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Traumatized Children: The World of Extremes


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By faitha - Posted on 02 February 2008

Boy in Field (c) Lynda Bernhardt

If you are parenting a traumatized child, you might have noticed that your child does not seem to get the concept of balance. He might be really well-behaved or really out of control. She might be a compulsive liar or a compulsive truth-teller. This is a normal aftereffect of trauma.

E. Sue Blume, C.S.W., Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, has written one of the best articles on the aftereffects of trauma that I have ever read The Incest Survivors' Aftereffects Checklist.

The checklist includes 37 symptoms that are common among survivors of ongoing sexual abuse. Anyone who relates to over 25 symptoms on the list has very likely suffered from ongoing abuse. As an abuse survivor myself, I can personally attest the accuracy of this list.

I have posted this checklist on message boards for adult survivors of childhood abuse, and I consistently hear that people feel like they are looking into a mirror. For the first time in their lives, their seemingly unrelated "quirks" make sense. Their "quirks" are actually part of the profile of an abuse survivor.

What does this mean for you as a parent of a traumatized child? Read through the list and notice how many of the symptoms go to one extreme or the other. I see this frequently with adult abuse survivors. They either are obsessed with or reject sex. They either compulsively lie or compulsively tell the truth. Either they are superstar overachievers, or they fail out of everything they attempt.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you are parenting a traumatized child, you are likely nodding your head about now. One thing your child needs from you is to learn balance. It is exhausting living a life of extremes.

I was the overachiever and compulsive truth-teller as a child. People thought that I was healthy and in a good place because of this. Meanwhile, my sister was the dropout and compulsive liar. She was viewed as the troubled one. Both of us were troubled: We just expressed this in different ways. Both of us needed someone to teach us balance in our lives.

Related topic:

Aftereffects of Childhood Abuse

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

Lisa Pietsch's picture

I could relate to far more of those than I'd care to mention. That is an eye opening list. Thanks for the info.