People may experience an array of emotions after experiencing a traumatic event, including sadness, anxiety or anger. For most people, these responses are normal and go away over time (i.e., a few weeks). In some cases, these thoughts and feelings don’t go away on their own and may get in the way of everyday life, which can result in the child needing more help.
What are some examples of Adverse Childhood Experiences?
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional neglect
- Physical neglect
- Mother treated violently
- Household substance abuse
- Household mental illness
- Parental separation or divorce
- Incarcerated household member
- Bullying (by another child or adult)
- Witnessing violence outside the home
- Witnessing a brother or sister being abused
- Racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination
- Being homeless
- Natural disasters and war
What are some of the physical, behavioral and mental health outcomes for children who are struggling with trauma or ACEs?
Research has found that ACEs, and exposure to other stressful things can lead to something called toxic stress in your body. Toxic stress has been associated with a number of health conditions. Below are some of the physical, behavioral, and mental health outcomes for children who have experienced trauma.
- Failure to thrive
- Heart disease
- Drug use
- Unsafe sex
- Suicide attempts
- Posttraumatic stress (PTSD)
What are some signs that my child needs more support coping with trauma?
- Worrying a lot or feeling very anxious, sad, or fearful
- Crying often
- Having trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
- Having scary thoughts about the trauma
- Feeling angry
- Having nightmares or difficulty sleeping since the trauma
- Avoiding places or people that remind them of the trauma
- Physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pain and digestive issues, feeling tired, racing heart and sweating, being very jumpy and easily startled
What is the Pediatric ACEs and related Life-events Screener (PEARLS)?
At your child’s pediatrician visit, you may be asked to complete the Pediatric ACEs and Related Life-events Screener (PEARLS) to better understand your child’s trauma experiences.
The score on the PEARLS screener will provide your medical provider with information on the number of childhood traumas your child has experienced. Research has found that the higher the total PEARLS score, the greater the risk for poorer physical, behavioral, and mental health outcomes; however, we know that getting help earlier is key to helping your child. Your child’s PEARLS assessment will help your provider connect you to the appropriate resources.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency department.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:
Text any message to 9-8-8
Chat online at 988lifeline.org/chat
Crisis Text Line:
Text “HOME” to 741741
CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
Childhood trauma TED talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Center for Youth Wellness centerforyouthwellness.org
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).