Signs of trauma in young children

All children are unique and will show signs of trauma in different ways. Many of the signs below do not in themselves mean your child has been subjected to trauma. You will need to consider the severity of the signs, their number, and your child's history.

Babies and toddlers

Physical responses: disturbed sleep and eating, other bodily complaints

Emotional responses: passive and helpless, difficult and irritable, hard to soothe, jumpy, aggressive, sexualised behaviour

Social responses: clinginess and separation difficulties, fearful and new fears

Cognitive responses: delays/regressions in language, regressions in development, talking about the traumatic event/s or reacting to triggers, constricted play and exploration, repetitive/post-traumatic play


Preschoolers and early school years

Physical responses: headaches, other bodily complaints

Emotional responses: restless, impulsive, hyperactive, passive and helpless, difficult and irritable, low frustration levels, hard to soothe, jumpy, aggressive, sexualised behaviour, sadness, depression

Social responses: anxious, avoidant, clingy, fearful and new fears, poor social relationships, controlling or over permissive

Cognitive responses: frequently daydreaming and disassociation, unable to concentrate, difficulty problem solving, loss of developmental achievements, delays/regressions in language, unable to communicate what is upsetting them, talking about the traumatic event/s or reacting to triggers, constricted play and exploration, repetitive/post-traumatic play




This page is adapted from the Centre for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation.

Last modified: Friday, 3 February 2023, 7:37 PM