How Trauma in Adolescents Impacts Life Skills


When an adolescent experiences trauma, they are impacted in many ways, including how they develop mentally, emotionally, and socially. The effects of trauma that are not addressed are negative for adolescents and their loved ones, increasing issues with mental health and addiction.  As a result, their life skills are often influenced. Life skills can include any skill necessary to participate in daily life. While these skills will vary, it often includes communication skills, stress management, time management, and self-care.

Adolescents’ life skills are impacted by trauma; however, they can learn to improve upon these skills. This can help them to heal from trauma. Additionally, learning life skills is a way for them to take the reins in their lives, giving them the confidence and skills necessary to face challenges in the future, manage stress, and eventually thrive as adults.

How Trauma Affects an Adolescent’s Life Skills

Trauma has a huge impact on the body and brain. For adolescents, it can disrupt their developmental processes and, if not addressed, cause long-term issues. Experiencing trauma impacts an adolescent’s life skills by decreasing their ability to manage stress and learn, increasing mental health challenges.


When an adolescent experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, their body and brain respond. A response to trauma is healthy. However, experiencing trauma can cause dysregulation by disrupting developmental processes. This means that the trauma creates change in their development, which can lead to difficulty managing stress as adults.

Research shows that adults with a history of childhood trauma have a decreased ability to regulate their stress response. This will look different for each individual. However, it often includes a lack of stress-management skills, getting stressed quickly, and difficulty getting beyond stress when it occurs.

Unfortunately, stress is a part of life. Whether it is dealing with a difficult roommate or managing classes with work, managing stress is an important life skill. When adolescents with a history of trauma learn the skill of stress management, they are likely to come up against challenges related to their trauma. However, they can learn to make adjustments and implement tools that help them to heal from trauma and manage stress in their lives.

Mental Health

For adolescents and adults, mental health impacts many aspects of life. Improved mental health helps adolescents to do well in school, socialize, and find joy in their lives. However, when an adolescent has experienced trauma, they are more likely to struggle with their mental health. This can look like increased anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.

Adolescents with a history of trauma, who are struggling with their mental health, will face many challenges regarding life skills. Decreased mental health will make it challenging for adolescents to focus while in school, make friends, and maintain their schedule. Additionally, these mental health difficulties can lead to substance use.


Adolescence is an important time in an individual’s life. They are not only learning in an academic setting but are also learning how to create healthy friendships, problem-solve, and more. Many of these skills are the foundation of life skills that will help individuals to be successful as adolescents and into adulthood.

However, when an adolescent experiences trauma, their ability to learn is disrupted. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that trauma in adolescence creates learning problems that often result in more school expulsions and lower grades. However, these disruptions can also create challenges at home as adolescents begin to make more independent decisions and learn new life skills.

Learning Life Skills After Trauma

Fortunately, while life skills are disrupted as a result of trauma, adolescents can heal from trauma and learn life skills. One of the most important life skills that can also help to heal trauma is awareness. When adolescents improve their awareness, they are more able to address their needs. While improved awareness helps them to address how trauma has affected them, it also gives them tools to learn new life skills that will help them to cope with stress and manage their mental, emotional, and physical health.

Learning life skills like communication, stress management, and time management will look different for each adolescent. However, by approaching these skills and learning how to make them their own, adolescents can leave their past behind and move forward. This is because they are building something new. For example, they can build new patterns in relationships, like creating healthy boundaries. However, it might also include learning what they need to adopt new skills in general. This can enable them to have a way forward that helps them to get unstuck in challenging moments.

The best way for adolescents to learn new life skills after trauma is to work with a mental health care professional. Mental health care professionals trained in trauma utilize different techniques that can help adolescents heal. These techniques help adolescents process their trauma. However, it also gives them the tools to build new and improved life skills.

When adolescents have experienced trauma, they often struggle. Trauma can impact adolescents’ development and diminish their social skills and emotional regulation. This can create issues as an adult. By building life skills, adolescents can heal from trauma. At Sustain Recovery, we help adolescents heal from trauma and the challenges with mental health and addiction that often occur together. Clients at Sustain Recovery learn life skills by building them from the ground up. While this helps teens heal from trauma, it also gives our adolescent clients skills that will help them to be successful – now and into adulthood. To learn more about the programs at Sustain Recovery, call (949) 407-9052 today.