PTSD

Project HELP - Addressing PTSD with Children

Every two years, WMU prayerfully chooses a Project HELP emphasis. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is the Project HELP emphasis for 2016-2017. WMU encourages members at all ages to minister in some way to those suffering with PTSD.

The preceding paragraph is included in each Children in Action Leader, GA Leader, and RA Leader magazine. But, what does it mean? What in the world are you supposed to do as a leader? How do you help children understand PTSD?

Here's an overall tip to keep in mind: The children in your missions education group need your love, support, and understanding. People in their families, neighborhoods, or schools may be struggling with PTSD. It could be that some of the children in your missions education group are struggling with PTSD themselves. While missions leaders, church staff members, and parents can play a key role in helping someone with PTSD, it's best to know your limits. Trained therapists are the best people to call upon to help when it is believed that someone is struggling with PTSD.

So, what's a missions leader to do? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

About Writing Always Remember to Pray

First illustration in progress!

Join us for an interview with Robin McCall, author of Always Remember to Pray:

Why did you want to write a book about prayer for preschoolers?

In preparation for WMU’s Project Help PTSD, I studied factors that help preschoolers build coping skills and resilience. In researching these factors, I kept coming back to prayer as a major influence in helping all of us—adults, as well as preschoolers—to cope with stress and fear. As we learn to pray without ceasing, we develop faith that God truly is with us in every situation. This realization of His ever-present help is vital to the spiritual formation of preschoolers and children. I wanted to create a book that would open opportunities for grown-ups to help little ones talk about prayer.

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Trading Up: Hurt for Healing

Trading Up: Bible Stories That Move Us from Pain to Peace

Bartering was popular when I was a young mother. That was the way we often managed to have better clothes for our children, haircuts, music lessons, or even luxuries such as massages. The idea was to trade with your friends: your talents for their knowledge, your professional skills (i.e., hairdresser) for theirs (i.e., masseuse). Oftentimes we knew we had really “traded up.” We were thrilled with our bargaining powers.

The plan was our way of taking what we had and trading it for what we needed. Using this same principle, Janet Erwin and Murselle McMillan wrote Trading Up: Bible Stories That Move Us from Pain to Peace. This WMU resource is designed, through the use of Bible stories and study guides, to help victims of post-traumatic stress disorder trade up: fear traded for hope, anger for forgiveness, and guilt for truth. Giving pain up to God and receiving His gift of healing in return is trading up at its best.

Show Your Love and Say Thanks to Military Wives

In thinking about Project HELP: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, I thought it might be a good idea to plan a retreat for military wives. We honor the enlisted men and women who defend our country, but what about their spouses and the sacrifices they make? Little did I know that some of the military wives who came would share that their husbands have PTSD or were wounded and they needed this time for themselves so much!

To provide this time “away” was a blessing as I watched them connect with each other and our leaders. The retreat was beyond anything I could begin to explain—it was a God-appointed time just for them and they “soaked” it up.

Our purpose was to provide an opportunity for them to be refreshed and renewed. Using my military task force and my special PTSD task force, I had great resource people to help me think through this idea. I applied for a grant for military ministry, wanting to be able to use some of those funds to provide this retreat for the military wives so they would not have to pay anything to come.

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When a Child Hurts

 

Think about the children you teach each week. In your CA, GA, or RA group, is there a child who is withdrawn? How about one who blurts answers out of turn or constantly seeks your attention? What about a child who seems angry most of the time?

Instead being frustrated with the child’s actions, consider that something might have happened in that child’s life to cause him or her to act that way.

Children, like adults, cannot check their emotional baggage at the door. Unfortunately, they bring those experiences with them when they come to missions classrooms. And, those experiences sometimes cause children to act in ways that may take away from learning activities that are happening with other children.

Every week, you have the opportunity to reach out to the children in your care and remind them that regardless of what has happened outside of the walls of your missions classroom, they are valuable to not only you as their leader, but they are also valuable to God. Their lives have great purpose!

When a Preschooler Experiences Trauma

A plastic bin sat on the floor to use as a doll bed. The baby doll sat in the bin with a baby blanket next to it. A preschooler took the doll and wrapped it in the blanket. She then placed the doll facedown on the floor and turned the plastic bin over on the doll, totally enclosing the doll underneath the bin. This was one week after devastating tornadoes had ravaged the landscape and homes, and taken lives in the surrounding area. I served on a Disaster Relief Child Care team in which we cared for children whose homes had been damaged.

As I watched this preschooler play with the doll, I wondered if this was what happened to her. Did her family get under furniture for protection? Did they place something on top of themselves to keep safe? What was the best way for me to respond to this preschooler?

As you teach Mission Friends®, you also may have a time when there is a natural disaster. The preschoolers you teach may have been impacted by disasters such as flooding, a hurricane, fire, or a tornado. When preschoolers experience trauma from natural disasters, how can you help them feel safe and secure when they are at church?

Wrap-Around Care

Wrap-around care. I was struck by this phrase that was new to me. I learned of the phrase in the article, “Contagious Love for One More Child,” 1 in Sharing, the newsletter for Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. The article focused on a church whose members have become invested in caring for vulnerable children by becoming foster families, adoptive families, or wrap-around families. The article speaks of wrap-around care as offering resources or support to adoptive and foster parents. Wrap-around care is a way of showing these families they are not alone by giving them encouragement and assistance in various ways.

As a Mission Friends teacher, you may have families in your church who are foster parents or adoptive families. Though not all children in foster or adoptive care have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), all of these children have gone through some type of trauma. I like the idea of giving wrap-around care to these foster and adoptive families so they can concentrate on providing for the emotional and physical needs of the child.

What are some ways of providing wrap-around care to these families?

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Are You Really Listening, God?

Many of the population of military veterans I serve in my job as a VA hospital chaplain suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. One such veteran is very special to me, as he is a fellow chaplain. I asked him if PTSD affected his ability to listen to God. Without hesitation, he said, “Absolutely!”

First, he told me his ability to hear at all was affected. Distractions are much worse for one suffering from PTSD than for most of us. Even trying to focus on God still takes concentrated effort.

A career military man, he had trained most of his adult life for war. Though he admits it was a naïve assumption, he thought he would be immune to PTSD since he was serving both God and country. Surely God would protect him so he could minister to those whose only purpose was to protect their country. But that’s not the way it happened. He now suffers from severe PTSD.

Now, he asks, can he still trust he is hearing God correctly? Can he trust God to answer? Listening to God is now a challenge. He finished his conversation with me by saying, “But I heard Him this morning as I preached.” Thanks be to God!

Hope for the Hurting

Project HELP PTSD

During the 2014–2015 church year, we launched a four-year emphasis under the umbrella of Project HELPSM related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is not only a personal issue for many families but also becoming a significant issue for the church. From the effects of war on our soldiers to persecution of our missionaries to school shootings and natural disasters, post-traumatic reactions are often serious but seldom discussed by those involved for fear of being labeled or misunderstood.

Helping Preschoolers with Stress

Seeing images of natural disasters and hearing adults talking about them can create anxiety in young children. Over the past several weeks, we have all watched the tragedy of Nepal’s earthquakes unfold. Last week, multiple people were killed in a major landslide in Colombia. In the United States, we’ve recently seen multiple regions damaged by tornadoes and strong storms.

Preschoolers may experience stress reactions to these disasters even when they are not directly affected by them. Anxiety often arises out of feelings of powerlessness and lack of control. Very young children haven’t acquired the same coping mechanisms that adults, or even older children, have developed. Use these suggestions to help you talk to your preschoolers when they exhibit signs of stress related to seeing and hearing about natural disasters:

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