Developmental Trauma can be prevented by providing infants and young children with comforting and nurturing support when they become emotionally upset. Comforting should include softly-spoken and reassuring words, eye-to-eye contact and holding and/or rocking. Appropriate comforting also involves meeting children’s needs as quickly as possible, which helps children quickly regulate their emotions and restores the resonance between the adult caregiver and the child. This rapid response to children’s needs also helps them learn cause-and-effect thinking–that their verbal and non-verbal communication can provoke adult caregivers into action.
Rapid relational interventions by adult caregivers determine whether an emotionally upsetting event will be filed in children’s nervous systems as traumatic or as a psychological owie that is quickly forgotten. Comforting and nurturing also help to deactivate the Adrenal Stress Response and all of the autonomic nervous system responses that accompany it. The more rapidly that adults can help children quiet their nervous systems, the greater the possibility of preventing developmental trauma.
Developmental trauma, like other kinds of traumatic experiences, not only leaves a residue in the central nervous system but also creates distorted beliefs, emotional sensitivity and distortions in relationship patterns. Common relationship distortions anchored in early developmental trauma are anti-social, co-dependent and counter-dependent behaviors. We’ve written extensively about this in two of our other books: Breaking Free of the Co-dependency Trap and The Flight From Intimacy.
We’ve also written about unhealed developmental trauma as a major cause of intractable relationship conflict in Conflict Resolution: The Partnership Way.
Most of the trauma reduction tools such as EMDR and EFT are highly effective in clearing trauma from the body/mind, but do not address the distorted relational issues and the delayed development caused by developmental trauma.