Daddy’s home.  Daddy’s gone.  Daddy’s home.  Daddy’s gone.  Daddy’s home.  Daddy’s

This is the life your child has known up until now.  There have been piles of upheaval and
adjustments they make with a relative ease even you can’t fathom.  Despite the “here
today, gone tomorrow” father of military homes, our children build connections with him and
love him and crave for him to be near.

Then he come home and everything seems beautiful.  But Daddy is different.  He doesn’t
want to play trains and tea party anymore.  He doesn’t take them to the park or tickle them
to make them laugh.  And while this is breaking your heart, it’s bewildering to your children.

And they think:

What did I do?

Daddy doesn’t love me anymore.  I’m not “good enough” for Daddy.  I’m scared of Daddy.  
Things will NEVER be good again.  Sound familiar?  Like the soundtrack running in your
own brain?  Guess what, they need reassurance too.  

Will Daddy be okay again?

They worry about things getting “normal” again just like you.  They need reassurance that
if Daddy gets the help he needs, he will be okay.

It’s all YOUR fault.

Daddy’s angry.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s MOM’s fault.  It’s not your fault.  You didn’t
do it.  PTSD did it.  Trying to explain that can be difficult, however.

It’s all MY fault.

Daddy is always angry at me and I don’t know what I did wrong, but him being angry MUST
be my fault.  It’s not their fault.  It’s PTSD.  

But how do you describe this to a child?

Well, that depends on several factors.  When you are deciding how much and what to say,
the following guidelines are only parameters.  You know your child/children far better than
we could ever know and you know what they are capable of processing and understanding.

Infants and Young Toddlers

At this age, all they know is they’re not receiving the love they once received and they are
most likely very confused.  They may avoid your veteran or even cry if forced to spend tine
or be in close proximity (such as hugging, holding, or sitting on Daddy’s lap).  They are
FAR too young to wrap their growing brains around the concept of
PTSD and they sense
your fear and the emotional changes in your veteran very clearly.  Show them as much
love as possible and encourage your veteran to be understanding of their fear.  Please be
careful how you explain this to your veteran.  If you need to, claim the baby’s been fussy all
day or is having a difficult time.  If the child begins to act uncomfortable, sweep them away
for a diaper change or offer a snack or cookie.

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Ah, the age of questions.  “Why? Why? Why?” can drive you and your PTSD spouse
NUTS.  Preschoolers are not able to completely understand PTSD, but they definitely know
something is going on.  They may call him “Good Daddy” and “Evil Daddy”.  They might
even challenge your veteran about their behavior at a decidedly wrong time.  This age is
when Avalon become crucial.  When a spouse is raging, a “Why are you yelling at
Mommy?” can send them completely postal.  Teach your child that if they hear Mommy and
Daddy “being loud” that they should stay in their room and play quietly or
go to Avalon.  
When you see a teaching opportunity such as animals at the zoo, talk about how some are
“meaner” than others.  That doesn’t mean it is a “bad” animal, just different.  Explain that
with love and encouragement from everyone, your veteran can have good days.  Also be
certain to explain after a blow up directed at them from your veteran that it is NOT their
fault and that you love them and your veteran loves them.  When you veteran calms down,
try to encourage civilized play between the two of them.  Don’t rub in that the child is
scared, just do what you can to encourage good behavior on everyone’s part.

School-Aged Children

This is the age where your children are reading.  They probably have already heard the
words PTSD or
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Sit down with them one on one and let
them ask questions about your veteran and his behavior.  Encourage them to research
and possibly find other children in the community who are going through similar problems.  
If you know of an adult who had a PTSD parent, this would be a good time for them to
begin interacting with that adult.  No one can “take the place” of Daddy, but finding a few
“uncles” to help can be a GREAT plan.  Just make certain that when your spouse is doing
well, they spend time together.

Encourage children to explore the world outside your home.  Many may try to stay home to
“protect” you.  This is the time for them to start sports, dance, or even music lessons.  If
your child really connects with something do not take it away as a punishment.  Let them
help decide their punishments.  You may be surprised when they punish themselves in a
way more difficult than YOU would have chosen for them.  Bring an idea of a suitable
punishment to the table (such as no cell phone for a week) and let them battle for
something else if they choose.

Try to encourage your spouse to find something in common with each of your children and
to do it on a regular basis.  Some favorites of your spouse may seem out of the box to you,
but if your child is interested and your spouse is willing, let them try it.  Common activities
they can enjoy together at this age are home improvement projects, wood working, and
even firing weapons at an approved range (only if your veteran’s PTSD is under control
and has been for some time).


Your children definitely know what is going on and they might be angry at how your spouse
treats you.  Let them know how you feel gently.  Explain that yes, it makes you angry too
but you know Daddy can get better when he gets help.  Encourage them to participate in
activities that are important to them.  Again, do not take these away as a punishment.  This
is the age when they really need to be learning self-discipline.  Many children, when given
the choice, will punish themselves harsher than you would have and the punishment will
seem fairer to everyone.

Encourage children who want to do something about this to get active in politics.  There
may be a debate team at school or a local political campaign they want to participate in.  
Encourage them to be solid thinkers and to explain to the world clearly and concisely what
the needs of the veteran community are.  They might even do a paper in school on the

This article was written by our own Heather Hummert, the wife of an OIF Veteran & Purple
Heart Recipient.  If you would like to contact Heather directly, you can e-mail her at
Heather -at- or

If you would like to help us build this site and reach out to other Veterans, their spouses,
and children, please e-mail us at Info -at- or

For more child-specific pages on, check out these pages:

Explaining Your PTSD to Your Child

Our Little Heroes - Resources for Children

Don't miss these other articles about Real-Life Coping Skills for those of us living in a
"PTSD World":

Day-to-Day Skills for PTSD Households

Searching for "Normal" - Ideas to Make Life Easier

Dealing with "Nina" (Better Known as Your Nosy Neighbor)

Dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the Workplace

Coping Skills for the PTSD Spouse

How to Handle the Weeds of PTSD

Protecting Your Perimeter (Dealing With Paranoia & PTSD)

Helping Children Understand PTSD

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