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Trauma and Its Impact on Family Dynamics

When a person experiences trauma, it doesn't just affect the individual; it can impact the whole family. Whether the trauma is experienced in childhood or as an adult, it can continue to influence your life at various points. How a person and their family respond to trauma differs from family to family, but it can potentially have profound implications.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist who founded The Marriage Restoration Project, explains that trauma plays a huge role in relationships. "Not only does childhood trauma impact your relationship with your parent, it unconsciously influences your partner selection and can impact all of your relationships," stated Shlomo Slatkin.

And trauma comes in many forms. It could involve witnessing a traumatic event like a car accident or violent act. Perhaps being involved in a traumatic event like war, a serious accident, being attacked, rape, or a natural disaster. Trauma could also be from an ongoing situation such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or in more recent times, the effects of the pandemic.

We spoke to several professionals about how trauma can impact family dynamics, and what you can do to help support a loved one through trauma. Here is what they had to say.

How Trauma Can Impact Family Dynamics

As mentioned, every person experiences and deals with trauma differently. It's not unusual for a person to go into shock or denial after an incident. However, it can impact your emotions and relationships with family members in the longer term. It can make it difficult to move on with your life.

Terri Kozlowski, certified Life Coach and author of Raven Transcending Fear, is also a survivor of child sexual abuse. Kozlowski explained that trauma changes all aspects of how the family relates to one another because everyone is fearful. "The family is afraid to upset the victim. And the wounded party doesn't want to cause any more issues within the family," Kozlowski advised.