Half of Dutch kids experienced a traumatic event

(Photo: Ranveig/Dodo / Wikimedia Commons)(Photo: Ranveig/Dodo / Wikimedia Commons)

Nearly half of Dutch children under the age of 12 already experienced some form of traumatic event ranging from emotional neglect, physical or sexual abuse to a parent with suicidal tendencies, according to a study done by children's rights organization Auegeo, NOS reports.

For this study Auego had 660 children aged 11 or 12 years surveyd by teenagers a few years older than themselves. The study was handed to Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer and Princess Laurentein on Wednesday.

One in nine of the surveyed children experienced three or more truamatic events. One in five faced two or more. Divorce is one of the most common traumatic experiences facing Dutch children. A quarter of the surveyed kids' parents split up. 10 percent of the surveyed children are afraid of their parents. And 8 percent have a family member in prison.

About 10 percent of the children feel that no one cares about them. "A bizarrely high number. That really shocked me", 16-year-old Nineke Wilts, one of the teens that asked the questions, said to NOS. "It has direct impact. The more they experience this, the less happy they are and the less they feel good about themselves. They may still suffer from it as adults." 

Auego believes more should be done to protect young children from such traumatic experiences. And Children's Ombudsman Kalverboer agrees. Both parents and school and play a roll in this, she said to NOS. "Parents are often the cause of the problems. These are often things that happen at home. You have to stop it. But if you can not, you must ensure that the children are safe in another location. That's the school. The school should make sure it is a safe place where they feel appreciated."

The study showed that teachers often don't know what their students face at home. One teacher thought that three kids in his class have problems at home, while the actual number was double that. "Teachers have to recognize the signs." Kalverboer said to NOS. "What makes that harder is that children are not inclined to take their problems and let you know what is going on. Much is expected from teachers and I don't know if you can always expect that. But you can build a system with counselors and regular one-on-one contact with the students."

One school Kalverboer visited has a promising solution. "In this school they have a frog, and you could put a note on him if you don't feel fine. Then the teacher does not know which child it is, but that something is going on."