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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 10/26/2011

‘Daddy’s Home’ explains a military parent’s PTSD to kids

The Obama administration’s announcement that U.S. troops will be home from Iraq by year’s end is wonderful news for many American parents and children.
Capt. Corey Steiner is welcomed home by his daughter, Lilliana Steiner, during a homecoming ceremony Oct. 21. (Jerilee Bennett - AP)

The storybook version of military parents returning home is one of hugs and joyful tears. It’s been irresistible to Hollywood, where such reunions are getting their own television shows. On Lifetime, it’s “Coming Home”and on TLC it’s “Surprise Homecoming.”

One scene does not, however, make a reunion. The process of reassembling a family unit after a parent has been engaged in a long-term, intensely stressful, possibly grisly, situation is far more complicated. The Post’s Steve Vogel wrote about some of the possible repercussions for families this week. For children, especially, the transition can be bewildering.

“Many of these soldiers have children and many of the soldiers, themselves, are not getting the treatment they need for [post-traumatic stress disorder], said Carolina Nadel, whose newly published children’s book “ Daddy’s Home ,” (Mookind Press, 2011), tackles this often overlooked subject.

“I realized that many of these children probably do not understand their parents’ changed behavior, and I was afraid that they were sitting at home blaming themselves for it.”

The book is a much more realistic version of a war-front return written and illustrated for children. From a child’s point of view, it depicts the highs and lows of reuniting. The child is elated at his father’s return, then, as days pass, stung and angry at his father’s seemingly bizarre behavior. The story reflects a child’s experience and also provides parents with a playbook on how to help a child through a difficult transition. It’s being recommended by groups like the Military Child Education Coalition.

“Since I grew up with parents suffering from mental illness, I could relate, so, I thought I would write/illustrate a book to explain what is going on with them — a book I wish I had had as a kid,” Nadel wrote me in an e-mail exchange.

Nadel, who lives in Arlington and has an 8-year-old son, has art training and a medical school education. She’s combined her professional background and personal experience before to write a book about a different sort of complicated family situation. “Mommy, Was Your Tummy Big?” (Mookind Press, 2007 ) helps parents explain an egg donor origin. Like “Daddy’s Home,” that book has been widely embraced by the medical community.

I asked Nadel what she most hopes parents take from “Daddy’s Home.” She answered:

“I want parents in households dealing with PTSD to tell their kids that the problems at home are not the child’s fault. The issues have nothing to do with the child. And that it’s OK for the kids to have bad feelings about the parent struggling with PTSD.

Also, I think, it’s important to tell the child that, with treatment, their Mom or Dad will probably get better.”

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 10/26/2011

Tags:  PTSD, Military families

 
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