PTSD Can Create Secondhand Trauma for Kids

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a very serious and debilitating problem. Left unchecked, it can quickly cause a person’s world to come toppling down on top of him. This is because PTSD does not occur in isolation.

Anyone who has had a family member, co-worker, or friend with the disorder can attest to the damage it can have on relationships. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of such trauma.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, children are affected in several different ways when a parent has PTSD. Sometimes a child simply withdraws. The disorder can make it difficult for parents to extend the proper emotional support that their kids need.

Children in these situations may feel as if they’ve done something wrong, or they may simply have trouble grasping why dad or mom isn’t as loving as he or she used to be.

Another reaction to familial PTSD is parent-child role reversal. It’s not uncommon for individuals with PTSD to have trouble coping with the demands of everyday life, so they just shut down. At this point a child may feel like he or she has to compensate by stepping up and becoming the strong one in the family.

If parental symptoms are bad enough, they can even cause children to suffer secondhand trauma. Secondhand trauma can result in children experiencing their parent’s horrors, doubts, and fears, which can be just as damaging as if they’d have confronted the distressful event themselves.

Kids in any of these situations don’t get to fully experience the freedom of childhood, and parental PTSD can inevitably result in bondage for the entire family.

The good news is that the disorder is highly treatable, especially when the entire family is involved in treatment. With professional help, families can again begin to experience the joy they once had together.