What is traumatic stress like for a child… Excerpt from my book… Knowing more about this subject is of critical importance to parents…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Steve Sparks at age 10 in 1956…

What a child thinks when traumatized…  Quote from this website article…

What a Traumatic Situation is Like for a Young Child
Think of what it is like for young children to be in traumatic situations. They can feel totally helpless and passive. They can cry for help or desperately wish for someone to intervene. They can feel deeply threatened by separation from parents or caretakers. Young children rely on a “protective shield” provided by adults and older siblings to judge the seriousness of danger and to ensure their safety and welfare. They often don’t recognize a traumatic danger until it happens, for example, in a near drowning, attack by a dog, or accidental scalding. They can be the target of physical and sexual abuse by the very people they rely on for their own protection and safety. Young children can witness violence within the family or be left helpless after a parent or caretaker is injured, as might occur in a serious automobile accident. They have the most difficulty with their intense physical and emotional reactions. They become really upset when they hear cries of distress from a parent or caretaker.

 Sometimes adults say, ‘They’re too young to understand.’

        However, young children are affected by traumatic events,

         even though they may not understand what  happened. 

I selected the above quote from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) because it includes, “young children can witness violence within the family or be left helpless…”  This is exactly what happened to me at age 10 while witnessing violence in my home…  Following is an excerpt from my book to show a real life example of what it is like for a kid to observe a traumatic situation…  “Fighting Anger After the War,” a short article by Steve Sparks…was also published in June of 2012.

“As an added tragic note, my brother didn’t mention the time in Waukegan just before he entered the Navy, that Dad hit him in the head after Jerry was confronted in front of the house by some bullies. He almost took them all on and could have cleaned up since he was so strong. Dad hit his head so hard that it swelled up and we thought he needed medical attention. But Dad was afraid to take him to the hospital. Fortunately, Jerry recovered, but it is my opinion that this incident gave him a severe concussion that needed treatment. I know one thing for sure, as a little kid it hurt me deeply to see this happen. To this day I remember the terrible incident vividly. This horrid event is an example of a man who lived by day as a highly respected war hero training boots at the US Naval Training Center; and by night Dad was a mentally ill dangerous man who kept his family in a cage as victims of extreme abuse.  None of us would talk about it for fear of being beaten.  The US Navy did not see it, nor probably wanted to see it. This was a man who was solely responsible for our welfare and without him we would have been poor and homeless at the time. We had no choice but to live with him and to avoid his wrath as much as possible. None of us even understood the gravity of the situation until later.  Denial certainly helped us survive but all the baggage is clear.”
I know now that thousands of families during the post WWII and Korean War period lived with traumatic circumstances and conditions at home.  Most of us survived and thrived, but not without all the emotional baggage that is stored in our minds forever.  It takes a very specific path of healing to reconcile traumatic events for children and adults.  But for children it is often pushed way back in the mind and might rear its ugly head later or there is a loss of memory.  This is true for adults too who suffer from trauma.  A child is helpless, however.  The only defense is to escape to a happy place if at all possible.
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  Click to order…
Steve Sparks, age 67, 2013

Post War Trauma…the children of combat veterans… “Children inhale the pain of parents and store it!”

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Brothers Jerry, Danny & me with Dad, Vernon, on a road trip during late 1940’s… Post WWII


Combat Memory & the WWII Veteran…

Psychological Effects of the Vietnam War…

Understanding Child Traumatic Stress… Quote from this website article…

Posttraumatic Stress Responses
For reasons that are basic to survival, traumatic experiences, long after they are over, continue to take priority in the thoughts, emotions, and behavior of children, adolescents and adults. Fears and other strong emotions, intense physical reactions, and the new way of looking at dangers in the world may recede into the background, but events and reminders may bring them to mind again.

There are three core groups of posttraumatic stress reactions.
  • First, there are the different ways these types of experiences stay on our minds. We continue to have upsetting images of what happened. We may keep having upsetting thoughts about our experience or the harm that resulted. We can also have nightmares. We have strong physical and emotional reactions to reminders that are often part of our daily life. We may have a hard time distinguishing new, safer situations from the traumatic situation we already went through. We may overreact to other things that happen, as if the danger were about to happen again.
  • Second, we may try our best to avoid any situation, person, or place that reminds us of what happened, fighting hard to keep the thoughts, feelings, and images from coming back. We may even “forget” some of the worst parts of the experience, while continuing to react to reminders of those moments.
  • Third, our bodies may continue to stay “on alert.” We may have trouble sleeping, become irritable or easily angered, startle or jump at noises more than before, have trouble concentrating or paying attention, and have recurring physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches.  

 We may try our best to avoid any situation, person, or place that reminds us of what happened. 

During the coming weeks I will be focused more on the “children of combat veterans” and children in general who survive traumatic life events.  As a post WWII military child and US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era,  I have observed and experienced in my life time that we parents risk pushing the kids away as if they did not matter during times of family emotional stress.  I strongly believe as in my case as a parent and PTSD survivor that knowing as much as possible about how children are affected from the potentially toxic home circumstances and conditions of life after war, we can protect youngsters from secondary emotional damage from PTSD, including Complex PTSD.  As in my particular experience as a child growing up with a parent who suffered severely without treatment from the trauma of WWII, we siblings carried PTSD forward in our adult lives without treatment as well.  Children inhale the pain of parents and store it!  Kids are survivors as well, but often live with the pain of memories from emotional neglect and abuse growing up in a dysfunctional family culture…  The emotional pain caused by trauma often surfaces as a nasty laundry list of the symptoms of PTSD affecting the next generation and the next unless we seek a path of healing.  But finding our own journey of healing in life after trauma is not possible unless as adults we become highly aware of the circumstances and conditions at the root of life long emotional pain and challenges stemming from living in a highly toxic home as children.
Several reference links are included above in this post.  My readers can take their time and come back to review the information and resources as time permits.  I plan to pick certain specific topics in the coming weeks and try to relate my own experience as a military child from post WWII and Korean War as well as my adult life as a parent.  It has been very healing for me to connect the dots over the past couple of years while researching and writing my book (a life experience case study) and building a respectable following as a regular blogger.  I know it has helped me to embark on a journey of healing that has brought peace of mind that is now treasured.  I also know that my blog has helped many others who write to me and share their own stories, including those who generously give their time to the cause of life after trauma and PTSD awareness.  I often reference in my blog posts these individuals and heroes who survive and thrive.  It has become particularly important for me to focus more on the children of combat veterans and others who experience traumatic life events.  I believe the long term solution to healing PTSD is through protecting children as much as possible from exposure to the emotional stress circumstances and conditions created at home from parents who bravely and honorably serve America in combat to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.  I know in my heart and soul that those who have served America in past wars, including my father, welcome the new higher level of awareness and conversation concerning life after trauma…
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

“How all of us can help veterans…” Paula J. Caplan, Author, “When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home…” The tragic impact of stigma!

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

“How all of us can help veterans…”  

Paula J. Caplan interview video clip…  Quote from Steve Sparks remarks regarding interview…

“This interview really helps with understanding the unfair & tragic impact of mental health “stigma” that prevents veterans from seeking treatment & getting hired following honorable military service. I was not hired in 1965 by a fortune company, General Telephone & Telegraph (GTE) following my honorable separation from the US Navy. My mental health diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety was noted on the DD214! It felt like my life was over! I was fortunately hired by the Western Union Telegraph Company who judged me on my vocational training & experience, including honorable service as a Radioman in the US Navy. I spent my entire career in the IT/telecom industry, was very successful, and earned big bucks. It was General Tel’s loss not hiring me to be sure…but it was company policy at the time… The stigma still haunts veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD. Thank you Paula Joan Caplan!” www.livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…

“Coping with the Effect of PTSD and Family Holidays…” A joyful Christmas wish to all from Mexico!

Steve & Judy celebrating the season in Bucerias, Mexico!
Villa del Palmar Flamingos

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

“Villa del Palmar Flamingos is located in Riviera Nayarit, the charming beachside destination just north of Puerto Vallarta. Here, amidst world-class beaches and luxurious Mediterranean-style architecture, you’ll find the scenic backdrop of tropical mountains and sparkling Banderas Bay. Everything you need for an exhilarating vacation is here: From a magnificent multi-level pool to exotic and mouth-watering cuisine to nearby championship golf courses and our decadent European-style Tatewari Spa. All of our 275 well-appointed air conditioned suites feature spacious private balconies or terraces that let you experience tropical living at its best, as well as a host of other top-notch amenities meant to ensure a stress-free vacation. It’s all about privacy and exclusivity and experiencing a personalized vacation that’s right for you.”

Judy and I were blessed with an extended stay at the Villa del Palmar Flamingos at the beginning of the holiday season.  This was our Christmas gift to each other this year… 

The holidays are far more joyful for me these days since researching and writing my book.   I am now fully aware of the circumstances and symptoms of life after trauma.  Although still a work in progress, it is so much easier to keep the pain of the past at a safe distance.  I now look forward to the holidays with my family and friends.  I engage with pleasure and joy with loved ones in all the preparations and celebrations rather than escape to the “blanket fort” of the past.  I spend my time counting our blessings and the spiritual meaning of this season of joy.  For me, helping others, focusing on loved ones, and things larger than myself creates new and positive memories during the holidays.  The best part is knowing that my own outward expressions of happiness and joy are infectious and allow those close to me to experience a much happier season rather than being distracted.  Empathy (click for this heartwarming video by Dr. Brene’ Brown) is the greatest gift we give to each other as we survivors thrive on the journey of healing.

Please revisit my post from last year…below…  The ideas will help reinforce coping with emotional challenges from the past and provide you and your family with ways to create new holiday memories to treasure…   

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

http://ptsd.about.com/od/infoforfriendsfamily/a/Family_Holiday.htm  Quote from this website…

“People with PTSD may experience symptoms of emotional numbing. As the name implies, people with PTSD may have difficulties experiencing certain emotions, especially positive emotions. A person with PTSD may know that an event is enjoyable, but simply be unable to experience joy and happiness associated with that event.

Given this, if you notice that a family member with PTSD does not seem to be enjoying the holidays, try not to take it personally. It is very possible that the family member’s PTSD may be preventing him or her from connecting with positive emotions.”

I am now learning how to love the Holiday Season!  It is still a challenge at times, but knowing why I “hated Christmas” for most of my adult life has been very healing and constructive for me and my loved ones.  Each and every year at Christmas time, my wife, Judy, dreaded my annual announcement, “I hate Christmas!”  The joyous season was no joy for me starting around Thanksgiving, and it was a feeling never understood until researching and writing my book.   I usually did a pretty good job making others at home miserable during the Holiday Season.  I even avoided contact with my kids who lived elsewhere during this time because it was so difficult to feel the joy that came so easily for others, so it seemed. 

Not knowing why one has certain negative feelings that affect those close to you is not good anytime of the year.  But with increased awareness of the symptoms of PTSD and the pain of moral injury, it is entirely possible to experience the joy of the Holiday Season.  This will be the second year in a row that Judy nor others will hear, “I hate Christmas.”  I feel more joy now than ever, and very blessed.  The journey of healing is well in hand for me and others in my family.  My heart is more open to the spiritual meaning of Christmas as a Christian.  My only regret is not knowing and learning much earlier in life about moral injury and the symptoms of PTSD.  Living and coping with the pain is terrible for the person affected, but even worse for those you love, who have to live with this negative behavior.   This time of the year is special and it is when we should all have forgiveness in our hearts, lots of love to share, and a desire to make a difference for others.  When you engage in making others happy, you are much happier!

I love Christmas!  And the New Year looks like a winner too! 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

“Preventing Violence in Military Families…” As a post WWII & Korean War military child, we had little or no help with domestic violence… It is a new day!

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Blue Shield Against Domestic Violence
We can prevent violence in military families!


Preventing violence in military families…  Quote from this website article…

“Many of the almost 2 million Americans who have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan come home with serious mental health injuries. RAND Corporation’s 2008 breakthrough report, “Invisible Wounds of War,” estimates that of the veterans who have returned from these conflicts, nearly one in five has symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression, and 19 percent have a possible traumatic brain injury (TBI). More recent figures from the Department of Veteran Affairs suggest that these numbers have almost doubled.  These alarming numbers among returning veterans make them and their families vulnerable to family violence. To help prevent combat veterans from bringing the violence they’ve experienced overseas into their homes, we’ve supported the following organizations and activities:”  


Domestic violence is a reality in many military families, especially with the severe stress of multiple deployments and combat duty.  In my own generation following WWII, there was virtually no awareness, help, or escape from the often violent home and family culture that was ever present.  As kids during this time, we had to “suck it up,” which resulted in lifetime emotional damage to family members and loved ones who carried secondary PTSD and complex PTSD forward without treatment.  Although it is still a challenging 21st Century home culture in military families who serve in combat, it is a new day…  Military families have help available 24/7…no more excuses.  If there is motivation at all for military families to seek treatment, it is to protect your children from lifelong emotional damage that comes from being exposed day in and day out to violent domestic circumstances…

As referenced and discussed in the link… “Guiding the Path – from Surviving to Thriving…  Jenesse Center, a longstanding Foundation grantee, is taking a holistic approach to domestic violence intervention and prevention.  Not just a shelter, Jenesse provides survivors with a way out, and a way forward.” 

I have been writing in this blog and speaking often about “surviving and thriving” in life after trauma.  We are survivors but must thrive on the journey of healing.  Some say there is no cure for PTSD.  I say the cure is a work in progress involving “mindfulness” techniques and effective treatment strategies that keep the pain of past trauma at a safe distance.  We must do more to help military families as a whole, especially children, to eventually break the inter generational cycle of pain and challenges of PTSD.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

A heartwarming video clip and reminder of the value of empathy… “Feeling with people!” Dr. Brene’ Brown…


Dr. Brene’ Brown

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Empathy…  click on this video clip…

Published on Dec 10, 2013

“What is the best way to ease some one’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr. Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.”

Center for the Culture of Empathy…  Quote from this website…

Brown asserts that empathy and shame are on opposite ends of a continuum. Shame results in fear, blame (of self or others), and disconnection. Empathy is cultivated by courage, compassion, and connection, and is the most powerful antidote to shame. Brown references Theresa Wiseman’s four defining attributes of empathy:
  • to be able to see the world as others see it
  • to be nonjudgmental
  • to understand another person’s feelings
  • to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
  • Brown defines empathy as a skill, and so she stresses actively practicing giving and receiving empathy.”

I really didn’t understand the difference between sympathy and empathy until later in life.  My childhood and most of adult years were caught up in being less than vulnerable.  I wore a mask most of the time to show my toughness.  As the aging and maturity process took hold, feeling more vulnerable was scary until researching and writing my book, including starting this blog…  To be “nonjudgmental” was to be weak.  In my family growing up we spent most of our free time knocking each other down a notch or two.  My parents wanted us to be tough, especially Dad, since his world was all about surviving WWII and the Korean War as the “Chief Boatswain’s Mate,” BMC for short, including training “boots” at the US Naval Training Center.  We siblings were treated like sailors on one of the old man’s ships at sea…or in boot camp.  My favorite story is telling folks how well trained I was when first joining the US Navy back in 1963…  I flew through boot camp like it was just a refresher course…
All this cosmetic male ego building eventually got me into big trouble, especially in my personal life.  I could get away with being the less than a vulnerable guy on the job, but not at home and in interpersonal relationships that make a huge difference.  I didn’t know how to love others in ways that showed that truly caring or feeling the pain of others close to me existed at all.  I really had little or no empathy, just sympathy!  Sympathy simply represents how you feel sorry for the other person’s weak behaviors during times of stress.  You know, “suck it up” soldier!
My life changed forever once learning about how vulnerable we are as humans, and how much happier we all can be by showing each other that we care, really care….  One example of my own personal behavior these days, as a work in progress, is taking extra time to listen very carefully to what others are saying to me rather than moving into lecture mode on how important it is to be tough minded.  I try to spend time asking questions to learn more before responding when there are stressful circumstances.  Not doing so is a turn-off to loved ones and close friends.  Show others in your life they are valued by demonstrating empathy.  The short video clip by Dr. Brene’ Brown on “empathy” at the beginning of my post provides an excellent perspective.
Steve Sparks

It is always the “season” to help loved ones who are experiencing a PTSD “panic attack.”

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

“Blanket Fort”
Supporting a loved one through PTSD or a “panic attack.”

Helping loved ones who experience a PTSD “panic attack.”  The following quote was taken from Sometimes Magical (link to post).

“The cartoon illustrates the perfect way to handle every PTSD or anxiety episode.  If I could actually live inside a blanket fort forever, I would.

Unfortunately, flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, memories, triggers, and all those other lovely things that survivors have to live with don’t have the courtesy to always wait for blanket forts to be available.
It’s scary for the person experiencing the attack, but it’s also scary for any loved ones who are trying to comfort and support someone through an attack.”
For many years I didn’t want anyone to see or talk to me when having panic attacks.  I usually tried to escape the crowd during my professional life and at home, especially during the holidays when anxiety seemed to creep into my life even more…  I am asked often now about how to handle these anxious and scary times in my life living and coping with PTSD.  My approach these days does not include the nearest exit door or a “blanket fort” as illustrated in the above cartoon.  My loved ones and close friends all know now and empathize with anxiety and panic attacks in others who live with PTSD or other emotional challenges.  My new world in a higher level of awareness on my part and those close to me has changed my life.  When my wife, Judy, notices my anxiety level increasing under certain circumstances, she goes on alert, and starts talking to me about it…  I don’t get goofy looks anymore, nor do I start to act goofy about it, making those around me nervous and anxious.  Those folks close to you always believe they are doing something wrong when they don’t know what is going on with another person suffering from PTSD.  When awareness by all concerned kicks in, life is good.  The anxiety and panic attacks are mostly managed without notice.  I do take some medication, recommended by my physician, to help me at times as well.  The anxious and scary moments never last long anymore.  I am usually able to take a deep breath and chat privately with myself and my partner to get past the initial anxiety surge.  I used to especially hate holidays, but now enjoy large gatherings and parties like never before.  I feel blessed to have discovered that being honest and having a great support system is far better than denial and the “blanket fort.”   I missed so many happy times during holidays in the past and in other venues or gatherings because of anxiety challenges.  No more!  I look forward to the holidays with lots of enthusiasm and so do my loved ones…
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

When does “spanking” turn into “beatings” or child abuse?

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Is “spanking” a taboo discipline for kids?  Quote from this website article…

One woman fed up with violence against children changes her world!

This film will do what documentary film does best  –  it will tell a story.

Asadah Kirkland, is a teacher and a mother who works with parents in her community in  Harlem.  Her story is how one woman, fed up with violence against children, tired of watching parents slap their children in the head on the bus, tired of hearing countless stories – essentially the same old story about “how my momma would whoop me with a shoe, a belt, an extension cord, a flyswatter” – how ONE woman changes her world!

Spanking can easily evolve to beatings, brain damage, and child abuse leading to a life long struggle with PTSD.  My worst memories of childhood centered around being fearful of the next beating…  Getting slapped and punched in the head was a routine discipline in our highly toxic home during the “too terrible to remember 50’s.”  The most vivid memories and flashbacks are from this type of abuse or so called discipline.  Most of it had nothing to do with what we siblings were doing or not doing that “discipline” in the way of beatings was required.  My reconciliation of these horrific events show that my parents were very angry and needed ways to vent.  There were no treatment strategies for PTSD at the time.  There was little or no research and awareness of the complications of a host of symptoms related to life after trauma.  The post WWII & Korean War baggage was overwhelming to military families in general.   There was little or no harmony for those battle weary warriors who came home with the memories of death and carnage from the battlefield.  Consequently, the children and spouses often became collateral damage from the war that was left behind many thousands of miles in the South Pacific & in Europe.  The bottom line was that children were not protected and remained isolated behind closed doors for the duration of a toxic childhood.  We carried complex and secondary PTSD with us as adults and were often in denial of our own detrimental behaviors unless we were lucky enough to discover a path to healing once the level of PTSD awareness and research showed us the way to a more peaceful life.

In my case, it was discovering the value of revisiting the past and no longer being in denial of how a highly toxic home can kill or at least compromise a kids soul.  In today’s world of mental health and PTSD research we refer to this type of treatment as Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).  The TV show “60 Minutes” recently interviewed several combat veterans receiving CPT with great results.   I was lucky enough to achieve the benefits of Prolonged Exposure by researching and writing my book.  And WOW was it painful but well worth the effort in the end when my book was published in November 2011.  Writing in my blog, Families Living with PTSD and Moral Injury, has provided a consistent journey of healing or work in progress to help me stay grounded as a survivor who is thriving by staying engaged in the treatment process.  Book signing events and other speaking forums have been beneficial as well.  We survivors do know that there is no cure for PTSD, so consistent and long term treatment that works is a highly motivating strategy.  Living with the emotional baggage of a painful past is never an option once experiencing the benefits of effective treatment through Prolonged Exposure and CPT.

If you haven’t already done so, click and view the “60 Minutes…PTSD Victims Progressing from Innovative Therapy.”  You don’t have to write a book like me to get started on your own journey of healing!

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Don’t forget the children who live and cope with PTSD as victims in a toxic home… If there is motivation for parents to seek immediate treatment, it is to protect children…

Steve Sparks, age 10 in 1956…”The too terrible to remember 50’s.”

    Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Ginger Kadlec…”The War Within: PTSD”  Quote from this website article…

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often associated with war or combat veterans who have experienced physical injury, assault or threat of death. It imposes profound, lingering impacts that can often last a lifetime. Children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect have their own first-hand accounts of combat… and can sometimes suffer from PTSD as a result.”

I am also quoted in this article…

“I know from my own childhood experience that a toxic home means kids can be affected with the same symptoms of PTSD as parents who suffer from traumatic events in life… including combat stress. Mental and physical abuse was a big secret in our home as a young boy growing up following WWII and the Korean War.  It was a lonely and isolated world.  A no way out feeling.  We didn’t talk about it, we lied to our friends, coaches, and teachers.  We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.  We siblings even took it out on each other to vent our anger toward the crazy world at home.
“It was a challenge to get up each day and face the world as a young boy. The name of the game was dodging bullets and hiding while our parents acted out in anger and emotional numbness. We didn’t feel loved or cared about that much. My goal was to survive until age 17 and join the US Navy to get away from all of it forever… but we abused children carry the emotional baggage forward. It took me most of my adult life to get all the emotional garbage sorted out and achieve some peace of mind.”

It continues to be surprising to me that most of the focus on PTSD is on adults, parents and combat veterans.  I am always asking the question of why we do not talk about our kids and how the toxic family culture created by PTSD causes secondary PTSD and even complex PTSD in children who live with this sort of traumatic life style day in and day out.  Are we in denial as parents?  Do we assume our children to be resilient and not affected by our own bad behaviors resulting from emotional challenges and mental health issues?  The fact is that children inhale and store the pain of parents, worry constantly, but generally have no outlet to vent or receive help.  Kids are essentially ignored in the mix and sent away to fend for themselves.  This was the reality in my family, and it still happens today even though we know better now.  Parents do not like to admit to emotional neglect or the potential of child abuse that often comes from a home suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.  When the subject of children enters into to the conversation regarding PTSD, parents are nowhere to be found…  It is the fear of the unknown and the preoccupation of the parents own emotional challenges that keep kids at a distance.  The reality is our children can be damaged for a lifetime with their own PTSD symptoms if we don’t pay attention.

My remarks in this post are harsh on parents…  But it is obvious in the work I do in PTSD awareness that kids are left out of the discussion for the most part.  I encourage parents to step back and start talking to children about the subject of PTSD and what the kids are feeling.  For me, it was a scary and a sometimes horrific environment while growing up in the 1950’s.  And during those years there was really no awareness about PTSD at all.  We took each day at a time…it was purely a game of survival at home.

So, as said in the title of this post…  “Don’t forget the children who live and cope with PTSD as victims in a toxic home…  If there is motivation for parents to seek immediate treatment, it is to protect children…”  Please start today!

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story



Three perspectives on writing for therapy and healing…BlogTalk Radio Interview with Debbie Sprague…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author


BlogTalk Radio Interview with Debbie Sprague…writing as therapy & healing…  Click then download the podcast of radio show interview…

It was an honor to participate as a guest of Debbie Sprague for a topic that is close to my heart and passion for many years, especially following the publication of my book.  There are many choices for alternative treatments that are often described as “mindfulness” techniques for healing and release of emotions during a traumatic life experience and in life after trauma.  Writing is my therapy of choice…but might not be for everyone.  For me, writing each day in my blog keeps the pain of a traumatic past at a safe distance.  Being engaged in PTSD awareness and collaborating with others like Family of a Vet has made my years in retirement very special.  This is my second interview with Debbie Sprague, who is the author of A Stranger in My Bed. Debbie tells her story of learning to survive and thrive with her husband, Randy, who served in combat during the Vietnam War… 

Please take a little quality time and listen to all three interviews with Tiffany Cloud Olson, Author, Sleeping with Dog Tags; Andrew R. Jones, Author, Healing the Warrior Heart; and yours truly…  In my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, included in the epilogue on page 144, is “Path to Self Discovery – Author’s Learning Perspective.”  I describe the model used to write my own story as a case study or problem solving process to discover the truth about my family’s post WWII life after war circumstances.  I often point to my childhood in the 1950’s as the “too terrible to remember 50’s.”  Through the therapy and healing of writing, that brings increased awareness of the symptoms and circumstances of life after trauma, we can not only survive but also thrive by making a difference for others…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…