the brain's structure and function. These changes can include an increase in the size of the amygdala (the brain's "fear center"), a decrease in the size of the hippocampus (which is involved in memory and learning). In addition to changes in brain structure, repeated activation of the fight or flight response can also result in a sensitization of the nervous system, making the individual more susceptible to stress and anxiety in the future. This can lead to a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD.


Trauma can also impact the development of the brain during adolescence, a time when the brain is still growing and changing. Adolescence is a critical time for the development of executive functions, such as decision making, planning, and impulse control. Trauma during this time period can affect the development of these functions, leading to problems with decision making, impulse control, and other aspects of daily life.


Emotional trauma can also have a significant impact on the body. For example, trauma can result in physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, and digestive problems. Trauma can also lead to changes in the body's stress response, causing the individual to experience feelings of anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. Trauma can also affect the immune system, making the individual more susceptible to illness and disease. This can result in a range of health problems, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disorders.


Intergenerational trauma refers to the transmission of trauma from one generation to the next. This can occur when a parent or grandparent experiences trauma, and their children or grandchildren are exposed to the effects of that trauma. For example, a parent who experiences combat trauma may struggle with anxiety and depression, which can then impact their children's mental health and well-being. Intergenerational trauma can have a profound impact on teens, particularly if they are exposed to the effects of trauma at a young age. This can result in a range of problems, including difficulty with relationships, low self-esteem, and problems with substance abuse.


The negative impacts of trauma for teens and young adults can be wide-ranging and long-lasting. Some of the most common effects of trauma include:

- Mental health struggles: Trauma can result in a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

- Substance abuse: Teens and young adults who have experienced trauma are at increased risk for substance abuse, as they may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the effects of their trauma.

- Difficulty with relationships: Trauma can make it difficult for teens to form and maintain healthy relationships, as they may struggle with trust and intimacy.

- Physical health problems: Trauma can result in a range of physical health problems, including headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, and digestive problems.

- Difficulty in school: Trauma can affect a teen's ability to focus and learn, making it difficult for them to succeed in school.


Effective Coaching is a powerful tool for helping teens explore and heal their trauma. By working with an experienced and trusted professional, youth can learn to process their experiences, gain insight into the impact of their trauma, and develop healthy coping strategies.


One way coaches can help process trauma is to help clients identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that are related to their trauma. For example, a teen who has experienced bullying may learn to challenge their negative thoughts about themselves and develop more positive self-talk.


Another effective method of working through trauma is to face and process traumatic memories in a controlled and supportive environment. Through this process, individuals can learn to process and integrate their traumatic experiences, reducing the hold that these experiences have on their daily lives.


In addition to these evidence-based approaches, other activities such as mindfulness, creative arts therapy, and holistic approaches like yoga and meditation can also be effective in helping people heal from trauma.


When teens and young adults are engage in the healing process from trauma they can experience incredible forms of empowerment. They can learn to regulate their emotions, reducing the impact of trauma-related anxiety and depression. They can improve their relationships by increasing their ability to trust and connect with others. The effective processing of trauma will also decrease the likelihood of substance abuse while increasing the likelihood of academic success through greater ability to focus. Even physical health can be improved when the effects of trauma on the body such as headaches, fatigue and muscle pain are reduced.


Emotional trauma can have a profound and long-lasting impact on teens and young adults. Ignite coaching provides valuable tools for helping teens explore and heal their trauma, reducing its negative impact on their lives and promoting positive growth and development. By working with a professional coach teens and young adults can learn to process their experiences, gain insight into the impact of their trauma, and develop healthy coping strategies to support their well-being.

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