The brain changes its structure and function in response to experiences, both good and bad. It is a bit like training muscles…
Can children’s brains heal from trauma?
In Part 1 of this series on Trauma in Children, we explained what developmental trauma is, and the way it changes children’s brains. The good news, however, is that while developmental trauma will always have a bad impact on a child’s brain, the brain is not like concrete. It is plastic or pliable, and it is still developing right into adulthood.
The brain changes its structure and function in response to experiences, both good and bad. It is a bit like training muscles: when you exercise your muscles they will get stronger, but if you do not use your muscles, they will get smaller & weaker. Parts of the brain will grow or shrink depending on how often we use them. They are trained by regular experiences. The brain of a child who went through developmental trauma will expect bad things, but when they experience ongoing safety and love, they will adjust to feeling safe and begin to expect good things. Their brain will learn, or be trained into, new ways to function.
Relationships are critical in creating safety and positive change.
Abusive or neglectful relationships have harmed these children, and loving, connected relationships will heal them too. In foster care the supportive, caring relationships with carers and caseworkers physically create new pathways in the child’s brain in an unconscious healing process!
Scientific knowledge about the impact of developmental trauma on brain development directs what we do and the services we offer at SAF, hence the term ‘trauma-informed’. We know that the way a child in care responds may often be due to their developmental trauma. Their brain has been shaped by their traumatic experience, and there are behavioural effects. What SAF and our carers aim to do is provide stable, predictable conditions to help the child to feel safe and to trust: a loving home functioning as a therapeutic relational environment.
In our next post, we will explore trauma-informed care further.