If your child told you they were afraid to leave the house for fear of something bad happening to them what would you say? Would you dismiss it as an over reaction or would you consider for a moment that they could truly be scared.
Welcome to Urban Trauma. Children who grow up in very poor neighborhoods in Chicago and other urban centers witness violence on an almost daily basis, whether in their homes, on their block or at school. Imagine yourself, as a school age child walking to school and stumbling upon a crime scene were a body is lying in the street, alley, etc. How would you react?
In order to cope you would need to normalize the situation. To a traumatized child, the fear of death is a fact of life. So much so, it needs to be managed. So how do you as a parent, teacher or caring adult deal with a child that has witnessed violence on a regular basis? With caring and understanding.
Think about this for a moment, can a young person exposed to daily trauma be expected to adhere to normal rules? Can a young person exposed to violence expect to receive straight A’s? As a therapist I’m disappointed that post traumatic stress is taken seriously in war veterans but not with urban children. PTSD is real! Ask any child who has experienced real trauma. Exposure to a traumatic event leaves one with no choice but to start over and try to pick up the pieces. They must re-create safe zones and make sense of things that don’t make sense. Most suffer from recurring nightmares, hyper-vigilance and depression. They are easily startled at loud sounds or suffer sudden bouts of emotion including crying and anger. These symptoms are a problem for both victim and family. Most just want to forget but cannot. In their quest to become normal they are often misunderstood and simply told to get over it. Most experts agree that it is necessary to seek professional help when symptoms don’t go away on their own. Remember they are the victims and their behaviors are justified, so we as adults need to be more caring.