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“Little t” Trauma. Trauma Is Still Trauma.


Trauma with a small "t" is a category of experiences that may be difficult to notice at first glance but have the potential to impact a child's emotional, social, and cognitive development. It often stems from various factors such as insufficient emotional support, tense family relationships, pressure and expectations, and emotional neglect. Children may experience this type of trauma when they do not receive adequate emotional support from parents or caregivers, when they witness family conflicts, and when they feel emotionally neglected. Additionally, although relational trauma may be subtler compared to other forms of traumatic experiences, its repetitive occurrence can lead to serious consequences for the individual.

Every child may experience different forms of trauma with a small "t", including:

1. Deception:

Children may experience disorientation and feelings of hurt when deceived by their parents. This can lead to difficulties in trust and questioning reality.

2. Excessive criticism:

Constant criticism can lead to lowered self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness in children, negatively impacting their emotional and social development.

3. Unfair treatment:

Consequences that are not proportionate to a child's actions can lead to feelings of injustice and hurt. Children may feel helpless in situations beyond their control.

4. Witnessing violence:

Children who witness violence in their environment may experience fear, stress, and disorientation. This can lead to difficulties in building healthy relationships with others and emotional problems.

5. Intellectual and emotional abuse:

Experiencing belittlement and insults from parents can lead to a low sense of self-worth and difficulties in emotional self-regulation in children.

6. Physical abuse:

Physical abuse of children can lead to both physical and psychological injuries, as well as evoke fear and feelings of insecurity.

7. Abandonment:

Children left to fend for themselves or abandoned by their caregivers may experience feelings of rejection and loneliness, leading to difficulties in building trust and relationships with others.

8. Sexual abuse:

Sexual abuse can lead to serious emotional and psychological problems in children, including trauma, fear, shame, and difficulties in forming healthy interpersonal relationships.

Differences between a coping child and a child experiencing developmental difficulties:

Infancy/Early Childhood:

A coping child is typically calm and responsive to parental interactions, while a child experiencing difficulties may be irritable, capricious, and exhibit uncontrolled outbursts of anger.

Preschool Years:

A coping child follows caregiver instructions and adheres to established rules, whereas a child experiencing difficulties may be resistant, disregard rules, and avoid contact with others.

Early School Years:

A coping child possesses basic reflective abilities and can calm down, while a child experiencing difficulties may act impulsively, be overly reactive to stress, and struggle to calm down.


A coping child can cope with emotions, engage in positive activities with peers, and maintain healthy relationships with family, while a child experiencing difficulties may have frequent outbursts of anger, engage in negative peer behaviors, and form inappropriate intimate relationships.

Family Functioning Principles Preventing Crises:

Family as a Protective Factor:

Close parent-child relationships, predictable family habits and rituals, positive interactions between parent and child, and the family's ability to resolve conflicts.

Family as a Source of Crisis:

Cool parent-child relationships, lack of family habits and rituals, negative interactions between parent and child, and the family's inability to resolve conflicts.

Examples of Specific Support Strategies:

-Encouraging regular open communication with the child.

-Creating a safe physical and emotional environment at home by establishing routines.

-Encouraging participation in family or individual therapy.

-Seeking support from local non-profit organizations offering therapeutic services.


The information provided above was based on the Handbook for Parents and Therapists: Skills Training for Children with Behavioral Problems by M. Bloomquist (2011).


Attention to the importance of self-care is extremely important, especially for caregivers, teachers, and other adults who are key supports for children in overcoming trauma. For them, understanding their emotional and physical boundaries and the ability to express their needs are important for maintaining emotional balance and preventing burnout. Regular self-awareness practices such as meditation or exercise can help cope with stress and negative emotions. Seeking social support is important, so caregivers and teachers should have access to professional support groups or therapists. Adequate sleep, physical activity, hobbies, and relaxation time are essential for maintaining life balance. Encouraging continued interests and passions allows for finding sources of joy and satisfaction outside of work. Seeking professional therapeutic help is also important if the need arises. By taking care of their own mental and emotional health, caregivers and teachers can be more effective supports for children, helping them overcome trauma and develop healthy coping strategies.

Adults who have experienced childhood trauma often struggle to cope with stress, low self-esteem, trust issues, and maintaining healthy relationships, which can lead to recurring behavior patterns. Therefore, it is important for them to find support through individual or group therapy, developing coping skills for stress, and building a healthy sense of self-worth.

Adults can also contribute to relational trauma in relation to other adults. This can occur in various spheres of life, including romantic, family, professional, or social relationships. Excessive criticism, lack of respect, emotional manipulation, psychological or physical violence are just some examples of behaviors that can lead to traumatic experiences in interpersonal relationships. Additionally, past traumas, unresolved emotions, or unmet expectations can influence how adults communicate and build relationships, creating a kind of closed loop. Therefore, it is important for adults to be aware of the potential consequences of their actions and strive to build healthy, supportive relationships based on respect, empathy, and open communication, by developing conflict resolution skills and caring for their own emotional health. By doing so, they can reduce the risk of causing relational traumas both in themselves and in others, including children.

Additionally, regular self-awareness practices, such as meditation, yoga, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help cope with the negative effects of trauma and support the healing process. Social support, such as support groups and close friends, also play an important role in the healing and adaptation process, providing emotional support and understanding.

In society, there are many institutions, non-governmental organizations, support groups, and therapeutic programs available for children and their families to help them heal and develop healthily. These resources offer various forms of support that can be tailored to the individual needs and situations of each family.

We believe that increasing awareness and support for children affected by trauma with a small "t" can have a positive impact on their lives and futures. We encourage taking action for social change and creating an environment where children can grow and thrive.

More information:

  1. ,,Kryzys psychologiczny. Poradnik dla rodziców i dzieci" Dr. Ewa Odachowska (Warszawa 2018)



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