Realistic Serenity Behavioral Health

Offering individual, couples, family and child counseling to the Denver metro area


They Don't Remember That!

Jennifer Shivey MA, LPC, RPT-S


I’d like to talk about one of my favorite myths of childhood: “Oh, they were so little, they don’t even remember that awful thing that happened,” and “Children don’t remember anything before the age of three.” This is only partially true. There are two kinds of memories that we need to pay attention to.


Explicit Memory

Explicit memories are the concrete memories that we can recall. These are things such as, “I remember going to the amusement park,” or “I remember that I got really sick and had to stay in the hospital.” These are the memories that start to solidify around the age of three. At this age, memories become increasingly more detailed and are easier to recall. This is due to brain development, language development and an overall exposure to different experiences that children are now able to differentiate. But that is not to say that they don’t remember anything prior to this stage of development.

Implicit Memory

Implicit memories are the things that maybe we don’t remember but our bodies remember. For example, maybe we don’t remember that we were involved in a bad car accident at the age of two, but our bodies remember a time that was not safe. Our bodies remember something happened that scared us, made our heart rate increase, maybe we felt alone, etc. These events then have the possibility of becoming triggers in everyday life. We might not understand why we sometimes have panic attacks in the car for no apparent reason, and it can feel very frustrating and confusing not to have a reason for those reactions.

This is where EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy can be helpful. For EMDR, it’s not necessarily important to remember the triggering event. We can use the current responses to current day triggers as a starting place. EMDR will help to unravel the connections that were made to those implicit and explicit memories. It’s not hypnosis - no chance of unknowingly clucking around like a chicken here! Clients are awake and present for the entire process. We still remember those events, it’s just not at the forefront of our minds triggering that fight, flight or freeze response because our mind knows it’s not something that’s happening right now. EMDR looks very different for children than it does for adults, so it’s important to make sure that your clinician has the training to fit your individual needs.

To learn more about if EMDR is right for you or your child, visit our website here!

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