When I found out my child at seven years of age had PTSD I was in complete shock and honestly had no idea what this was. The trauma that caused this disorder had just been revealed to me after years of her holding it in. (Since she was three years old) So I was already in complete shock and dismay and then for someone to tell me that she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder I just thought I could crawl under a rock somewhere and never be found again. I thought this was a disorder that only soldiers that fight in wars developed… do not ask me why I assumed that…
“She is seven years old… This is not right! This should not be happening.. Why did this happen to my baby girl?”
Of course I wanted to take care of her and see to it that she was given the best treatment out there and I did my research as soon as I heard this news and still continue to research and learn more about children with this disorder and I can now understand my child more and what she is going through thanks to her psychologist, numerous advocacy support groups, books, and the world wide web! I sought medical help immediately!!!
So here is a brief synopsis on what I have learned about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and how I am dealing with it in my child.
Children and teens could have PTSD if they have experienced an event that could have caused them or someone else to be killed or badly hurt. Such events include sexual or physical abuse or other violent crimes. Floods, fires, school, shootings, disasters such as this could also cause this disorder. Other events that could cause PTSD are war, a friend’s suicide, or seeing violence in the area they live.
In the United States alone Child protection services get around three million reports per year. That involves 5.5 million children. This is a sad thing and sadly not many parents are aware of what to do or even who to turn to when these kind of situations take place. Of the reported cases, there is proof of abuse in about 30%. From these cases, they have an idea how often different types of abuse occur:
- 65% neglect
- 18% physical abuse
- 10% sexual abuse
- 7% psychological (mental) abuse
Also, three to ten million children witness family violence each year. Around 40% to 60% of those cases involve child physical abuse.
I also saw it reported that it is thought that two-thirds of child abuse cases are not reported.
Just some statistics and information I have stuck in the back of my head since beginning my research. I feel it is time to get in the know and watch what is going on around us so we can help these children in need.
Whether you believe it or not they don’t feel like they have a voice. Most children do not even reveal what has been done to them or how they are feeling immediately. It could take years but the signs are there so we as parents must watch for them. We have to be the voice for our children and be aware of what to look for.
How to tell if your child has PTSD really depends on what age your child is. School aged children from 5 to 12 years old may not have flash backs or problems remembering parts of the trauma, the way adults do. Children may or may not put the events of the trauma in the wrong chronological order. They may also think that there were signs that the trauma was going to occur. As a result of this they may think that they will see signs again before another trauma happens. In essence they think that if they pay attention they can prevent it from happening again.
Keep a close eye out on your children s activities with others during play time. A lot of times children with PTSD will keep repeating parts of the trauma. For example if a child witnesses a shooting he may want to play a lot of shooting games when it was not normally a game he would play before.
Teenagers whom suffer from PTSD are a bit different. They tend to react with the same symptoms of an adult however teens ages 12 to 18 may have a behavioral change and begin acting more aggressively or show lots of hatred and/or anger.
Other things that children and teenagers can go through when suffering from PTSD are fear, worry, sadness, anger towards siblings, family, and friends, feeling alone and apart from others, low self-esteem, and not being able to trust others.
Different behaviors such as aggression, out-of-place sexual behavior, self harm, and drug and alcohol abuse are also signs of PTSD and you should discuss this with your doctor immediately.
PTSD can last a few months or years depending on if you get the treatment that is necessary. There are many different treatment options out there and you should seek immediate advice from your physician if you are seeing any of these signs in your child.
Learn about PTSD and pay attention to how your child is doing. Watch for signs such as sleep problems, anger, and avoidance of certain people or places. Also watch for changes in school performance and problems with friends. Once you have sought professional help and have found a mental health provider that you and your child are comfortable with then you will discuss the options and what is best for your child as far as treatment goes. I will be discussing in later blogs the different treatment options that are used and how it is helpful and how it can make us as parents feel. I had a rough patch wondering if the treatment my child was getting was proper. So I of course did my research on the different techniques that mental health specialist’s use and formed my own opinion on them. Which you too have a right to do as a parent but bare in mind that these professionals are probably just going by what they think is right for you child, you know your child better than anyone so don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion with your child’s therapist and get feedback from them. They will be able to address your concerns and if you feel as if you are not getting the answer’s you need or feel like you need to seek another opinion you have that right as a parent.
What can we do to try and prevent child abuse?
Other thing’s to keep in mind is to make certain you know whom your child is around at all times. We can’t always be with our children that is obvious but you can always have your guard up. You can also go to FamilyWatchdog.com and find out where sexual abusers live in your area.
You also want to provide a safe, caring setting so that children feel able to talk to you about sexual abuse.
Talk to your children about safe touching and unsafe touching. They need to know this.
Tell the child that if someone tries to touch his or her body in their private areas or do things that make the child feel unsafe, he should say NO to the person. He needs to tell you or a trusted adult about it right away.
Let children know that their bodies are private and that they have the right not to allow others to touch their bodies in an unsafe way.
Let them know that they do not have to do EVERYTHING the babysitter, family member, or group leader tells them to do if they feel it to be inappropriate.
What should you do if you think your child has been sexually abused?
I will do another blog on this alone because I feel it is important but if you feel as if your child has been sexually abused you need to try to stay calm. If your child tells you that he or she has been abused you need to reassure the child that what happened is not her fault, that you believe her, that you are proud of her for telling you (or another person), and that you are there to keep her safe. Take your child to a mental health and medical professional right away. Many cities have child advocacy centers where a child and her family can get help. These centers interview children and family members in a sensitive, warm place. They can help you report the abuse to legal authorities. They can help you find a medical examiner and therapist skilled in child sexual abuse. DO NOT WAIT! Go immediately and again try and stay calm.