Adverse Childhood Experiences
Adversity occurs in childhood through many ways. It can range from war, loss of a family member, abuse, neglect, resource scarcity to name a few. For many children, these unwanted experiences create barriers causing severe developmental disruption which later translate into a list of health concerns. Currently, children in Ethiopia continue to experience trauma from war, displacement, and acts of violence that are difficult for them to understand. Such trauma leaves children with fear, distrust, and anxiousness beyond their control. This affects children behavior, disposition and can augment their developmental trajectory negatively.
The assaultive nature of trauma can be detrimental to the developing brain but we also know employing strategies found in Trauma-Informed Care can influence, restructure and help children process these undesirable, even damaging episodes, to be more manageable; assisting the young mind in creating pathways that informs rather than compromising it permanently. By intervening early and applying therapeutic measures consistently, we can reduce the devastation on children’s developmental outcomes. Using strategies found in Trauma-Informed Care has shown to have both immediate and long-term positive results.
Applying developmentally appropriate strategies that are respectful in approach and culturally relevant to the child’s norm, practitioners, parents, caregivers, and teachers can help children open up, discuss and express their feelings. Using a medium such as play, art, and other activities that are comfortable to the children, the path towards recovery can begin. The brain is most sensitive, highly malleable before age 5, and even more adaptable during infancy and toddlerhood (before age 3). Our knowledge of trauma-informed care practices should be included in discussions about rehabilitation, emergency support, and relocation of those affected by the current war, COVID, public health crisis or other ongoing challenges in the context of Ethiopia. For those under extreme and ongoing stress, preparing professionals on how to create responsive caregiving practices using the frameworks provided in TIC in conjunction with our cultural norms will help children and families develop skills to mitigate and absolve some of the trauma incurred abruptly or due to persistent inequities.