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Coping Strategies for the Parent Struggling with PTSD

Special needs mom, Clinical and School Psychologist
05/06/19  8:00 AM PST
PTSD

You may find your anxiety is being triggered by the day’s events, or what you still need to accomplish before the day’s end for yourself, your child, your job, or all 3. That anxiety experience is real and it sometimes triggers a more intense anxiety response when something isn’t going as you planned. And let’s face it, there are a lot of variables that can go out of whack at any given time!

Or, maybe there is really no reason at all and you are feeling triggered and are struggling with low mood, low energy and just an overall wanting to withdraw and hide. So now what?

Own It

When feeling distressed, sad, anxious, or generally unhappy, acknowledge your feelings and don’t try to deny, distract or run away from them. Embrace how you are feeling even if there is no real identifiable source for your feelings. Today, your trigger may have been a sudden flashback, a scent, or sight, or a feeling.

It’s okay. Be aware of what and how you are feeling, first and foremost.

Give Yourself a Break

If you are at work or an event, it’s okay to leave the situation you are in and take a break. Take a half-day or a sick day if you are at work. Do not force yourself to stay or handle a situation when your tolerance and resources are at a minimum. Find a quiet place, make a cup of tea and allow your body to process your emotions and come back down from the roller coaster ride you were just a part of.

Keep a journal with you, or find an app on your phone that you can use to write down your thoughts and feelings in that moment. Answer these questions to yourself, and answer honestly:

  • “What is it that I’m feeling?”
  • “Why am I feeling this way?”
  • “Have I felt this way before?”
  • “When have I felt like this before?”
  • “What am I thinking of?”

The answers to any of these questions will give you insight into how the current situation is resulting in flashbacks, sadness, overwhelm, anger or the experience of anxiety.

Be Kind…To Yourself

It’s very easy to speak negatively to yourself with statements like:

  • “What is wrong with me?”
  • “Why can’t I pull it together?”
  • “I can’t do my job”
  • “I’m a horrible mom/person/employee/wife, etc”
  • “I’m a failure”

Listen for those horribly negative thoughts and tell them that they are liars and it’s okay for you to have a moment. Do not try to run away or hide from the anxiety, flashbacks, or other feelings you are having. Instead, feed your body and mind the message that:

  • “It’s okay to feel like this”
  • “I’m going to be okay”
  • “I can get through this”
  • “I need a break today/now”

For the parent of a special needs child who is traumatized, I hear you and I feel you. Know you are not alone. But please, be kind to and forgiving of yourself.

the birds and the bees

Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified School Psychologist who specializes in working with children with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and behavioral struggles. She is also mom to three children, one with special needs. Her practice, Psychological and Education Consulting, is located in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey.

For More Articles and Videos Related to PTSD and Parenting Children with Special Needs:

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