Heal from childhood trauma by indulging in childlike behaviors

Grace Price, Managing Editor

Children who have experienced significant trauma have been observed to mature faster than the average child as they develop coping mechanisms which forces them to feel as if they must take care of themselves to an extent and learn to deal with their own feelings. However, this response can be unhealthy for both the child who develops the response as well as their future adult self who suffers the later consequences.  

As they were never allowed to experience a traditional carefree childhood, they are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness as they get older. According to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), it is highly likely for children who suffered childhood trauma and/or abuse to have a higher rate of anxiety, depression, struggles with self harm and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also linked to having a higher chance of drug or alcohol abuse and a greater risk for suicide. This is due to their inability to truly process the trauma or effectively heal from it. 

While therapy and treatment through medication are both viable options, it can also be beneficial for a person to allow themself to indulge in those childlike behaviors they were never given the opportunity to explore. For example, as an adult or teenager, a person may have stuffed animals or watch cartoons or buy themselves toys usually regarded as being for children as a way of reclaiming those childlike behaviors they missed out on.

While this may give the appearance that the person is simply acting immaturely, in truth it can be a significant coping mechanism for coming to terms with the trauma from their childhood. As they were unable to experience those things in childhood, allowing themselves to explore it in adulthood is a means of healing their inner child who never healed from said trauma. 

Similarly, teenagers or adults may seek a form of healing through play therapy, which combines working with a therapist as well as indulging in those childlike behaviors. This allows for the adult to experience those things they missed out on as a child while also allowing themself to slip back into the mind of their child self, thus making it easier for the therapists to treat the root of the problem, as that is when the trauma took place.

In a 2007 study done by Mary Roehrig at the School of Education at Andrews University, they concluded that play therapy is an incredibly effective method of healing from trauma in adults who were abused as children. They used activities like drawing and playing with a sand tray to have patients connect to their past selves. Therapists would use these activities to have the adult connect with their inner child and revisit the trauma they had experienced as a way of healing that younger self and allowing for a healthier life for the current adult. 

After the sessions, they’d have both the therapists and patients rate the effectiveness of the play therapy technique on a scale of one to five, with five being the most effective. 81% of participants selected either a four or five, with the median of all answers being a five.

Adults who have not had the opportunity to process childhood trauma can benefit greatly from helping their inner child heal through indulging in childlike activities as well as therapy. It is important to prioritize a person’s healing. While it may seem embarrassing to revisit those childlike behaviors, it is scientifically proven to be a soothing and effective healing method.