Child’s psyche fascinating, fragile

A parent can give no greater gift than to help a child learn to live life.

From the moment a child opens his or her eyes for the first time, there is a world of unknowns to explore. Childhood years provide the formation and lessons that will strongly influence them all the days of their life.

For many, childhood experiences teach them how to cope with disappointment, to embrace a loving family, and to explore their potential. For others, childhood experiences can deliver harsh lessons that may limit their ability to function in many capacities.

Children who have been traumatized during their formative years will carry scars with them throughout their lives. These are scars that may never disappear.

Do these children carry the scars because they have personalities that won’t let go? Not at all. It is because childhood trauma can actually alter a child’s developing brain.

Traumatic experiences can reduce the size of parts of the brain, impact the way a child’s brain copes with stress, and result in a lifetime of struggles with depression, anxiety, aggression, impulsiveness, delinquency, hyperactivity and substance abuse.

Trauma during childhood can come from different directions. It can result from physical, emotional or sexual abuse, which is often passed from generation to generation. It can also be brought about by too much exposure to violence, war or famine, whether in real life or some type of drama.

Children can also be very resilient but, in order to become resilient in the face of adversity, the child needs family members, care providers and a community that can help teach how to like oneself, coping skills and problem-solving.

For both body and brain to develop to their fullest potential, children need to experience positive and loving relationships, be able to safely explore their surroundings, have decent nutrition, participate with others socially, and receive care and support. A child also needs encouragement to do things independently, have responsibilities in the family, and be held to high, yet realistic, expectations at home and in school.

It is no secret. Positive nurturing develops positive results. It’s also the best way to ensure that the natural fascination that resides in a child has room to grow, blossom and strengthen their mind for a lifetime.

Curt Gillespie is senior vice president of youth & adult services at Mental Health Services for Clark County.