Parenting with PTSD
Janet is overwhelmed with a wave of revulsion and nausea every time she breastfeeds her child. Thomas feels guilty every time he changes his son’s diaper, as if he is doing something wrong. Lyra is filled with paralyzing anxiety every time her boys play-fight. Miguel fights down the rage the swells inside him when his toddler throws a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store and he has to endure the judgmental stares of strangers as he carries his daughter football hold out the door while she screams and thrashes. What do these parents have in common? They are all parenting with PTSD.
Many survivors of childhood abuse are living with un-diagnosed PTSD that becomes un-manageable when they have kids of their own. These parents are blindsided by the sudden onset of flashbacks and triggers related to parenting. In the absence of information about this common occurrence, they are left feeling broken and alone.
Parenting with PTSD is a collection of writing by 26 parents who are survivors of childhood abuse. Although they come from diverse backgrounds, what they have in common is a determination to give their children the safe and happy childhood they wish they’d had. This book starts a conversation about what it takes for families to heal from generations of abuse.
Over the last two decades, science and research on toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has shown us that abuse which occurs during childhood interrupts healthy brain and body development. Some children who experience this interference in healthy development will be supported with therapeutic interventions; most will not. As these survivors of childhood abuse grow up, they find ways to cope with their untreated post traumatic stress, usually through avoidance and numbing. After they become parents, those strategies are no longer effective. Parenting survivors need support to get through the flashbacks and other post-traumatic stress symptoms they will experience.
As new mothers, editors and contributing authors Dawn Daum (of Northville, NY) and Joyelle Brandt (of Port Moody, BC) both went looking online and on book shelves for something to validate how they were experiencing motherhood, but never found what they needed. What they did find was each other, after Daum published an online article describing her struggles with raising her daughter as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Brandt contacted Daum after reading the article and asked her if she wanted to create the resource that each of them had searched for.
Despite two time zones and a country between them, Brandt and Daum worked together to talk to other parenting survivors and collect their stories. Through hundreds of emails, texts, and phone conversations Daum and Brandt created Parenting with PTSD: the impact of childhood abuse on parenting. Each essay included in Parenting with PTSD walks you through not the individual’s abusive experiences, but rather how these experiences have affected the author as a mother or father. Included are essays written by fathers, a queer woman expecting her first child, mothers from inside and outside of North America, women of different ethnicities, single and married parents. As well, essays by survivors who are creating trauma informed services show how it is possible not only to break the cycle for your family, but to use your trauma history to help others.
Parenting with PTSD is a resource intended to help survivors prepare for parenthood, and support those in the throes of working to break the cycle through it. Whether you are a parent survivor or you provide medical, mental, or social health services to survivors, this book will provide insight into how triggers, flashbacks, and distorted cognitions come into play once a survivor becomes a parent.
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