Thursday, June 9, 2016

Parental PTSD by Kendall Wagner,MFT

The true definition of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

I work with parents that this is true. I am in no way minimizing war related PTSD. This is a whole other trauma that causes parents to panic when the phone rings, obsessing on their adult or teen's comments about upcoming events, hyper-vigilance and reliving terrifying events brought on by their children's choices.

I used this example a while back with a mom who has been thru the ringer with her son. Her eyes lit up and she said "yes, that's it!" . More and more past and current clients are coming in to deal with the anxiety, sleepless nights, reliving past events and unable to get back to normal. 

There are several reasons why this is happening. Not one reason explains it for all parents: but a combination of your own past memories of your teen and early adulthood also contribute. Here is a very abbreviated list of some causes that are making Parental PTSD more common.

1. Zero tolerance of past normal adolescent and early adult behavior. Our children can be getting straight A's, sports or academic scholarships and one bad decision can ruin it all. (NOT talking rape or true criminal behavior). Ex: drinking at a party, having a cigarette at school, shop lifting a small item and there are more. The consequences outweigh the offence.
2. The level of drugs and potency is not where it was, we all know someone who's life was taken or ruined due to drug and or alcohol use during high school or college.
3. The micro-management of our children have left them with the inability to learn from their own mistakes until the stakes are high in college. (so much more I can write later)
4. Our own parental keeping up with the Jones, nothing spurs a parent on more and creates shame then when others are bragging about their own children. (they are not sharing that they are also going thru struggles, their ego only can boast)

If you have what I call a REAL CHILD, you have had the phone call, the letter or the pain of watching your child struggle. This creates trauma in us and when this happens more then once and/or the depth of the situation this can create long lasting anxiety and fear.

I will write more about this in the coming weeks. 

Kendall Wagner, MFT
clinical director at the Carlsbad Counseling Center.

Welcome to Summer! Kendall Wagner, MFT

Welcome to Summer... now what....
I am starting to get moms and dads coming in and counting the days until School Starts! And it is only June. I could get into why such a long break or why the break seems so much longer then in the past... but this is a practical blog.

First: People should not be entertained at all times. Everyone has a backyard, pool, park or beach. Take your children and have each child take a friend when possible (this way you are not the focus of their activities).

Challenge: Do not take the Game boys, X-Box or other items...they inhibit a child's ability to learn to self direct. This may seem impossible.. start with one outing a week game free...

Rule 1. Let them figure out what to do and how to do it...Play is a child's work.

Rule 2. Let them be bored.. without boredom there can be no self initiation of activities.

Rule 3. IGNORE, IGNORE and IGNORE.. the I'm boredthere is nothing to do and other sayings.

Rule 4. We, out of our own discomfort, rescue our children from themselves. This is a dis-service to their ability to grow into responsible and capable adults.

Let them learn through trial and error how to navigate friends, playgrounds, cul de sacs and community pools. Make use of your local public library, they have activities for all ages. San Diego Parent magazine also has calendars of free events. 

Rule 5. Have a paper day timer and use it.. structure your time with your needs and your to do list on there also... you are setting an example by focusing on what needs to get done and to balance your time. It also helps the crazies when you know what the end point is to any activity...

There are lots of why you can't do this in today's world.. there are also lots of ways to make this happen and take a big step into giving our children and teens a life outside of fear and micro-management. This doesn't make you a bad parent.. just one that sees the big picture!

Happy Summer!

This was posted a few years ago, so thought I would remind everyone.

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        Kendall Wagner,MFT