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August 25, 2010

PTSD: The Child & The Family

When your child goes through a traumatic event such as being restrained, the lingering and ongoing anxiety can really take a toll on the whole family.  Many families don't know where to turn or how to deal with this anxiety disorder.  

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma based anxiety disorder that develops in the wake of a traumatic event.  The feeling of being threatened lingers long after the actual threat has passed.  A parent may pull their traumatized child from the school where the restraint occurred, however, the anxiety continues.  This is because the trauma experienced through restraint overwhelms a child's ability to deal with it, creating more anxiety.  A viscious cycle ensues. 

PTSD is not an individualized anxiety disorder and the entire family is affected in one way, shape or form.  You may find a backslide in behaviors such as the child may have an even harder time getting along with others, may withdraw from activities they once loved, become aggressive and even violent in severe cases.  In response to the child's behaviors, each family member in turn experiences their own emotions related to the trauma and child's anxious behaviors. 

As parents of a child who has been restrained and is struggling with PTSD, it is natural to feel intense sympathy or even empathy.  However, use caution as too much sympathy can make the child feel that you do not believe that he can recover and get past this.

Parents and other family members may develop depression and anxiety.  Why?  Because the sense of security is gone.  Parents send their child to school, a supposed safe environment.  That sense of security was ripped from beneath their feet leaving parents feeling vulnerable, worried, unable to trust which can lead to depression and anxiety in the parent. 

Many parents feel guilt and shame, however irrational or not.  This is a common feeling because parents feel that they are supposed to protect their children and that in some way, they feel they failed in that role to protect their child.  A lot of self flagellation with the would ov's, could ov's, should ov's occurs.  The reality is, parents never saw it coming.  There was nothing they could have, should have, or would have done differently.

Anger at it's utmost depth is felt by parents.  Many parents dive head first into advocacy to put an end to the use of restraint in our nations schools as a productive outlet for our anger.  This is normal and a healthy way to express it.  Some families may be angry with God for allowing this to happen.  Families are righteously angry with the perpertrators and those who have supported the attempts to cover it up. 

Sadly, parents may try to quell their feelings through substance abuse.

If any of those descriptions resonate with you, take those feelings and immerse yourself in learning all that you can about PTSD, anxiety, trauma and all the available therapeutic options available.  

Make sure you take care of you.  Your children need you to be strong and at your best.  Find ways to deal with your anxiety so that you can continue to be strong for your child.  Seek our treatment for your child and for yourself if needed. 

Seek out a professional who has experience working with childhood trauma.  Look for other families out there who have been through the traumatic ordeal.  Keeping it all bottled up inside may only manifest as anger turned inward, leading to depression.  

It is truly underestimated just how greatly PTSD impacts the family.  It is as if the whole family develops a form of PTSD in response to children being restrained in school.  

For more information, check out Gateway to PTSD Info

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