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Resources to Help Kids Thrive Newsletter

What Is Complex Trauma?

A weekly update of content from childmind.org featuring parenting advice, in-depth articles, and the latest thinking on children’s mental health and learning disorders.

February 14, 2023

When people think of trauma, they often imagine a specific experience, like a natural disaster or a violent attack. And it’s true that a very upsetting or life-threatening experience can lead to PTSD and other mental health challenges. But there’s another form of trauma that involves chronic negative experiences like abuse, neglect, or violence. This is known as complex trauma, and its profound impact on kids is often misunderstood.

This week on childmind.org, we take a close look at complex trauma — its causes, the symptoms associated with it, and how to help kids who are dealing with it. Because complex trauma often happens to children at home or in their neighborhood, it interferes with their ability to develop trusting bonds with caregivers and can lead to chaotic, confusing behavior. We’re also sharing tips on how to recognize trauma in the classroom and tell the difference between trauma and ADHD, two conditions that can look similar on the surface.

Related Resources

What Is Complex Trauma?

Understanding the effects of chronic traumatic experiences.


How Trauma Affects Kids in School

Signs of trauma and tips for helping kids who’ve experienced ongoing trauma.


Is It ADHD or Trauma?

Why the symptoms are often confused, and how to avoid a misdiagnosis.


Teaching Kids to Speak Up About Sexual Abuse

Straight talk and a no-secrets policy can encourage children to get help if they need it.


Treatment for PTSD

There are several evidence-based therapies for kids dealing with trauma.


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