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Regression in young children

2015

Hello!

My name is Emma and I am a student majoring in Child & Youth Care Counseling. I am currently in my second year of the program and am really liking my area of study and find that it is changing me as a person for the better and I am learning so much every day from my fellow classmates, teachers, colleagues and clients.

I am currently completing my practicum at a shelter for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence. Most are in crisis mode and have nowhere else to go which is why they have come to the shelter. My role at the shelter is within a program that supports children who are staying at the shelter in any way we can. I work with the kids in a playroom where they can express themselves through play and we can support their emotional needs. The age group I work with is 0-5 years and most are delayed developmentally due to the trauma they have experienced or witnessed.

We have had a couple of children, one boy in particular who after coming to see us for a couple of weeks, began showing signs that he had directly witnessed violence and as a result he began regressing. He is 5 years old and prior to this he behaved like an average 5 year old in terms of cognitive and verbal development. He was proud to be 5 years old and thought of himself as a "big boy" now. However, once he began playing or acting out some of the violence and traumatizing events that he had witnessed he started behaving like that of an infant or toddler. He would stop using his verbal skills to communicate and would grunt instead. He would want to be carried and request a bottle or soother. He would lie on the floor and want to be picked up. He told us he was "little" or a "baby". He then began acting this way all the time. When we would not comply in the way that he wanted to when he showed signs of regression he would throw tantrums and become very upset and lose total control of his emotions. His reactions were similar to that of how an infant or toddler would express themselves.

I know little about regression in young children other than the fact that "Traumatic life events can cause the child to become ‘stuck’ at a particular level of psychological development for an extended period of time – s/he may, therefore, often seem immature as development was frozen at an earlier stage" (Hosier, 2013, p.1.). I have no previous experience with regression and know very little about it and how to proceed when a child is showing signs of regression. My colleagues also seemed to know little about regression. I had no idea what to do or how to react. That was very uncomfortable for me as I want to have the ability to support children the best that I can.

Therefore, I was wondering if anyone else in the field has had experience with children regressing back to a past developmental point. If so, are there any tips or pointers you would be willing to share in order to better support these children. I am also wondering if anyone has encountered any educational resources that they would be willing to share in order for me to better understand regression and enable me to help these children when they are going through something so difficult.

Any information that could be passed along would be much appreciated!

Thank you in advance,

Emma
...


Here is a link that may be helpful, Emma.

http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/91.pdf

Blessings,

Margaret

Hi Emma,

I'm a adoptive mother of two older children who experienced and witnessed violence and trauma. Also I just graduated this last year from a CYC bachelor program. With these experiences and having outside support on trauma related behaviors I have come to recognize "regressive" type behaviors. For the most part it seems it isn't so much regression as that the child has not had her/his needs meet during that time of their life. I have gone through many times with my children where they displayed infant toddler type behaviors. During these times I became present and tried to fulfill what they were showing me. As I cuddled them, reassured or expressed empathy the moment would pass and we would move on. With time these type of behaviors diminished and now it seems typical age related behaviors are occurring.

I am thankful that I was in those moments and learned that regression was not something that was holding them back but helping them move forward. I hope this helps you.

Rebecca
...

Rebecca

Your personal and educational experiences have allowed you to express the need behind the regressive behaviour and the importance of meeting the child where they were at to help them move forward. Lucky kids to have you in their life.

Be well.

Charlene

Thank you Margaret!

Emma
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