This post is the thirteenth and final article in Jolene Philo’s series about children with PTSD. The entire series can be accessed here. Though the first ten articles in this series focused exclusively on PTSD in children, the final three address issues common to parents raising traumatized kids. Today’s post looks at six truths that can help parents cling to their faith when the challenges of raising children with PTSD seem overwhelming.
Truth #1: Christians’ understanding mental health lags far behind their understanding of physical health.
Before the age of modern medicine, physical illnesses were often viewed by the church as evidence of a lack of faith, the consequence of sin, or as punishment from God. In all those cases, the best remedy was confession and prayer. Medical advances have changed that thinking in regards to physical health. But not so much for mental health matters. The general public, as well as the Christian public, is woefully unaware of the many brain-imaging and stress hormone studies that show how trauma changes both the brains and bodies of children. They are also unaware of the many effective treatments for PTSD in children. As parents we can advocate for our kids by educating others about advances in mental health.
Truth #2: PTSD in children is not punishment for their sins or yours.
Children do not cause their own PTSD by sinning. And unless parents have neglected or abused their children, their sin does not cause PTSD in children either. But families can easily lose sight of this truth when parenting kids with PTSD. Parents begin blaming themselves or their kids. Blame can snowball into self-guilt for parents and casting guilt on children. We must continually remind ourselves, our spouses, and our kids that childhood PTSD is the result of trauma they did not seek or cause.
Truth #3: People may not understand PTSD, but God does.
Philippians 2:8 says that because Jesus, the Son of God came to earth and put on flesh, he understands fully what it means to be human: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. (ESV) Can you think of anything more traumatic than being innocent of any wrongdoing and still being crucified on a cross? Whatever your child with PTSD is enduring, Jesus knows. Whatever you are feeling as the parent of a child who has experienced trauma, God the Father knows.
Truth #4: PTSD is rooted in deception and banished by truth.
The brains of children and adults with PTSD are stuck in their trauma. When triggered, the traumatic event replays inside the brain as if it never ended. Effective PTSD treatment helps process the memory so it gets unstuck. Good therapy also helps people create a narrative of the traumatic event that has a beginning, middle, and end. Then the brain can believe the truth and be free of fear. The original trauma is over, and I am safe. As Jesus said in John 8:32, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Truth #5: Never underestimate the power of persistent prayer.
Effective PTSD therapy depends on two things: finding the right treatment and a cooperative client. Sometimes parents work long and hard before the two components intersect. Sometimes, despite their best efforts, the two components never meet…at least not in a parent’s lifetime. But parents who pray consistently and persistently to the God who promises to hear and answer petitions that are in accordance with his will should take heart. God hears our petitions for the physical, mental, and spiritual healing of our children. We can trust him to answer them, if not in this world, then surely in the world to come.
Truth #6: God is always in control.
Just as God is in control of the lives of those with physical illnesses and disabilities, so he is in control over mental illness. What Jesus said in John 9:3 about the man blind from birth is true about traumatized children, too: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Though we may not see it, God has a plan for the lives of our children. His plan is to display His works in them in his perfect time. The journey my husband and I have been on as parents of a child with PTSD often feels like we’re moving one step forward and two steps back. Even so, we have seen the work of God displayed over and over since we became parents in 1982. We expect to see it displayed over and over in years to come. Because our God specializes in taking difficult circumstances and using them to accomplish great good. God was in control when his Son hung on the cross. Surely he is in control of the lives of our traumatized children, too.
Does My Child Have PTSD? is designed for readers looking for answers about the puzzling, disturbing behaviors of childen in their care. With years of research and personal expererience, Jolene Philo provides critical information to help people understand causes, symptoms, prevention, and effective diagnosis, treatment, and care for any child struggling with PTSD. Available for order at Amazon.