A baby’s brain is like a flower ready to bloom. From the first moments of life, a baby’s brain is absorbing new experiences and being shaped by its environment. Even though an infant may be too young to have conscious memories of these early experiences, the developing brain does not forget.
First impressions last a lifetime. A baby’s brain will blossom from lots of positive, nurturing experiences with you. Negative experiences have the opposite effect on early brain development— much like a flower that wilts from neglect. Early trauma can leave a lasting imprint on the developing brain. The younger a child is, the more vulnerable their brain is to the effects of trauma.
Childhood trauma can be any negative experience that causes major stress for an infant or child. Family violence is especially traumatic for children because someone they are close to is being hurt or hurting them. The trauma of living in a home with domestic violence where a parent is being hurt or threatened can be as harmful as being physically or sexually abused. Children exposed to domestic violence live in fear and chaos—life is like a roller coaster of not knowing what to expect next. This leads to problems as a child’s brain adapts to survive.
You can help children who experience trauma by understanding six basic facts about trauma and brain development.