Understanding my child’s behavior

Guides & Fact Sheets

Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma

Children who have experienced traumatic events need to feel safe and loved. All parents want to provide this kind of nurturing home for their children. However, when parents do not have an understanding of the effects of trauma, they may misinterpret their child’s behavior and end up feeling frustrated or resentful. Their attempts to address troubling behavior may be ineffective or, in some cases, even harmful. This factsheet discusses the nature of trauma, its effects on children and youth, and ways to help your child. By increasing your understanding of trauma, you can help support your child’s healing, your relationship with him or her, and your family as a whole.  

To consult this fact sheet : Click here

- Created by Child Welfare.



Brain Architecture

Early experiences build brains

Contrary to popular belief, the structure of our brains as they develop in early childhood is determined by more than just our genes. The experiences we have in the first years of our lives also affect the physical architecture of the developing brain.

- Created by the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative.

How Trauma Can Impact Your Window of Tolerance

Created by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).

The window of tolerance is a concept originally developed by Dr. Dan Siegel, MD to describe the optimal zone of “arousal” for a person to function in everyday life. When a person is operating within this zone or window, they can effectively manage and cope with their emotions. For people who have experienced trauma, it is often difficult to regulate emotions and the zone of arousal where they can function effectively becomes quite narrow.

Mapping Your Nervous System’s Response to Trauma

Created by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).

According to polyvagal theory, the nervous system has three pathways it can follow in the face of a threat. By helping clients map these pathways, they can begin to identify their triggers and develop strategies for staying grounded.

What Happens in the Brain During Trauma?

Created by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).

After trauma, children are often left with many painful sensations and emotions including shame and guilt, and that’s especially true if they weren’t able to protect themselves or escape. That’s why it can be so useful to understand how their brain and body did work to protect them during the traumatic event.

Behaviour Approaches for Children and Youth with Disturbances of Attachment

Created by the Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI).

​​​​​​This page provides a better understanding of the challenging behaviors that children who have experienced trauma may exhibit as well as alternative interventions that can be put in place. 

Websites & Podcasts

The Brain Architects Podcast

The Brain Architects is a new podcast from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University that focuses on the specific, practical questions that often arise during the critically important period of early childhood. Bringing together experts and practitioners from pediatrics, social services, and education, among other disciplines, the podcast gathers many different voices that aren’t always speaking directly to each other. The Brain Architects can help all of us can use the science of child development to improve the lives of the children we interact with every day.

- Created by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child’s Needs

Created by Healthy Children.

Early, hurtful experiences can cause children to see the world differently and react in different ways. Some children who have been adopted or placed into foster care need help to cope with what happened to them in the past. Knowing what experts say about early trauma can help you work with your child. 


What Is Attachment Theory? The Importance of Early Emotional Bonds

Created by Very Well Mind.

Attachment theory focuses on relationships and bonds (particularly long-term) between people, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners. Children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma

Everybody Hates me: #MeToo, Stigma and Sexual Violence Disclosure

Created by Dr. Ramona Alaggia and Dr. Carmen Logie.

In this episode they talk about stigma around sexual violence and how this impacts sexual violence disclosure experiences (and decisions of whether or not to disclose) as well as the intersectional impacts of stigma on who is believed (and who is not) in disclosing sexual violence.

Everybody Hates me: Children's Mental Health Stigma & Embracing our Emotions

Created by Dr. Angelique Jenny and Dr. Carmen Logie.

In this podcast, they discuss how stigma is a barrier for children and adolescents accessing early interventions for mental health--despite its potential to change the trajectory of their lives. Mental health stigma contributes to bullying and social isolation of children, and blaming of parents. We discuss stigma, fear, stereotypes and misinformation toward parents and families with children with mental health issues.

Hamilton Health Science Courses and Workshops (Free & Online)

Created by McMaster Children’s Hospital.

​​​​​​These educational courses and skills training workshops provide information on a variety of topics, including parenting, child development and child and youth mental health concerns. Programs are available for children, youth and caregivers.

Videos & Interviews

Dr. Bruce Perry: Children act out because of trauma / super soul / Oprah Winfrey Network

In this video, Dr. Perry explains the common reactions in children who have experienced trauma so parents, teachers and service providers may understand their reactions and behaviours.

- Created by Super Soul - Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

Why Normal Parenting Doesn’t Help: How Complex Trauma Changes The Brain

Does your child respond in unpredictable ways? In this short video with Dr. Chuck Geddes, learn how complex trauma changes the brain, and therefore how children behave. 

- Created by Complex Trauma Resources.


Understanding Complex Trauma Behaviours with Dr. Kirk Austin

When children act in disturbing, disruptive, aggressive, fearful or controlling ways, our interventions depend on the meaning we assign to the behaviour. Is the child being manipulative, oppositional, or unmotivated? Or perhaps there is something else going on? In this video, Dr. Kirk Austin deeps your understanding of the ways in which complex trauma impacts seven developmental domains, and highlights effective intervention strategies.

- Created by Complex Trauma Resources.

Making Meaning of Attachment: Learned Patterns of Giving and Receiving Care Tell the Story of Mental Health in the Early Years

This panel, presented during the 2022 Trauma Symposium, mentions the way relationship patterns between infants and caregivers develop very early and together determine security. The questions of how the attachment pattern evolves, along with protective and risk factors, as well as how mental health develops in infancy and in the early years, are addressed.

- By Mary Rella.

YourSpace Hamilton - FamilySpace Youtube Channel

This Youtube channel offers multiple parenting webinars to help and inform parents and caregivers on different topics, including anxiety in children and youth, understanding ADHD, managing routines, and more.

- Created by YourSpace Hamilton and Hamilton Health Sciences.


The Role of Healthy Relational Interactions in Buffering the Impact of Childhood Trauma

Created by the Child Trauma Academy.

This article provides information on how the role of healthy relational interactions can buffer the impacts of childhood trauma.