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Secondary Trauma


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I am growing concerned that my PTSD is affecting my 3 young children (2,6,7). Are there any warning signs I need to be aware of? I have concerns for my 7 year old as he is very sensitive. After signing off my treatment plan the other day it stated I had attachment issues with my 2 year old. This was the first time I had seen the issues explained as attachment issues.:) . What do I need to do to sort through child attachment issues?

I have read somewhere that secondary trauma exists but I am unsure what to really do about it?

Hi Confused, I don't have the answer to your questions unfortunately. I guess if it were me, and I do believe I have attachment issues myself, I'd spend one on one time with the youngest and just play. I'd watch to see how s/he responds to things going on and just give them hugs when they need them. I guess I can imagine being a kid, and being loved would be to rub my back as if to hold me emotionally. I don't know if you understand that or not. But for me, in my family growing up, there was never any touching (appropriate touching) or hugging. Now I don't like it in real life but can only dream about it. And I am starving emotionally!

Perhaps one on one with each child? I am not a parent myself so that might be difficult to do.

Sorry if that response sounded rather selfish and self centered, I just thought perhaps you could draw from that somehow. I am sure someone here will respond with the answers that you seek.

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The master 2 is very clingy with me, which the older two have never been. I spent 8 weeks in hospital when master 2 was 6 months old. He stayed with me for two nights but the nurses couldn't cope with this set up so I had to wean him and my husband took him home. So I am wondering what impact this is having on him especially. He has been slow to talk but again I am comparing him with my older two.

So these are just a few issues I have noticed and would like to know if there are any other specific signs I need to be aware of which may highlight my ptsd affecting my children.

How do you think your PTSD might be affecting your children? I'd say that looking at your behavior and seeing how they react can tell you something. Children can become afraid if they see a parent who is afraid. It might affect their sense of security I'd think. I remember when I was little seeing my mother cry was really scary to me as she was an adult. I thought at the time that only children cried.

If you are worried about how they are developing now, let me tell you about my nephew. When he was a baby, he was slow with his motor skills. He'd just sit there as if he did not want to do anything and did not show much emotion. He didn't laugh or anything. He never crawled and eventually learned how to walk. He seemed kinda slow in developing. I was worried about him because his mom is blind and I noticed that when she was changing him and was alone with him, she did not talk to him at all. And I'd think that a baby would miss out on the bonding part if the mom is blind and the baby misses out on the eye contact.

But he is 17 now. He is in accelerated classes and is taking trig or calculus, and advanced science courses (I can't keep up with his progress!). He certainly surprised me, and I am so proud of him. I am concerned that he is so quiet, and his parents have suffered a difficult divorce when he was 5. And since then, the kids (he has a little sister) have been caught in the middle. And both parents talk badly about the other in front of the kids. I just hope that this part of their history does not have any lasting affects.

Bottom line, as it relates to your situation, I say look at your reactions and behaviors and look at how your kids react. Do they need to be held? Do they cry? Do you see a drop in self esteem?

I am sure you are a terrific mom. I can tell you love your kids a lot. Please don't worry too much about this. :)

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Confused, was there a specific issue with your 2 y/o that led to this attachment do you think? For instance, when my now 7 y/o DD was 9 days old, she stopped breathing in my arms. Thankfully, a home health nurse was with me, got her breathing again and she was immediately admitted to the PICU for 8 days. From that moment on, I could not leave her. I had to because I worked but I checked on her constantly and every minute that I was home, she was with me. In my arms, in a Snuggly, on my lap. I didn't let others hold her, feed her, change her, nothing. I became convinced she would not survive childhood and wanted all of the time I could with her. This then spilled over into OCD issues. I folded and refolded her clothing. I washed and rewashed everything she touched. I went into her room 20-30 times per night to check her breathing. The list goes on but you get the point.

Anyway, I finally spoke to the ped about it when she was 6 months old. I explained that I felt like I was going to smother her- emotionally, not physically. With his help and referral to a doctor he trusted, I was able to get treatment for Post Traumatic/Post Partum Stress. It took me over a year to see any improvement, but I did see improvement. I still struggle, though. I still have a very difficult time leaving either of my kids with other people. I don't let them ride the bus to school. I want to be the one who does everything for them. And, guess what, it wears me out! Physically, emotionally, mentally- it is draining!

So, I wonder if you can explore (internally or in therapy) what has caused this attachment? Could it be the fact that you were hospitalized during his earlier infancy? Or something else altogether? For me, the attachment came from a loss of control. I needed to regain control after nearly losing her and realizing I could not control her health. (This was compounded by her brother's ongoing health problems at the time.) Do you think it is a control issue for you?

As for your older children, what signs are you seeing that have you concerned? I definitely see signs of anxiety in my DS and have even seen him have full blown anxiety attacks. It breaks my heart. But, I feel empowered to help him because it is something I understand myself. I talk with him about his fears, his need for perfection (like me) and ways to comfort/soothe himself. I don't have all of the answers for him. But, my parents had no clue what I was going through as a child and for me I feel like I can relate to him and help him deal with things before they get out of control.

One thing that I have found to be very important is to not let my kids see my fears get out of hand. I try very hard to not let them see the physical reactions I am dealing with. The last thing they need is to worry about whats wrong with mommy! At the same time, I have had discussions with them about how some people can handle stressful situations and others react and that I am one of those who react. They also know about my phobias and actually I think it makes them feel involved by helping me avoid things they know I am phobic of.

Can you talk to your older 2 and see how they feel your symptoms may or may not be affecting them? I know as mothers we are often much harder on ourselves than anyone else is. Maybe talking to them about your concerns will help alleviate them. Although I constantly feel like I am failing my children on many levels, they have made it clear they feel loved and cared for and are happy. Sometimes I think they are well-adjusted in spite of me! LOL

I am sorry to have rambled but I wanted you to know you are not alone. I hope you are not too hard on yourself and that you find some support and answers for dealing with your children.

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Obviously, I am no expert but it seems to me this lack of attachment is a way for your mind to protect itself from what you perceive as inevitable- injury or harm to our children. Since you think it is inevitable, so is the pain that will come with it. So, by keeping your distance, your mind expects to lessen the pain. I think the fact that you allow them to engage in what you refer to as "dangerous activities" is a sign that you have accepted that you can't protect them so why try. I go to the other extreme- I try to protect them from everything whether it is in my power or not!

I apologize for my rambling reply above. I misunderstood your initial posts and thought your question was about being overly attached- not unattached- to your child(ren.)

I can see why this causes you concern and I personally see it as a good sign that you have this concern. I don't think your unattachment is so deeply rooted that it can't be overcome as you clearly care about them and have concerns about their well-being. I hope you are able to find answers and guidance through therapy. In the meantime, I am here if you ever need to "talk!"

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