In many ways, age is only a number. However, when practicing trauma informed care, age can be a very important number. And specifically developmental age, rather than biological age.
Why is developmental age such an important factor when practicing trauma informed care? Developmental age will help healthcare professionals assess pediatric patients' likely emotional responses to a traumatic event, such as an injury or illness. As you may suspect, younger children are not expected to respond in the same manner as a teenager. A child’s developmental age, therefore, provides clues to how well they are coping with their injury or illness: Excessive or prolonged behavior changes in the aftermath of injury or illness could mean the child is experiencing traumatic stress symptoms, or even post-traumatic stress disorder.
What should you look for in young children, school age kids, and teens? In younger children, it’s common to note a change in their behavior, rather than a verbal expression of traumatic stress. Watch for regression in behaviors, such as a return to bed wetting or thumb-sucking.
School age children take cues from their environment, engage in magical thinking, and can even believe their injury or illness is a punishment. They need realistic information and explanations about their condition.
Teens feel the impact of their illness or injury in their present moment, rather than the potential future issues or complications. They may try to act more “grown up” or choose to withdraw from others.