When a child is injured or traumatized in some way, it’s not unusual for the parents to also experience some emotional impact from the trauma. This is called secondary traumatic stress, or STS, and it’s a form of persistent emotional distress that comes from dealing with your child’s trauma firsthand. STS is more than just feeling burnt out; its signs and symptoms are similar to posttraumatic stress. And parents with their own history of trauma can be especially vulnerable to STS.
As a teacher and a parent of four children, one of whom has bipolar disorder, some days I find myself staring at my computer screen, my mind frozen. What was I doing? Which of these 17 extremely urgent open internet browser tabs should I tackle first? Do I even dare check my email in-box? How long before I have to get dinner on the table? In the midst of my frozen panicked state, my Outlook calendar pings me to remind me it’s “Mindful Monday,” and I’m going to be late for the mindfulness workshop (again).
As the parent of a child dealing with mental illness, you spend a lot of time and energy focusing on your child’s day-to-day well-being. Whether you are coordinating with your child’s teachers and mental health professionals, helping your child cope with classwork and extracurricular activities, or dealing with a full-blown meltdown, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to manage it all. Left unchecked, these stressors can take a toll on you and your child, ultimately harming your own physical and mental health.
Resilience is a word that military families hear often, so often that it may just sound like a modern buzzword tossed out at briefings and townhall meetings. While the term speaks to toughness, the more important meaning is the ability to bounce back, recover, and be flexible. Unfortunately, the latter often gets lost. As both a mental health professional within the military community and a member of the community personally, I too have had my moments of cringing at what seems like the overuse of “resiliency.” And then I met a military family who helped refresh this term for me.
As parents, your number one goal is to help your child live a happy and healthy life. You want to protect them from any kind of harm — and that includes harmful drug use. Unfortunately, today more than ever before, your child may be at risk for developing an opioid addiction.
When children are sick with physical illnesses like cancer, the entire community rallies around the family. Friends bring casseroles, offer to watch the child’s siblings while the parents spend time with their sick child, and flood the family with tangible signs of love and support like flowers, cards, and balloons.