What is Profoundly Dysfunctional Parenting? And What Happens to the Kids?


Ethan Couch
Ethan Couch the “Affluenza” Teen, picked up in Mexico…

Following is an excerpt from the manuscript of my new book project, I Worry About the Kids.


Profoundly Dysfunctional Parenting

When home life is profoundly dysfunctional bad things happen to parents, children, and loved ones. The ripple effects of toxic behavior created by post-traumatic symptoms can be suicide, school problems, and legal trouble.

“Affluenza” Teen, Ehtan Couch Detained in Mexico…

One recent example of a profoundly dysfunctional home is the case of a teenager from Texas who got off a little too easily after killing four people while driving drunk in 2013. The media used the word “affluenza” to describe the situation in which Ethan Couch, a teenager, was put on probation for this criminal offense. He was not held accountable. Couch is a child from a wealthy family who was given minimal direction and discipline in a home that revolved around too much alcohol, substance abuse, and no structure for the boy. Couch was allowed to drink at age 13 and drive a vehicle without a license. His dysfunctional parents partied as their principal activity and did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. They were not concerned with parenting their son. Mental health issues were also evident. After Couch was released from jail, he and his mother conspired to escape to Mexico to avoid his probation. They were arrested in Puerto Vallarta and sent back to Texas.

This family desperately needed help, but was apparently in denial about the serious situation they were in. All his life, there had been no consequences for Couch’s bad decisions. From an young age, he had been headed for a life of crime because no one called him on his behavior and no one insisted he follow a healthy, sane path. Without effective parenting and mentoring, the pattern of dysfunction continues. Since their arrest in Mexico, the Couch family has demonstrated no remorse or accountability for their actions.

The scope of the mental health problem in kids under six years old is huge and dangerous for the families involved and for society. The following information comes from an infographic, “Are the Kids Alright?”

Click the image to expand the view…

Mental illness is often thought of only as an adult concern. But half of mental illnesses begin to reveal themselves in childhood. Almost 15 million American children have some kind of diagnosable mental disorder, but only 20 percent of those children are identified and treated. The ripple effects include suicide, school problems, and legal trouble. Early identification and adequate treatment can quite literally be the difference between life and death for young people with mental illness.

Signs of mental illness in children aged 4 through 6 include bad behavior at daycare, preschool, or kindergarten; extreme disobedience or aggression; lots of temper tantrums all the time; hyperactivity outside of what other children are doing; excessive fear, worrying, or crying; persistent nightmares; and insomnia. Although children’s brains are still in a state of development, adequate treatment of mental disorders can help put a young person on a path to a healthy future. Options include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, animal-assisted therapy, group therapy, and medication.

Can’t we do more?

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Author Page, Here…

Community Violence Affects Children More Than We Realize… What should parents know?

“Infant mental health” refers to how well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to three.


“Understanding infant mental health is the key to preventing and treating the mental health problems of very young children and their families. It also helps guide the development of healthy social and emotional behaviors. Learn more about infant mental health and how important trusted relationships are for infants and children.”



Following is an excerpt from my latest book project, I Worry About The Kids, a workbook for parents, teachers, and mentors…

No child of any age should have to live anywhere that is not wholesome, safe, secure, and surrounded by loving human beings!

According to the Handbook of Infant Mental Health, general symptoms of post-traumatic stress in young children can include:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive and distressing recollections of the event through flashbacks, and nightmares (Note: Spontaneous and intrusive memories may not necessarily appear distressing and may be expressed as play reenactment.)
  • Avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma, and emotional numbness.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.
  • Increased anxiety in strange situations.
  • Recurrent distressing dreams related to the content and/or feeling of the traumatic events. (Note: It may not be possible to ascertain that the frightening content is related to the traumatic event.)
  • Reactions as if the traumatic events are recurring; the most extreme being a complete loss of awareness of present surroundings. (Note: Such trauma-specific reenactment may occur in play.)
  • Hyper-vigilance, exaggerated startle response, irritability, withdrawal.
  • Diminished interest or participation in significant activities such as play.
  • Persistent reduction in expression of positive emotions.
  • Clinginess to caretaker.
  • Over/under use of words related to the trauma.
  • Distress in relationships with parents, siblings, peers, or other caregivers, or with school behavior not attributable to another medical condition.

Just because children cannot or do not talk about their feelings does not mean the feelings are not there. If not recognized and treated early on, post-traumatic stress disorder will manifest later in the lives of these children.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and Mental Health Champion…

#TALKPTSD – The PTSD Documentary BURIED ABOVE GROUND – Interviewing Ben Selkow

Watch! This powerful trailer…Buried Above Ground

#TALKPTSD Click to listen… Very moving interview with Ben Selkow and Kate Gillie, CEO, PTSDchat.org

Buried Above Ground Facebook

WORLD Channel (PBS) National TV Broadcast Premiere Announcement and Mental Health America (MHA) National Conference & Film Festival

After eight long years of researching, developing relationships, fundraising, filming around the country, tears and laughter, witnessing pain and courage, years of editing, launching the film into festivals and community screenings, we are absolutely thrilled to announce BURIED ABOVE GROUND’s national broadcast on PBS America ReFramed on WORLD Channel, Tuesday, June 28th at 8pm during National PTSD Awareness Month! We are so pleased to be a part of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning American Documentary family to bring our film into households around the country.


I was deeply moved listening to the #PTSDchat Talk Radio interview with Ben Selkow last night. The debth and breath of this film struck me as one of the most pain shaking, delicate, and sensitive research projects yet on post-traumatic stress.   Taking over 6 years to direct and produce this documentary provides the viewer with a heart wrenching but hopeful journey of what we, as trauma survivors from different life experiences find a path of life-long healing.  It is a very crooked road indeed that is navigated successfully but not without setbacks and adjustments, including new traumas along the way.  Ben talks of discovering that post-trauma stress is not an individual matter because it affects the entire family and circle of loved ones in the trauma survivors’ life.  His conclusion is that we must see the larger societal and generational suffering that damages the very fabric and soul of our human experience, especially children and families.  Once we become keenly aware of ourselves and others who struggle with the life long affects of experiencing severe trauma, we will ultimately break the cycle of pain.  This hopeful message is very encouraging and shows that the good work and passion of so many will stop the stigma of mental health and help millions of families who suffer find a path to healing.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Trauma Survivors Thrive…Knowing The Triggers to Emotional Pain… Self Awareness is Healing…

Surviving and Thriving…  Quote from this website…

Every trauma survivor has the right to become a thriver!

We provide support, friendship and advice for adults who have been affected by childhood abuse. If this is the first time you have visited this site, and would like to learn about HAVOCA, feel free to browse around and explore our hundreds of useful pages about the road to recovery.

HAVOCA’s ethos believes that every single victim of abuse has the ability to survive and lead a more fulfilling life.


“How many of us suffer with the feeling of being broken???”  

“And many years of putting all the ‘broken’ parts back in place.   No easy process but you can thrive!”


The above anonymous exchange of text messages got my attention.  I have been using “surviving and thriving” together for some time because shifting to “thrive” offers so much hope.  Why?  Because when we do “survive” emotional neglect and child abuse, embarking on a lifelong journey of healing, we more often than not “thrive” while doing so.  It becomes a daily work in progress and a discipline of understanding the symptoms connected with the mental health challenges.  If we are aware of the triggers and behaviors, we can mitigate the unsettling over reactions to the days events, and practice “dialing down” with style…  Hyper vigilance can be a good thing in terms of staying on top of your game, but not so good if it turns into a panic attack or an over reaction that becomes a distraction to others on your team.  Trauma survivors can thrive by using some of the value added symptoms of mental health challenges to advantage.

I have received excellent mentoring over the years from friends, family, co-workers, and mental health professionals to learn the value of  “dialing down” that translates into facilitating emotions or anger that has positive benefits at home and in the work place.  Take a look at the resource and reference site…Surviving and thriving…  Start thinking in terms of practicing how to use the gifts of hyper vigilance and hyper arousal to your advantage…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)


Honoring and Remembering Father’s WWII and Korean War Service to America… Happy Fathers Day!…


Steve Sparks
Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, BMC, WWII Asiatic Pacific Theater, USS Belle Grove (LSD-2)   c1943




USS Belle Grove (LSD2)

Laid down: 27 October 1942
Launched: 17 February 1943
Commissioned: 9 August 1943
Decommissioned: 12 November 1969
Struck: 12 November 1969
Motto: “The Two Can Do!”
Fate: Sold for scrap, 24 July 1970

Vernon Sparks, BMC, US Navy-USS Belle Grove (LSD2)

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Quoting Charles Minter
“Steve- My name is Charlie Minter. I served under Sparks on deck of the Belle Grove. I went aboard on Oct 43 was assigned to the 3rd. division aft. The first chewing out I ever got was from Bosn Sparks. He had the longest arm of any one I ever saw. You didn’t fool with him. He was fair as anyone this little 17 year old ever knew. . He could get loud too. I thought a lot of him on the ship. He was good to me as he got me a pie job on the ship. But with the understanding I would keep his uniforms pressed at all time which I did. Hope this helps.” Charles R. Minter P>O>Box 585 Daleville, Va.

USS Belle Grove (LSD-2) WWII Asiatic Pacific Theater…A workhorse support, supply, and repair ship that survived 7 campaigns. My Dad V. H. Sparks was the ship’s BMC… Quote from this website…read more about the USS Belle Grove history by clicking on this site…

Belle Grove underwent repairs and alterations at that base before taking part in amphibious rehearsals at Maalaea Bay, Maui. On 22 January 1944, after embarking troops of the Army‘s 7th Infantry Division, she sailed for the Marshall Islands. The ship supported the seizure of Kwajalein Atoll, delivering troops and equipment ashore on 31 January, and then served as a floating dry dock and boat pool for the numerous landing craft required in an amphibious operation. These duties lasted until 8 February when she got underway for Pearl Harbor.
With her transport capabilities needed in the Solomons, Belle Grove headed for the Southwestern Pacific on 2 March. After a brief refueling stop at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, she unloaded troops, vehicles, and other equipment at Guadalcanal. The dock landing ship then took on a cargo of pontoon barges and pilings intended for a motor-torpedo-boat base under construction at Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago just north of New Ireland. On 25 March, despite heavy seas that wrenched her stern gate from its hinges, the LSD delivered the cargo to that island. After returning to Tulagi for fuel, she proceeded to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides for repairs. On 22 April, she steamed to Florida Island to deliver a cargo of landing craft. The ship also carried troops and equipment between Manus Island and the Russell Islands before turning north for Oahu.
While there are many inspiring stories of WWII to write about, I often revisit my father Vernon’s years during the war in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.  Just like many boomers whose fathers served in WWII it has been healing for me to remember my father as a hero who served America with pride and honor.  Prior to researching and writing my book, it was mostly painful to think of my childhood living with a parent affected by the horrors of war.  Making it even more painful was not knowing or understanding how war damages the souls of veterans of all wars, including loved ones in life after war. 

It is no longer a subject for me to avoid or be in a lifetime state of denial.  I am without anger toward my father since writing and publishing my book in November of 2011.  No one should have to live with the pain of traumatic experiences in silence.  But the stigma of a diagnosis of PTSD and the knowledge of moral injury continues to haunt many who are still in need of treatment and relief from the emotional challenges that can live with us for a lifetime.

Although a work in progress, my own recovery has been amazing to me and remarkable to others who observe.  I am convinced that the journey of healing is a path worth seeking.  The outreach and human connectedness experienced from developing a healthy perspective of my father’s severe emotional challenges in life after war has made a world of difference for me.  I see clearly the generational consequences of war that cause children and loved ones to be affected with the same angry behaviors and mental health challenges as a parent who survived the horrors of war.

Rather than live with anger and painful flashbacks of those toxic childhood years, it is now healing to help others by writing about my own recovery and to share the success stories of others.  I write this blog with the goal to help those who are seeking awareness and more understanding of their own challenges and a healthy path to healing.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, US Navy Veteran and member, Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Mindfulness Therapy…Learning to Live in the Moment… #PTSDchat BlogSpotRadio with Dr. Deb Lindh…

Click this image for a larger view…very cool…

Mindfulness Therapy with Dr. Deb Lindh on PTSDchat BlogSpotRadio…  A very uplifting and informative radio show!

Introducing Dr. Lindh in a live video clip on breaking through “triggers” of past traumatic events… How can you use mindfulness therapy to recover from an emotional meltdown?

Dr. Debra Lindh @DebraLindh Award-Winning #Stress #Mindfulness Expert, #PTSD Survivor-Advocate, Post-Stress Growth, Practical Mindfulness, President @Mindful_Effect
Dr. Deb’s Questions:
  • How can we use mindfulness as a trigger recovery?
  • Mindfulness has many techniques and disciplines, what are some techniques that are helpful to folks with PSTD and how can we get clarity around the disciplines?
  • What is post-trauma growth? How does a person with PTSD experience post-trauma growth?
  • What about pre-trauma, when you know a trigger is coming…how can mindfulness help?
  • What is the cycle – pre-trauma, trigger, post-trauma growth and why is it important for PTSD?


I can’t say enough good things about my latest collaboration with www.ptsdchat.org…  Last night was our second #ptsdchat radio show and panel discussion on a most important topic, mindfulness therapy Dr. Deb not only provided her special knowledge and experience on this topic but also, uplifting words of wisdom mixed with humor.  New #ptsdchat contributor, David J. Ortiz Gonzalez, Balanced Soldier Life, joined us on the panel as well to share his work on mindfulness practices, including ‘grounding’ techniques.  We laughed and enjoyed a discussion that is often painful and can cause triggers of past traumatic events and circumstances for many in the #ptsdchat audience. I for one, felt right at home, and very comfortable with the conversation among kindred spirits who know how it feels to live with post-trauma stress symptoms.  We learned so much from Dr. Deb and others on the panel. Please listen to the podcast and Dr. Deb’s video clip.  I’m excited about the opportunity and power of healing that the #ptsdchat radio show brings to our community of peers.  Thank you, Dr. Deb for joining us last night!  And, thank you Kate Gallie for your dedication to making #ptsdchat the very best post-trauma growth forum on the planet…

Please join us next Wednesday night for another lively #ptsdchat radio show.  Our topic for next week will be, PTSD & Triggers: Why Do Triggers Happen?

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)