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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

by: Jena Monahan

Often, when we hear the words Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD we immediately think of veterans, but did you know that people can experience PTSD for many other reasons? As a kinship caregiver you may know that the child(ren) you are raising has experienced a traumatic event such as witnessing violence, being physically abused, being exposed to drugs, etc. It is important to understand that because a person has been involved in a traumatic experience it does not mean that they have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, another mental health diagnosis or emotional symptom. If you are wondering what those reasons might be, the reason is YOU, because YOU have encouraged resiliency in the child(ren) you are raising!
What is resiliency? The Oxford Dictionary defines resiliency as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”. If you were in the life of the child before you began being their full time caregiver you may have already influenced their “toughness” or it may be something you instilled when they came into your care. One way you may have boosted their resiliency is by being a consistent support; the child(ren) in your life knows that if they need you, you are there. Another way may be that you have shown them that you will protect them, and they are safe when they are with. Or perhaps you make sure to simply remind them each day that they are loved, and they are cherished.

Unfortunately, sometimes even when a person is resilient, they may still struggle from the challenging effects of their experiences and/or PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event and then encounter the following symptoms.
  1. At least one of the following re-experiencing symptoms which can be flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts.
  2. At least one avoidance symptom which can be avoiding the places, people, things, feeling or thoughts of the traumatizing event. 
  3. At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms such as being easily startled, feeling tense, having trouble sleeping or having angry outburst.
  4. At least two cognition and mood symptoms including difficulty remembering key features of a traumatic event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, distorted feelings like guilt or blame, loss of interest in enjoyable things.
The symptoms of PTSD can be seen differently in children. A child’s symptoms may include bed wetting after a child has been potty trained, engaging in disruptive behaviors, acting out scary moments in their play, etc.

If an individual meets the above criteria for PTSD or is struggling from any of the listed symptoms there is help and getting connected with a therapist is often the first step. A therapist will be able to help determine the most appropriate treatment which might include Cognitive Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or often for children Play Therapy is utilized.

In addition to therapy or at any time there are things that YOU can do to develop and support resiliency within the child you are caring for.
  1. Encourage physical activities, perhaps have them join a seasonal sport. Accomplishments within the sport can help boost confidence and the comradery and support of a team can provide a sense of unity and belonging.
  2. Help inspire a positive mind set. If your child is primarily focused on the bad, help them identify what is good in their life and what they are grateful for.
  3. Empower them to learn new things and show them they are capable by teaching them new skills such as cooking a meal, counting back money, or learning a new game.
Finally, we want you to know that being a caregiver of a child struggling with PTSD comes with some great challenges that can make an already difficult situation even more difficult. As a caregiver you may be faced with feelings of hopelessness, being burnt out, or even Secondary Post Traumatic Disorder. We want to remind you that it is critical for you to take care of yourself so that you can continue to take care of others. If you are exploring services or therapy for a child you are raising, now would also a great time to explore them for yourself.

If you would like to learn more about building resiliency, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Kinship Connections of Wyoming please reach us by simply dialing 2-1-1 and ask for Kinship Connections or if you are already working with a Kinship Navigator you may contact them directly.


If you would like to learn more about Kinship Connections of Wyoming, you can look through our website or you can reach us by simply dialing 2-1-1 and ask for Kinship Connections. Furthermore, if you know of a family who could benefit from our program you can direct them to simply dial 2-1-1 or you can complete our online referral form.

Did you know that Kinship Connections of Wyoming offers monthly newsletters? We would love for you to join our mailing list by imputing your information below. You can also click here to view all our previous letters. 

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