Dos and don’ts of talking about PTSD with your children

Parenting a child is a demanding job. While it can be overwhelming at times, being a good parent requires a person to have a lot of patience and self-confidence. This is because though children can be fun and easy to handle, one must not forget that they are vulnerable and need to be treated very carefully.

This can be especially challenging when it comes to answering queries of one’s teen, helping him/her choose the right path and making them understand the ill-effects of substance abuse. The situation becomes even more difficult when a parent himself/ herself is affected by some or the other form of mental illness or is addicted to a substance.

One of the most severe mental illnesses that can make life difficult for a parent is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a form of mental illness that affects an individual who has experienced a shocking, scary, dangerous or life-threatening event. This condition is characterized by flashbacks, bad dreams, and intrusive or frightening thoughts.

When a parent affected by PTSD, re-experiences the situation that led to this condition, it is generally unintentional and therefore, unpredictable. Experiencing these situations can be scary not only for oneself but also for loved ones, especially children, as this is typically accompanied by emotions such as grief, sadness, anger or fear.

Such situations can be devastating for a child’s mental health and he/ she might begin to have negative thoughts about the afflicted parent like he/ she is unable to take proper care of his/her health, or that the parent is facing all this due to his/her fault, etc.

To avoid all this, it becomes important for parents to make their children aware of any form of mental health issues that they are dealing with. Although, it might seem difficult in the beginning, doing so is important to ensure that the child stays healthy and is well-prepared for all kinds of situations.

Talking can help

Mentioned below are a few dos and don’ts that can help parents talk easily about their PTSD with their children.

Begin slowly: It is important for parents to understand that it might be difficult for their teen to accept all that they have to say about their mental health at once. Therefore, they should go slow when disclosing the necessary information to their adolescent revealing as and when they deem necessary.

Double-check how the information is received: Even when a parent manages to talk about his/her PTSD, it is important for him/her to cross-check with their teen about the amount of information they are able to comprehend. Asking them how it makes them feel is important to generate a feeling of reassurance.

Consider the child’s age: Before one begins to share the status of his/her mental health, he/she must keep the child’s age in mind. This is important because it would help one decide better regarding the amount of information he/she should share at the present moment with the child.

Use appropriate language: Parents should avoid using technical terms while disclosing their mental health status to the adolescent. This is because it helps the child understand the information easily as compared to the times when one uses typical jargons.

Don’t panic: When talking to the child about PTSD, it is important for the parents to stay calm and avoid talking about the strong emotions they experience on a regular basis. Doing so can help the child be more receptive.

Don’t overload: Bombarding the teen with information is not the right way to reveal a health issue. Instead, the parent should stay focused and initiate a conversation with the child once he/she has shared a bit about his/her PTSD. Doing so can help the child assimilate the information better as well as accept the situation in a healthier way.

Don’t use scary details: While it is important to let the child know about his/her parent’s PTSD, it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that they share only the relevant and significant information with the child. Sharing details about scary incidents might frighten the child and lead him/her also to develop PTSD.

Preventing PTSD in teens

Even while it’s good and advisable to be open with one’s teens about one’s mental health condition, one must ensure that doing so does not impact the teen’s mental health.

Though PTSD is non-transmissible, there’s always a risk of teens displaying signs of PTSD if the parent has PTSD. In case, you know a PTSD teenager or any adolescent showing signs of PTSD, White River Academy can help.

White River Academy is one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools that aims to provide the required help to teen boys to recover from their mental health problems, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, learning disorders, as well as substance abuse.

Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with one of our experts to know about the best treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in your vicinity.

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