Despite Doing Everything 'Right,' My Kids Still Suffer From Childhood Trauma

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Myriam Zilles/Pixabay

Trigger warning: child loss

“Give your children a childhood they won’t have to heal from.”

When I first stumbled across this quote, its simplistic truth moved me. Because, well… these words are the goal, aren’t they? If we do nothing else except offer our kids a peaceful, pure, and wholesome chance at childhood, the kind they don’t have to “heal from,” we would be doing enough as a parent.

Correction: To many outsiders looking in, we would be enough as a parent.

But would you believe me if I told you even the “best” parents raise children who need to heal from their childhood? And furthermore, if you did believe me, would you still classify them as “good parents?”

If not, then our society is utterly failing parents all around. Because for no rhyme or reason, bad things happen to good people, good families, every single day.

And my family is just one amongst that wreckage.

My kids, particularly my older two, are childhood trauma survivors. When they were nearly two, they woke up at 7 a.m. to over a dozen first responders crawling throughout every corner of our home after several EMTs went through failed attempt after failed attempt to resuscitate my already-lifeless daughter… their little sister.

It was a Sunday, and we were meant to buy donuts, watch Angry Birds and stay in bed while we snuggled as the sun went up and came back down.

Instead, we said goodbyes and avoided a house that once was a home for some odd number of days.

Their little sister never came home that morning, and in so many ways, neither did the mother or father they always knew either. Because of that one truly awful day, I could choose to wallow every minute of my life and make what was awful for my kids just that much worse. Or, I could pick up my family’s scattered pieces and help to mend them into something resembling a scarred, yet beautiful, whole again.

As for me, I unapologetically choose the latter.

Because there is peace in watching your kids heal from childhood tragedy. The kind that was meant to break the lot of you, but somehow strengthens you instead.


But that doesn’t mean this growth doesn’t come without a steep price or a fair share of heightened stigma falling on a parent’s shoulders. Because it does, and it’s a passive-aggressive ugliness which implies good parents do not raise kids who need to heal.

From someone who knows better, I’m calling bullshit on all of that madness. Because you could never be too “wholesome” of a family for tragedy to befall your child and family. And it’s pure naïvety to assume any different.

Somehow, we’ve forgotten that childhood trauma doesn’t care what school a kid goes to, what brand of clothes they wear, how loved they are, or even the fact that their parents would sacrifice their very life for them.

Please understand: Childhood. Trauma. Does. Not. Discriminate. And furthermore, it doesn’t care about a parent’s preventative measures. There’s no earthly reason as to why my kids had to lose their sister while other families never fall susceptible to such a profound loss.

It doesn’t make sense that I was never sexually abused as a child while so many of my other friends were.

I can’t comprehend how my family was so lucky to be born in America while others raise their family in a third-world country, fighting a losing battle at giving their children a life free of tragedy.

It’s not fair that my children live in a four-bedroom home with warm running water, nutritious food, and clean clothes while another child sits soiled at an immigration detention center, neglected, abused and tormented by the hands of “The Brave” and in the “Land of The Free.”

I’ll never understand why one child’s youth is taken by cancer or chronic illness while another’s flourishes in the making of mud pies and everyday bumps and bruises from non-stop play.

If it’s not your children, then trust me, it’s your neighbor’s children. It’s your babysitter’s children. It’s your son’s teacher’s children. It’s your pastor’s children. And it’s the unfamiliar children you pass in the grocery store every single week.

You see, even in the “best” of neighborhoods, childhood trauma swarms all around us. Because you could never be “too good” of a parent for childhood trauma to completely alter your once-seemingly-perfect family.

Failure isn’t found in the parents of children who have been hurt and require healing. Failure is found when we sweep pain under the rug, and deny our children their right of healing for our own comfort.

This world is imperfect, and childhood trauma knows no bounds, nor does it carry a preference. My family was not immune to its hold, but that doesn’t make me any less of a mother.

I am a good mom raising children who need to heal from past tragedy. And guess what? My kids’ childhood trauma never asked my permission before stealing our family’s show.

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