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They’re Not Naughty - They’re Hurting

When a child is hurting on the inside and hasn’t been given the opportunity to heal, it can affect how they behave on the outside. Gain a deeper understanding of the underlying causes and learn valuable strategies for supporting these vulnerable children.

April 20 2023 - 5 min read

Challenging behaviour in children can be a sign that they’re actually hurting, and not trying to be naughty or difficult. So, how does trauma affect children’s development? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why children’s trauma might be a root cause of challenging behaviour, and how you can help them.

Challenging behaviour in children

The effects of childhood neglect can have a detrimental impact on a child’s behaviour. Our brains develop from birth into adulthood, and there are key periods where children’s brains are more affected by positive or negative experiences, which can have a significant effect on their brain development.

Negative experiences caused by trauma such as abuse or neglect can harm the brain’s development, causing a variety of issues starting in childhood.

The effects of trauma on brain development can vary but studies have shown that severe trauma disrupts the ways in which children’s brains develop and process information. Because of this, there can be an increase in the risk of the child developing challenging behavioural disorders, as well as emotional, cognitive, and attentional disorders.

This can lead to aggressive behaviour in children, as well as issues such as attachment issues, difficulty regulating emotions, impulse control, mental health issues, dissociation, traumatic flashbacks, and difficulty learning.

Gain a more comprehensive understanding of the long-term effects of abuse or neglect by reading our article titled "Understanding the Long-Term Effects of Abuse or Neglect."

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Attachment trauma

Attachment trauma might be another reason why some children display signs of depression or difficult behaviour. This is the inability to form a secure and healthy bond with their primary caregiver due to the trauma they might have experienced in their past.

If a child has suffered from emotional or physical abuse or neglect, then it can impact their development and ability to form healthy bonds and attachments. The person, or people, who should have been there to meet their physical and emotional needs has let them down. They haven’t been there for them. This can lead to behavioural challenges and prevent the child from forming healthy attachments with others around them.

Some of the signs of attachment trauma in children can include:

  • No impulse control
  • A tendency to act hyperactive
  • Destructive behaviour
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • An inability to make friends
  • Unable to make eye contact
  • Acting clingy or demanding

All of these signs can look like challenging behaviour in children, but really, they’re just coping with their past. What they need is someone who can help them rebuild trust in others and offer them love, stability, security, and care.

Are you thinking of fostering?

Download the FCA’s complete beginner’s guide to fostering a child. Find out more on how to foster a child and the process involved.

Signs of depression in children

Children who have suffered from emotional neglect or abuse can later develop depression.

Depression in young children can show itself in a number of ways, and it’s much more than just feeling sad. The condition is often undiagnosed and untreated, as it can often just be brushed off as “normal” emotional changes. But children who experience depression can act out or show signs of aggression and anger, and this can lead to them being perceived as exhibiting challenging behaviour.

Signs of depression in children can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vocal outbursts and Anger
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Impaired thinking
  • Impaired concentration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Continuous feelings of sadness
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Being more sensitive
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of interest in school and hobbies
  • Poor academic performance

Depression in children (as in adults) is not a passing mood, nor is it a condition that will just resolve itself without proper treatment.

That’s where we come in. With your help, we can change these children’s lives. Through proper care, stability, and love, we can be the lifeline that these children so desperately need.

Helping to overcome children’s trauma

There are many ways we can help overcome children’s trauma, which might be the cause of their challenging behaviour.

The different types of childhood trauma vary, but the bottom line is any child who has experienced trauma needs to feel and know they are safe. Foster parents can do this by welcoming them into their home and providing a stable and loving environment with a sense of normality.

Therapeutic fostering

At FCA, we believe in holistic, therapeutic fostering. This specialist type of fostering is key for helping children’s trauma as it brings together specialists, the children’s family (where possible), and the foster parents to form a wrap-around parenting team. We tailor our care to meet the complex needs of children who are living with trauma that could be affecting children’s behaviour.

This gives us the opportunity to fully understand their history and difficulties and help their well-being and development.

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Become a foster carer

With a national shortage of people coming forward to apply to foster, there has never been a more important time to become a foster carer. With around 30,000 new children coming into care every year, there are simply not enough foster carers available to care for vulnerable children in need of a safe and loving home

So many of these children have experienced a traumatic past, and while some may exhibit challenging behaviour, they need our help to turn their lives around.

When you become a foster parent with FCA, you can bring your skills, energy, and desire to make a change in children’s lives into a new profession that needs you.

As a foster parent, you’ll be a role model, a parent, and a teacher, helping the children in your care to overcome trust issues, build confidence, feel love, and grow into successful adults themselves. And we’ll be with you every step of the way. With Team Parenting ®, we’ll work with you as well as childcare experts to change looked after children’s lives. You’ll always have 24/7 support and guidance and receive a wealth of specialist training to give you all the tools you need to overcome challenging behaviour in children.

Understanding challenging behaviour in children and making a difference

By opening your home to a vulnerable child and offering support for children in foster care, you can give young people a second chance at experiencing a happy childhood. With our support and guidance, you can be key to helping them overcome their traumatic past and start paving the way for them to enjoy a happy and healthy adulthood.

If you’d like to know more about fostering, then please get in touch today. One of our friendly fostering advisors will get back to you and answer any questions you have around children in care, the fostering process and the work we do at FCA.

Allison's fostering story

Allison, a foster parent from FCA Northern Ireland, shares her fostering journey thus far and what it's like to foster while raising your own children.

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