Why do ‘I Worry About the Kids?’ As parents, teachers, and mentors we can save lives!

“I Worry About the Kids” by Steve Sparks is written for parents, teachers, and mentors…


Following is an excerpt from Chapter 1, I Worry About the Kids, a workbook for parents, teachers, and mentors, by Steve Sparks.  Anticipated publish date September 2016.

“Although children are resilient and adapt to their immediate surroundings and their broader environment—good, bad, indifferent, and ugly as it might be—kids inhale the pain of loved ones, especially parents they look to for love, support, and security. Parents don’t always see or even think that toxic behaviors in the home, school, and neighborhood will have long-term implications on the healthy growth of their children. Parents who suffer from severe post trauma stress are fully engaged in their own world of emotional pain, a private agony that can strike at any moment by haunting triggers from the past. Outbursts of anger, panic attacks, and irrational behaviors represent a trauma-affected adult who is expressing grieving emotions from past traumatic events. When these scary events occur in the home, kids become frightened for their safety. Children are often silent and try to stay clear of threatening violent behaviors, but they never forget. They live and cope with whatever happens around them just like adults.

I’m often asked why I worry so much about babies and young children when thinking and writing about post-traumatic stress and the toxic circumstances that surround a family when a parent suffers from it. I worry because even unborn babies can be damaged from post-trauma family dynamics. And I worry about the kids because the longer the delay in paying attention to them, the more permanent the damage.

Where do I find these children? The terrible answer is I find them in every social strata, every economic level, in every neighborhood, everywhere. Children exhibiting the signs of post-traumatic stress often live in military families that include a parent who served in hard combat but came home fueled by anxiety, depression, and anger. They are children of first responders whose work places them in the midst of terrible violence and chaos, and they can’t help but bring some of their despair back home. They are homeless kids sleeping wherever they can lay their head for the night. Sometimes their parents are with them, sometimes not. They are the children of alcoholics and drug users. They are kids living among convicted criminals who need supervision of their own. They are the children of chronically depressed parents. They are undernourished kids living in poverty. They are kids with limited access to education—for whatever reason. They are children who have witnessed a murder, or a gun accident, or pulled the trigger themselves—you read about these stories in the newspapers way too often. They are children who found a parent dead of suicide. Or who was in the room when their mother was raped. They are foster children taken from parents who abused or neglected them, only to end up in another abusive situation. They are kids whose father or mother skipped out one day, never to return. They are children living with their grandparents because their own parents are dysfunctional or violent. They are children at the mercy of adults—stepfathers, pastors, relatives, neighbors—with sexually deviant personalities. Our society is experiencing an epidemic of children suffering from post-traumatic stress right this minute.

Why do I worry about the little kids? Because I see their anxiety, pain, and distress. I watch how they flinch, how they become mute, how they retreat from tender touch. These little kids often arrive hungry at school and nap too long, or not enough. I worry about the kids because, for the most part, they are invisible. They fall through the cracks. When nobody pays attention to them, they grow up damaged. Their antisocial behavior and learning deficiencies escalate. They mimic the toxic behavior of their caretakers by bullying classmates, by lying and stealing, by becoming defiant. They learn to manipulate people and manipulate the system. They are angry. They live in a state of panic. If they get in trouble in school often enough, they are expelled. Pretty soon, they take to living on the street because their home is more dangerous than interactions with strangers.”


My goal with this latest project is to make the current e-book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2, a paperback workbook.  Most parents and teachers I talk to are interested in the views and solutions that come to us directly from survivors who thrive in life after trauma.  Post-trauma stress is often a life time challenge if not caught early while the young brain is developing.  After age 5 or 6, it becomes increasingly difficult to change the behaviors connected with post-trauma stress symptoms.  Our best hope for the irradication of post-trauma stress is to start very early from birth to age 5.   Quoting from, Bright from the Start, by Jill Stamm, P.h.D.

  • Spending one-on-one time loving your child
  • Playing with your child
  • Responding quickly and predictably to your child
  • Touching and cuddling with your child
  • Reading and singing to your child

Of course, the above is just a small example of the huge responsibility that comes with being a parent.  Most of us struggle with parenting, and need a good partner to be supportive.  It takes a village, they say.  And for me, I knew none of this very well until reaching the later years of my life.  The often unintentional consequences are enormous!  It is up to parents, teachers, and mentors to become trauma informed so that we are able to do our part in building healthy minds and bodies of the children in our lives…

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…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate




Hiding our feelings from children have consequences…

Child Observing Military Memorial Service of a Parent…

Hiding our feelings…from children… Encountering America by Jessica Grogan, Ph.D., is the author of Encountering America: Humanistic Psychology, Sixties Culture, and the Shaping of the Modern Self (January 2013, Harper Perennial). She’s also a Licenced Marriage and Family Therapist Associate in private practice in Austin, TX.

Grogan’s research covers a range of topics related to psychology, psychotherapy, and American culture. She has presented papers on humanistic psychology, American psychotherapy, psychedelics, Alcoholics Anonymous, the philosophy of psychological science, and the relationship of psychology to women’s liberation and civil rights for the American Studies Association, the American Historical Association, Cheiron International Association for the History of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the American Psychology Association.

Quote from Dr. Grogan’s bio…

“I work individually with adults and kids, particularly those dealing with relationship problems, anxiety, and periods of high stress. My specialization is in couple’s and family therapy, and I’m welcoming of high-conflict couples and families. As a therapist, I’m committed to developing a close, working relationship with clients, and I believe humor, openness, and directiveness,all serve this goal. My strength is in balancing assertiveness and directness with empathy and support.

I tend to view problems as occurring when we get stuck in some way, using ineffective solutions to problems, relying on outdated coping styles, and repeating patterns that make problems worse rather than better. Change is possible when we learn to disrupt these patterns, creating the possibility for more satisfying interactions and deeper connection.”


As a trauma survivor and lay researcher, author, blogger, and child advocate; my work is very much on the discovery and needs assessment side of innovation, problem solving, and creative solutions.  I relate to Dr. Grogan’s research and work as a therapist very much, and appreciate the focus on humanistic or the “whole person” as a foundation for treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms.

In the context of “hiding our feelings,” it was a huge relief to find out from my research and therapy that it is okay to be vulnerable and honest with family members, especially kids.  If there is a consistent family conversation and culture of openness at home, the risk of sudden outbursts of angry and potentially harmful escalations can be minimized or negated.  When an entire family suffers from post-traumatic stress, saying nothing about stressful feelings and anxiety was a demonstration of strength.  If you are a military child it is pure hell having a father or mother who suffers from PTSD.  Those who serve America in the armed forces are trained to be emotionally numb as a mandate for survival.  America is learning now that we have to start early with trauma informed coaching for military families and 1st responders.  This is very much an example of a humanistic approach or continuum of therapy designed to help trauma affected families achieve normalcy as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

My research and discovery as a lay person has enlightened me to the extent that healing is now possible in my later years.  I have to work each day to be mindful of triggers and therapy practices to keep a good balance.  Life is not without challenges at any age, but I feel a peace of mind at age 70.  There is joy and happiness each day.  I do much better with down time, living in the moment is so much healthier.  Living with mental health challenges is a work in progress for most.  With a high level of awareness and the access to humanistic therapy alternatives, life is as good as it gets these days.

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 and to order books, etc.

Steve Sparks