When children witness the effects of trauma on their parents, it can change how they see the world. Children of first responders — police, firefighters, EMTs, military personnel, paramedics and corrections officers— are especially vulnerable, as their parents, by the very nature of their jobs, are routinely exposed to traumatic events that can impact their own mental health.
“In general, children who see the impact of traumatic events on their parents may become more anxious or fearful about life or feel an intense sense of responsibility to anticipate moods and try to keep their parents happy,” said Iris Perlstein, LCADC, LPC, clinical coordinator with First Responder Treatment Services at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health. “This secondary exposure can cause considerable suffering in a child’s life.”
And while first responders try their best to shield their families from the emotional weight of their work, their children may take notice.