Trauma and Youth



“After I understood [them] to be traumatized…I saw them as they truly have been – loving, hurting, gifted, fearful, in search of, blessed individuals of God. For my ministry, and for my personal family members, that has created a planet of distinction.”


Understanding Trauma’s Affect  on our Faith Formation Practices

Every person has a distinct gauge of trauma. Grounding your response in the understanding that trauma is a noun that describes an individual’s encounter is of paramount value. Every single person is the arbiter of their personal encounter and description of trauma.

Trauma impacts us all, straight or indirectly. Lots of individuals reside with the ongoing effects of previous and present overwhelming strain. Regardless of the substantial numbers of individuals impacted, a lot of of us generally do not assume of the possibility that somebody we meet, speak with or help may perhaps have seasoned trauma. This tends to make us much less most likely to recognize it. Maintaining the possibility of trauma on our radar indicates maintaining the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of individuals who may perhaps be trauma survivors in thoughts. It indicates becoming respectful, acknowledging and understanding¹. As neighborhood members and agents of reconciliation and redemption, faith leaders should proceed from a spot of acknowledging and understanding trauma-informed formation².


Trauma and Adolescence

As a youth minister, sharing “highs and lows” was a sacred ritual in our right after-college plan. Everyone— youth and adults—shared the finest and worst issue they had seasoned due to the fact the final time we have been collectively. As trust was constructed, the honesty elevated, and we heard some potent stories. I began considering about how a lot of what was shared was “standard” adolescence and how a lot was events outdoors the manage of our teens. As a youth minister, and a a single-time teenager it dawned on me that the answer is each: the definition of trauma and description of adolescence are essentially the very same.

Primarily based on my encounter and present literature, my personal definition of trauma is “a sudden or sustained adjust encounter that leaves us in a new reality.”

Adolescence was a a lot additional recognizable notion. We know these years to be an age of physical, emotional, and social transformation. We know adolescence is filled with internal and external things that leave us in a new reality. We know that, like trauma, adolescence is not anything we can prevent or manage. Each bring about a adjust that is beyond our manage that and that happens, generally, with out our consent.

How could I use this sudden clarity of understanding the shared encounter of all teenagers, these who have seasoned external trauma and these who have not?


Trauma Study with Youth 

Shortly right after, I began a trauma study with the students in our right after-college plan. We walked by way of physical responses to trauma and discovered about flight, fight, and freeze responses. We discussed instinct, emotional, and logical responses and how our bodies take action. We talked about emotional responses and repression. We discovered how memories perform, how we inform the story of events that occur to us, and how these have a tendency to produce a “good vs evil” narrative.

The subsequent step was to talk about how our individual narrative leads us to lash out or push back against other folks out of self-protection. I anticipated it to be a tough conversation. Surprisingly, it was not. Every person could clearly see how we generally hurt other folks out of worry, assumptions, or emotional dysfunction. The group created the jump quickly, seeing how offenders commence as victims and generally hold onto that identity, refusing to see the harm they had completed.

The application lessons came speedily by way of stories from every person’s life. Tension with parents, arguments with finest pals, fights with strangers, and even experiments with drugs and alcohol have been expertly dissected by six-eightth graders.

We have been a group complete of discoveries:

“Ah, some of the fights with my parents are my fault!”

“Oh, my parents are hurting from issues that occurred to them!”

“My friend’s family members impacts the way they treat me.”

“My grandpa is not coming back, and it is not my fault.”


All the Distinction in the Globe

I had generally had fantastic applications at my Church, but as soon as I began treating youth and their households as victims of trauma, anything changed. I became additional of a pastor than a programmer and youth discovered to care for every other in new strategies. After I understood youth and their households to be traumatized, I stopped seeking at them as slacking parents and uncommitted youth and saw them as they truly have been – loving, hurting, gifted, fearful, in search of, blessed individuals of God. For my ministry, and for my personal family members, that has created a planet of distinction.

  1. This definition comes from the Australian Blue Knot Foundation.
  2. For further information and facts on becoming a trauma-informed congregation, see Interfaith Neighborhood Solutions fantastic pdf resource.


Rev. Lee Yates is a pastor, advocate, and writer with years of encounter in faith formation. He consults with regional congregations and edits the InsideOut Camp Curriculum. In addition, Lee leads workshops in trauma-informed care, intergenerational faith formation, and a wide variety of subjects about diversity and individual identity.


Latest posts