Tamariki and Trauma – Big Ts and Little Ts
Our little people need sensitive care-giving when they go through difficult stuff. Sometimes we think of trauma as only the big stuff. In psychology, we call these ‘Big T’ events. Big Trauma. A car accident. Death of a parent. Serious medical events.
But sometimes the ‘Little Ts’ are just as important. Little Trauma. Little Ts are inevitable in life. Common childhood experiences at sensitive times in our development can be easily misinterpreted and taken personally by our tamariki. When we’re not invited to a birthday party (I am not cool). When our parents are having a disagreement about money (I shouldn’t ask for stuff). When a child has a disabled sibling which takes a lot of parental energy (I can’t be needy). When a child says something mean(I am shameful).
Children are vulnerable to these events for three reasons:
- Their brains are not fully developed so they only have basic self-regulation strategies (shut down, try not to think about it, distract myself)
- They are totally reliant on adults to help them self-regulate
- They are egocentric and easily blame themselves when things go wrong. If my parents are fighting, it’s because we’re naughty kids. If my friends reject me, it’s because I’m shameful. They don’t yet have the ability to see the wider picture as adults do through lived experience and complete brain development. Adults have the skill of interpreting events from a wider perspective which is able to take in other’s perspectives. In the case of an unkind remark from a school teacher ….. I am not shameful, the teacher was burnt out. Or another example, when rejected by a friend group……I am okay as I am, that other girl is being unkind and her behaviour is the problem not me.
An important skill for our pēpi (babies) and tamariki (children) to learn is how to regulate or soothe their emotions. They need the good adults around them to help them do this. Brainwave is a NZ organisation dedicated to helping whānau understand the importance of the first three years in life and help us to support and protect the little people in our lives. Their info is up-to-date, informative, science-based and from the perspective of parents in Aotearoa. They have brilliant resources to help us help our little ones deal with the little and big Ts.