Your children need to know that some of the common characteristics of someone with Combat Trauma include hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, fight or flight reactions, flashbacks, etc. Depending on the age of your children, you probably won’t use those exact words, but you should at least communicate the concepts. Help them to understand that, when Daddy was in the war, he had to be very alert and react for actions at all times - just to be sure that he could stay alive in case the enemy attacked him. Now he’s having a hard time not thinking about it. In a way, his brain is “stuck” like that. So when certain things happen here at home that remind him of the time he spent in the war, his mind and body react automatically as if an enemy is attacking him.
Then, with a pencil and paper in front of you, think through with your children the various things that trigger your husband. Turn it into a brain-storming session. Try to get them to suggest what sets him off by recalling what happened just before previous times when Dad got angry or abusive or sad. If they aren’t able to come up with triggers that you know about, add them to the list after their observations are exhausted.
With the list you’ve come up with, you can now help each other remember to avoid actions that will trigger your husband’s symptoms. And when they forget and trigger them accidentally, they’ll see his reaction more as a symptom of his disorder, rather than as a personal attack on them.
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