Q: My husband is having disturbing flashbacks as a result of active combat duty during his time in the military. I'm just starting to learn about post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition has become much worse over the past several weeks, and our entire family is deeply worried. How can we best support him?
Jim: Your family is certainly not alone: PTSD is an increasingly frequent problem in today's war-torn world. And it's understandable that many returning veterans find it difficult to share their emotional pain. In many ways they've been to the brink of hell and back, and they don't want to upset their friends and families by describing their experiences. In addition to this, they assume that only those who've experienced combat can possibly understand and appreciate the significance of their internal struggles. So they keep their mouths shut and stuff their feelings deep down inside.
In many cases the intensity of the emotional suffering endured by a combat veteran far outweighs the pain of any physical injuries he may have sustained in the line of duty. That's not to mention that psychological pain often expresses itself by way of physical or psychosomatic symptoms. Among other things, your husband's flashbacks reflect the very real connection that exists between mind and body.
For this reason, we would strongly suggest that he make an appointment to discuss his condition with a qualified physician at the earliest opportunity (if he hasn't already done so). It's possible that some of the issues he's dealing with can be effectively treated with medication.
We would also recommend that your entire family seek out the services of a licensed counselor. It's important that you walk through this experience together. Focus on the Family's Counseling Department (1-800-232-6459) can provide you with a list of qualified therapists practicing in your area.
Q: In the past two weeks, my 16-year-old daughter has sent or received over 3,000 text messages. So far it hasn't affected her grades, but I worry that this much texting is excessive and unhealthy. What should we do?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: I would agree that this frequency and level of texting is unhealthy. That said, this isn't a single-sided issue, so it's also helpful to look at the matter from your daughter's perspective. Texting is a tool she's using to stay connected with her friends -- and at this stage of life, that connection is vital to her developing sense of personal identity. To some extent, that's completely normal. For her generation, texting is almost like breathing -- kids have a hard time imagining life without it.
In that context, honestly assess the reasons for your anxiety. Is it the texting that bothers you, or is your real concern the quality of the relationships that the texting represents? Use that insight for the foundation of your discussion.
Emphasize that nothing put in text or any other form of social media can be kept absolutely private; that should always be in the forefront of your daughter's mind. Also, remind her of the addictive element inherent to any form of involvement with social media. It's easy for a habit to become an obsession, and for an obsession to become an addiction. So coach her to exercise discretion when texting or connecting with others via the web. Try to agree on reasonable limits and guidelines.
Meanwhile, encourage your daughter to think intentionally about the nature and quality of good relationships. Talk about the important differences between electronic communication and actual face-to-face time with other people. Help her gain perspective so that she, too, can approach the subject of texting from a broader and more knowledgeable point of view.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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