Post-traumatic stress disorder is more than just a disorder of the individual. In many cases, it causes considerable disruption in the family — particularly for children.
In addition to being confused and worried about the parent with PTSD, children may experience fear, sadness and anger. In extreme cases, children may exhibit discipline problems at home and school or withdraw from family and friends.
If you have PTSD, the good news is that there are things you can do to help your child cope with this disorder of the family.
Listen to your children. This is the first and best thing you can do. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, even negative ones. Be open-minded and avoid passing judgment. Coming across as critical or dismissive will make them shut down emotionally. Whatever you do, don’t try to convince them they shouldn’t feel a certain way. That’s a good way to bring communication and progress to a halt.
Educate using age-appropriate examples. The best way to explain a complicated issue to children is to talk to them at their level. For example, almost every kid has been afraid of a monster or two at some point. Remind them of what it was like to first think there was a monster under the bed or in the closet. Explain that this is how you felt when you experienced the traumatic event. You can also make a comparison about how they don’t like to think about the monster to how you don’t like to think about the bad thing that happened to you.