Your child may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or he may have some symptoms but never receive an official diagnosis, like Joshua. My simple mom-mind finds it easiest to think of it in very basic terms. My prayer for Joshua was to be able to no longer relive what had happened to him. I’m thankful that his flashbacks were infrequent because they were traumatic to everyone who witnessed them and I knew it had to stop for him to get all the way to healing.
How can you help your child with PTSD symptoms?
- Respect their boundaries. We were unable to touch Joshua on his legs or thighs for years. After several years without flashback symptoms, I grabbed his knee to tell him something and once I realized what I had done, I shrank back in fear. He didn’t notice. I cried and he comforted me. His healing had surprised us both! Rest in the assurance that healing can happen and will come full circle, as long as you allow them a safe place to heal.
- Remove triggers as much as you can. Noah’s strongest memory was the position he was placed in to be assaulted. Even though we hadn’t witnessed a flashback for him, we eliminated activities that required that position of him until we knew for sure he would be OK. David was a wrestler in high school and wanted to put the boys in wrestling while they were young. He chose to set aside that idea even though he had been looking forward to helping coach them and watching them compete. He wanted to bond with them in the only sport he knew. But the disappointment of giving up that dream couldn’t compare to the reward of his boys feeling safe.
- Never shame them for their behavior. This isn’t your child during these moments. This is a taste of their terror and the very human response of fight or flight. Don’t make it about you, no matter how embarrassed you are. Support them calmly. While it’s OK to cry, remember they’re the number one priority at all times.