How to explain PTSD to a child or children may not come as easy as describing it to adults. When I first tried explaining it to my husband’s family they couldn’t understand how someone couldn’t control their PTSD symptoms. As if it were my husband’s conscious choice to disappear. Not only disappear metaphorically speaking but a monster taking over his mind, body, and speech. I could always look into his eyes and see him disappear within himself. Searching the internet brings a lot of information on PTST and resources available. According to myptsd.com PTSD is the phenomenon where the brain is effected by a traumatic event and has no cure.
“Technically”, PTSD is a psychological disorder formed by exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. It is linked to physiological changes within the brain, affecting the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. PTSD has biological, psychological and environmental causation and implication. Post traumatic stress disorder can be treated, though has no medical cure to date.
This is an excellent scientific and medical text book definition. Telling this to a five year old may only confuse the child further. Educating a teenager by saying all of this still doesn’t explain it in a way that they can fully comprehend. Initially, I scoured the internet for any resource that I could find for non military related PTST because I was completely lost, frightened, and hopeless for my family. Reading in forums like the one under myptsd.com and ramblings of a marine’s wife helped me to relate with others’ stories of their PTSD experiences. I still needed to find a way to explain to this to our children.
For months I did not know how to explain PTSD to a Child; to my children
“Daddy is having a problem” was the extent of the explanation. My youngest child is six years old. She developed issues of anxiety and would have a complete melt down when our environment was disturbed by my husband’s PTSD symptoms. I knew that I needed to find a way to describe why Dad needed to go away for the evening or for a couple of days. It is terrifying for a child to not understand why the home was unstable.
I sat down with her one day in her bedroom while my husband was in another room experiencing a milder PTSD episode. I explained to her that there was a bug called the angry bug and that it had bitten Daddy. And when the angry bug bites Daddy he acts the way he does. I went on to say that it wears off and sometimes the angry bug doesn’t come back for a long time. The angry bug won’t hurt her or Mommy and that she didn’t need to be afraid. Daddy goes to see Doctors who help him with the angry bug bites. And sometimes he has to visit Grandma’s house for a couple of days until the angry bug bite goes away. This opened up an excellent dialogue for my six-year-old and I to openly talk about how the angry bug makes us feel. How to explain PTSD to a child is easier than you may think.
Explaining PTSD to a Child that is a teenager
Explaining Dad’s PTSD symptoms and what happened to him is a bit different for teenagers. Our teenager is now 14 years old. How to explain PTSD to a child can be difficult for a parent of a teenager.I had to reveal to her what was going on with her Father and it wasn’t easy. With a teenager one can’t simply use the medical text book definition. She was aware of the entire situation unraveling from the onset of his symptoms although she didn’t know the scientific reasoning behind it all. She just knew that he was struggling and in a very bad way. Our teenager is very smart and loving. I explained to her about the angry bug, our nick name for PTSD. She took it upon herself to self-education on the subject matter.
No one will ever quite understand the full spectrum of PTSD unless they live with someone who suffers from the symptoms that PTSD brings into their home. Although there is no current cure for PTSD, there is recovery and remission of such symptoms. Educating oneself and building a support group of your own will help you immensely.
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