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Father and Daughter

Loss as Trauma




The word trauma has become commonplace, and the usual use refers to an event or circumstance that is threatening to a person’s health, safety, or well-being. For the most part, a person encounters something traumatic if and when his own life was in jeopardy, sometimes if he witnessed another person’s threatening experience. When considering children, however, adults need to be mindful that a young child’s egocentrism and lack of logical thinking may cause him or her to interpret events as potentially threatening even when they are not. Children may exaggerate or misunderstand, creating a sense of fear and apprehension. For instance, a child who fears dogs may panic and react with terror at any exposure to the animal, even when there is no objective danger. Likewise, kids may not have a firm grasp on reality and can blur lines between fact and fiction. This is why watching Jaws may stop a child from swimming in the pool! Adults realize that others’ misfortune does not predict their own; just because a friend becomes diabetic does not mean that you will also. Children can be irrational and unrealistic, and even minor events can have a traumatic effect on a child. Caring adults should recognize this potential and be on the look-out for signs of traumatization.

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