Military Kids Exposed to the War at Home… How to help children cope and gain strength…

by | May 20, 2017

Teachers and mentors can help military kids and others who suffer from stressed out family circumstances at home…sometimes leading to child abuse and maltreatment.

Stressed out Military Families Need Peer Support…  Helping Children Cope…

“Deployments can be challenging for the entire military family. Even with the best preparation children may experience stress when one or both parents deploy. The at-home parent or caregiver may also experience stress as they adjust to new family roles and responsibilities. Although deployment may be challenging, military families often make adjustments that lead to new sources of strength and support.”


It’s a new day! We didn’t have any awareness growing up as military kids from the boomer generation.  A toxic home life and scary circumstances connected to our family culture persisted without relief until it was time to leave home at age 17 to join the US Navy.  Following are my reflections of home life as a military child…

I have many vivid memories of violence in our home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My father was self medicated and angry most of the time and we never understood any of it…we were just scared all the time.  My mother was stressed out and never understood his outbursts and panic attacks either.  We woke up in the middle of the night to Dad’s nightmares reliving his combat experiences in the South Pacific while serving in the US Navy.   My parents would fight well into the evening hours making it difficult to go to sleep.  Mom did all she could do to just get through each day.  We siblings became a secondary priority and mostly neglected, except we always had food on the table.  The local public school was one of the only escapes during the day.  We felt isolated and ashamed like we were always doing something bad or looked stupid to others.  There was little or no encouragement or support at home for our school work because of the challenges of our parents in dealing with their own issues.  We didn’t talk about our experiences at home to other kids for fear of the consequences of our parents finding out.  We lied to teachers and coaches when they asked questions concerning our own sad and angry behaviors.  We moved often so were unable to make lasting friendships that made a difference.  We were hesitant to bring friends home for fear of unexpected angry outbursts and toxic behaviors in our home.  It was a blessing to spend time at the home of friends and their families where we could see love and kindness, and wished it for our home.

The pattern of child abuse is the same today, but we do have far more awareness and treatment strategies, including criminal action in the worse cases, to mitigate the sad circumstances of a toxic home.  The health of children can be affected for a lifetime from early child abuse and maltreatment.  Awareness is clearly the path to healing for survivors of trauma.  Education is the best solution to help parents become aware of how children are damaged and carry the emotional baggage into adulthood.

My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, was written specifically for parents, mentors, and teachers to help kids who suffer from trauma. Following is an excerpt from the book by way of introduction…


Click for larger view…

Introduction: It has been almost 6 years since publishing my first nonfiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “ball and chain” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a higher level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  Extensive research has shown babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and demonstrate post trauma stress symptoms as they become older.The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website  I will use the compilation of short essays on my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.Understanding Child Traumatic Stress from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is a painful read but highly useful in becoming more aware of how children respond to trauma.  The good news…more often than not child survivors of abuse, maltreatment, and neglect grow up with a high level of compassion, a motivation to succeed, and a desire to make a difference in the world.  This does not take away from the critical need to do all you can to love and care for your children as if your own life is at stake.  I feel blessed about my life at this point, but do envy the families who are free of post traumatic stress in their lives.  I worry most about the children who can suffer for a life-time from growing up in a violent home culture…

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


About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

You might also like

Translate »