Lots of small Lakota children are being traumatized as you read this. Parents, guardians, grandparents or other caregivers are inflicting trauma on our children every minute of every day. Trauma isn’t just physical abuse. Mental, emotional and spiritual trauma is also child abuse.
There are lots of small children acting out the effects of trauma. For example, there are many children on our reservations that learn how to be a bully in their homes. People responsible for the care of children may often believe they only have to feed, clothe and provide shelter for the small children in their care. They haven’t a clue about how their personal behavior is traumatizing the children in their home.
For instance, there are a lot of Lakota people right now whom are heavily addicted to using large amounts of drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse regularly happens in front of the children in the home. There are also many children who witness extreme levels of violence in their homes. Yelling, physical assaults and adult dysfunction are just a handful of behaviors our children and teens are exposed to every single day. Consequently, these are behaviors which inflict trauma on our youth.
People who have to regularly cuss are also inflicting trauma. There are articles out there right now that encourage the use of cuss words by adults. When people cuss all the time or are unable to carry on a normal conversation without interjecting the F word between every other spoken word, it creates negativity in the home.
Also, when every other word out of your mouth is f***, you can be certain the children and teens in your care will follow the example you’re setting. This is very obvious in the number of small children who call adults “bitch” or other disrespectful names. It’s not funny when I hear a 4-year-old child say f*** you to an adult.
Right this very minute, there are small children home alone. They were not sent to school today. Many don’t have clean clothes. Others don’t have any food in the house because the SNAP card was sold for drugs or alcohol. These are traumatized children who will grow into adults and likely suffer a myriad of issues in their lives.
The trauma children suffer stays with them. It isn’t forgotten when they reach adulthood. They will likely inflict the same kind of trauma on their own children, perpetuating the vicious cycle we all witness on a regular basis. Our children deserve a healthy childhood in a home with caring, sober adults. Our children deserve to eat a good meal, have clean clothes to wear, as well as look forward to a safe home after school and on weekends. Parents are obligated to help their children grow into healthy adults.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) “are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.
ACEs include, but are not limited to: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, intimate partner violence, mother treated violently, substance misuse within household, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce and an incarcerated household member.”
May 10 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. We often claim our children are sacred but most of us don’t walk the talk. It’s up to you to raise healthy children. Do your part to break the vicious cycle.
Vi Waln (Sicangu Lakota) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org