“Traumatic experiences are sometimes referred to as ‘big T’s’ and ‘little t’s,’” explains social worker John Paradiso in his Parent Connection guest column for March.
He notes there is a great deal of empathy and understanding from support networks when people experience a big T event, making it easier to recover. “Smaller t events however,” writes Paradiso, “may get explained away or minimized by support systems which can lead to a devaluation of self over time. Left unchecked, the smaller t’s can accumulate and interfere with all areas of a person’s activities of daily living.”
Paradiso, who provides direct service to adolescents and families and supervises the Youth Mobile Crisis Team for the Department of Human Services in Virginia Beach, notes that these accumulated adverse events can contribute to behavioral problems in children and adolescents if they go unacknowledged by primary caregivers. He advises, “It is therefore important for a parent to exhibit an understanding of events from the child’s perspective in order to encourage emotional development. It is also helpful for parents to remember that the child determines the size of the T, no matter how small it may appear to be to the parent.”
In addition to talking with children about events that may be troubling to them, Paradiso writes that “parents can look out for changes in their child’s level of alertness or ‘hypervigilance,’ social withdrawal, disrupted sleep patterns including nightmares of the event(s) and avoidance of situations reminding them of the event.” If these signs are present and last more than a month or begin to disrupt activities of daily living, Paradiso encourages parents to consider speaking with a child’s school counselor or seeking professional.
To read Paradiso’s complete Parent Connection column or view past guest columns, visit vbschools.com.