How to Engage Children & a Parent with P.T.S.D
Let me tell you a story…
You know how I always say teach children? It does not matter what age they are, they can learn on their age level. I have a golden rule, children are curious by nature and majority of the time when they are ready to learn more they ask questions.
I am proud to say that both of my kids (18 and 13 years old now) are really good about teaching others about PTSD. They have grown up in a home with PTSD and really do understand it, they have done REALLY well.
Well, yesterday was one of those days for me. My son, my oldest, and I were having a heart to heart talk and he brought up some really good things. He’s older now, works, will be starting college in a few months, and just loves Craig tremendously! (Craig is step-dad, since my son was 8 years old) Even though Craig has severe PTSD and other medical issues, it has never stood in the way of the kids looking up to him.
Well, my son was telling me about the things/symptoms he sees in Craig. And to speak honestly here, he also sees what PTSD and it’s symptoms have done to Craig over time. I found myself explaining memory issues, something that’s been a symptom for many years. But my 18 year old was worried. He’s noticed that Craig’s memory is getting worse over time, that Craig can not do a lot of the things he use to be able to. I heard “Mom, some of these things Craig is the only one who knows how to do them. He’s forgetting things that were so second nature to him. How can I help?”
I chuckled, shook my head a little, I mean this has been everyday life for Craig and I for years, we are use to it. But my son has really picked up on it the past few months. I then replied “Son, it’s just all a part of it and what Craig is going through, just because he doesn’t remember things does not change who he is.” I got a “But what can I do?” I smiled and said, “All of those things that Craig still knows, take extra time and learn from him. It’s no different than a parent without PTSD teaching their children what they know, to pass it on to the next generation. Take the time to learn the things you want to while we know Craig still holds those memories.”
See, Craig and my son spend a good deal of time together on Craig’s good or better days. Now that my son is the age he is, he has a greater interest in cars, stereos, computers and what makes them tic, “manly” chores around the house, etc. All the things Craig is extremely knowledgeable with. Some of those things have already started to or have faded from his memory, and it’s been noticed by my son. It really showed how much he looks up to Craig. He was fearing that he wouldn’t be able to learn what Craig could teach him.
Then the conversation went on to “But I don’t want to bother him if he’s in the bedroom. So how do I know when or if he can help me with things.” Well that was a simple reminder, because the kids do already know this. He’s just at an age where he wants to make sure he’s doing things right and paying closer attention to things as well as other people’s feelings or what they need. “I always mention if the door is closed if a movie is being watched, if a nap is happening, if it’s a rough day, etc. Those are ques for you. Even though the door is closed a lot, it does not mean you can’t knock on it. It can never hurt to ask, the worst scenario is you get told maybe later or not today.”
Seeing where this was going and the conversation already at hand, I then went on to explain that ones with PTSD many times feel like they are a burden to others, or their PTSD will effect others, so at times they try to keep a distance. Along with the fact that one’s with PTSD are effected by crowds, expectations, etc. (something he also knew so another reminder at a different level of learning or noticing things) It also comes with “feeling” that you are not as worthy as you use to be to many. Which can cause one with PTSD to second guess themselves and not just jump into doing something or helping out with something.
Then I went on to explain that if he wants to spend time with Craig or wants him to teach him something, just ask. It’s something that helps BOTH of you! You learn from him but at the same time it helps him know he’s needed and wanted, and the reality that he is not a burden at all.
I explained how battling PTSD wears one down. It’s hard to have energy when you don’t sleep well, always battling to keep the symptoms in check and coping with them, etc. How the medications can cause side effects, with Craig’s one is heat sensitive, so that plays a huge role on when he can or can’t be outside.
Yep, a huge light bulb went off lol. “Cool, got it mom. Thank you!”
It was another turning point to educating. The kids know the do’s and don’ts, how to respond to things, rules in our house, understand what PTSD is (not details of what happened) and the basic symptoms that come with it, they know and understand they are loved even if Craig is not with them ALL of the time, etc. But this time the step was learning the why to how one with PTSD feels, thinks, and views things. And let me tell you, it was an amazing step to see! That young man has a heart of gold!
Before he left yesterday he knocked on the bedroom door, Craig responded, and my son said, “Hey dad, is there anything I need to help you or mom with around here before me and [girlfriend] take off?”
The kiddo got it!
Now, there’s a flip side to this also though. What about the PTSD parent?
It’s hard knowing your kids are taught things differently, have to learn different rules then other kids, life is different. That can weigh on one with PTSD and cause a lot of guilt.
Well, let me tell all of you something. This is the hand we were all dealt, facts on the table, and those kids are not going to love you any less! It is just a fact of being a child of a PTSD parent to learn things differently, it does not mean you are a burden on a child because of that. The quality of time you spend with them is much greater than the amount of time. Proven fact!
You have to keep in mind that even though a child is being raised in a home with PTSD, that child learning the things that need to be learned in a PTSD home will carry with them through life. It will help them become well rounded, non-judgmental adults, they won’t have the stigma that many children are raised with, and they will be a great addition to society itself! Look at my kids for example. I have a 13 year old that will tell anyone that her dad (step-dad) is an awesome man and a great dad and she loves him dearly… and he has PTSD. She doesn’t judge others, she doesn’t fear PTSD, she uses what she’s been taught to educate others, and loves her dad greatly. That speaks volumes!!!
Learning is a part of life. Just because a child has to learn something or a way of life differently than someone else, does not mean it’s bad for them. It’s not something you, as a PTSD parent, should view as you have caused something negative or that child should not have to deal with this. YOU can teach them a way of life that can be so valuable not only to that child but to others as well, through that child. No, the hand dealt is not a fair one, but it does teach so much more about life then a lot of kids get. So don’t let it weigh you down, use it to teach and learn.
Don’t be too judgmental on yourself!
Just something to think about.
“A Spouse’s Story PTSD“