Posted in coparenting, counseling, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized, values

Creating Something New

I’m sure you’ve seen the meme circulating about how parents make different choices in the rearing of their children, but in the end everyone has hit their kid’s head on the car when putting them into their carseat.  It is funny and sad because it is so true.  There are so many decisions and perspectives yelling for our attention as parents.  Some people are able to narrow their frame of reference to include the traditions and history modeled by their own families.  However, when your experiences are those of pain and chaos, there is no where to turn when decisions are uncertain. 

Dysfunction is everywhere.  Often it invades our families and distresses our childhoods.  When it comes to parenting, remembering the parenting we have received can be a laundry list of our parents’ mistakes.  No parent is perfect, but when the main parenting style you claim is “the opposite of my parents”, there can be some difficulty.  There is nothing wrong with your struggle. There is the chance to be better. To do better for the next generation. 

Here are a few ideas to consider when you cannot lean on your parents’ examples:

CONSIDER YOUR COMMUNITY

There will always be people you see and admire.  Especially those that engage with their children with seeming supernatural patience and wisdom.  These people are flawed, but can also be a great resource of information.  If you feel particularly brave, ask their stance on certain issues and learn their reasons.  Seldom are parents stingy with their parenting opinions.  Often we have to ask others to keep their thoughts to themselves.  Being able to share passionate beliefs related to caring for our small ones, is something we all find important.  If you are not feeling brave, observe.  We can learn so much from watching those around us and gleaning their ideas from seeing their behavior.  The goal of observing is not with the purpose of comparison. Let me type that again, not for the purpose of comparison. Remember that parenting is a journey.  Look around for those navigating a little ahead or at a little smoother pace and utilize that resource.

CONSIDER HELPING PROFESSIONALS

Seeking professional help related to parenting is not a negative.  There are parenting classes available through some community centers, hospitals and churches.  Find somewhere that mirrors the principles you want to instill in your children and take advantage of those opportunities.  However, trusting professionals could be a more personal choice than training. Sometimes wounds from parents run deep.  Finding a way to mend and heal from those wounds will make you a better parent.  The phrase, “hurt people, hurt people,” is true.  A more specific truth: hurt parents can create hurting children.  You must deal with your own pain and  consequences from your parents’ choices so that you can prevent the same injuries.  A healthy you, is a step toward healthy children. 

CONSIDER YOUR CO-PARENT

Apart from outliers, you intentionally chose the person with which you have a child.  There was something within them and the relationship that created a sense of trust.  A belief that they were someone reliable and safe.  Lean on that. Even if both of you have come from dysfunctional families, you are two brains committed to a healthy childhood for your children.  Utilize that partnership and become a team of advocates for your family if they have proven to be consistently trustworthy. Explore the positives and negatives from your formative years, decide how to emulate the parenting style you value.  Do research together and share the load.  Allow them to be a sense of reality apart from your experiences.

CONSIDER YOUR INSTINCTS

The fact that you are unsure and insecure about your parenting choices due to negative decisions made by your parents, is a good sign.  It shows the dedication you have to making sure your children have a different experience.  Often, when looking at many of the ideas related to parenting, you know what is best for your child.   This may not always be true and without question.  However, there is something to be said for your understanding and knowledge of your child and your family.  Have faith in yourself and your ability to parent due to your dedication to your kids.  Self-awareness goes a long way in being a better parent.  Explore the effects of your parents’ parenting on you as an individual and decide the choices you will avoid or boundaries you will set in your own family. This is one of greatest gifts you can give to yourself and the next generation.

A perspective that you may appreciate, or may not, is the aid that prayer can have in this setting of new patterns. My own mother parented out of a new desire and new plan in contrast to her upbringing. She always shares that the way she was able to do things differently was “through prayer and asking God to show me how to make it different”. She often quotes the scripture 2 Corinthians 12:10, “where I am weak, then I am strong” and James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.” Look, He is doing a new thing!

You are doing great.  Sometimes deciding to parent after a difficult childhood can be the bravest decision of them all.  Your concerns are valid, but you are not your parents. You are creating something new and different.  You get to decide the tempo and culture of your family.  Make it count.  Make it different.  Make it yours. 

Battling with you for the next generation,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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Posted in coparenting, counseling, divorce, home, parenting, values

Separately and Together

Those of you, who are single, separated, or divorced, we see you. We know that your parenting journey is likely complex. Your friends that are raising kids in a home with both parents may be supportive but cannot completely understand what you are going through. You have likely been through or are on an emotional roller coaster over the care of your children. Though it is impossible to cover every circumstance or situation when you are co-parenting with your child’s parent who you are not living with, it is possible to encourage you in a few areas for the benefit of you and your child.

Behind the Scenes Parenting

Communication is key to co-parenting from different homes so that your child is not placed in the role of the liaison between parents. If your child currently is the liaison, I would encourage you to remove him or her from this role as it can be so stressful on the child. If communication with your child’s other parent is less than ideal, I would encourage behind the scenes communication as much as possible so that the child is not experiencing heated conflict between parents. Communication between both parents can help a child feel connected to both parents and felt taken care of as they know both parents have knowledge of his or her needs and what is important to him or her.

When possible, it is great if both parents can be on the communication lists for school, extracurricular activities, appointments, and important events so that both parents are in the loop and the child knows this. Find a communication method that works best for you. Sometimes it seems like each text message, email, phone call or face to face interaction with the other produces a range of negative emotions. When this is occurring, take some time to regroup by yourself so you are not relaying this to your child.

Cut the Criticism

I preach this, and I know it is so hard! Please do not put down your child’s other parent in front of them. Children do not want to hear bad things about either parent even if it is true. That other parent is part of your child. Often times what one parent says about the other gets back to the other parent via the child, and this does nothing to help effective co-parenting.

I write this humbly as I am sure there are layers and layers of hurt and frustration behind those comments that are critical in nature. “Hurt people hurt people,” and I know you do not want to further hurt your child with the comments about his or her other parent. Please take the high road. This is a great area to work on with a counselor so that you do have a place to process all of that hurt and say those comments!

In the event that your child’s other parent is not in the picture because of abuse, neglect, or addiction, having an age appropriate conversation with your about the other parent’s choices/illness may be necessary. I would encourage you to seek the advice of a professional here.

Letting Go

It can be very difficult to have your child being parented in a way that is not your choice. If the way he or she is being parented at the other parent’s home is causing them distress, is abusive, is unsafe, or something is blatantly wrong, of course it is time to speak up. In some cases a mediator or attorney may be needed.  Generally speaking communication is needed to discuss values that you would like to see for your child in each home. Realistically, you cannot control the way the other parent parents, and you may do things completely different.

For the everyday things that you cannot control at the other home, like bedtime, dinner choice, screen time, and routine, I encourage you to let it go. Your mental health will be better for it. I know it is difficult, but consider letting one thing go this week. In the same fashion, stop yourself before reprimanding your child for not putting himself to bed a decent time if you know the other parent does not enforce a bedtime. You can encourage good choices, but it is never a good feeling for a child to get in trouble for something the other parent allows, like bedtime or screen time.

Advertise What You Agree On

Savor what you agree on with your child’s other parent. Be thankful for it! As it takes five positive interactions to cancel out one negative interaction, each time you can agree and make a joint decision, you are putting coins in the positive co-parenting bank.

Advertise what you agree on to your child. Knowing both parents are for and behind him/her can strengthen a child’s resiliency and enhance confidence. Here are some examples of advertising what you agree on.

“Your dad and I are so proud of your hard work at school this nine weeks.”

“Your mom and I support your decision to focus on more on baseball and not play basketball this year.”

“Mom and I were talking today about what good choices you have been making.”

“Dad and I are both seeing that you haven’t been yourself lately. We wanted to check in.”

I would encourage you to continue to run this race with perseverance leaning on the necessary supports: faith, family, friends, and hopefully a therapist. You are seen and your journey matters. Please remember that each day is a new day, and your relationship with your child is irreplaceable.

With kindness and humility,

Andrea

Posted in coparenting, counseling, motherhood, parenting, values

Grounded Parenting

About a year after I became a parent, a meme started to circulate about motherhood:

How To Be A Mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two year apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.

How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.

-Bunmi Laditan

While it’s easy to look at this list and laugh at how unrealistic it is, it really does describe the ways that I often feel pressured to parent by the world around me. There is always a new theory, method, or parenting style that becomes vogue and sometimes you can’t help but wonder, “Should I be doing that too?” But trying to do every little thing right and please others with your parenting style is a battle that you can never win. You are either too much of one thing or not enough of another and there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that feels expected of you. And things get even messier when the people closest to you have different opinions on what is most important to do as a parent.

All of this can feel overwhelming, especially when you have to juggle figuring all of this out with a partner or family member who is parenting with you. How do you decide which good things to choose for your family and which to let go of? Are there good things you are allowed to let go of? How do you choose between two good choices, or even between two bad ones?

KNOW YOUR VALUES

When you know your values, it is easier to make parenting decisions. Parenting comes with a lot of expectations and your values make it clear which expectations are the most important to fulfill. Otherwise, everyone in your family will be overwhelmed, disappointed, and frankly, confused. It can be even be hard to choose values as a family because there are so many good ones, but try to narrow it down to 3-5 primary values. There is a fun tool at https://www.think2perform.com/our-approach/values/new  that you can use to help you explore what values are important to both you and your partner.

Coming to a mutual decision concerning values helps primary parents set goals, communicate better, and more easily make both the hard and mundane decisions. It is also helpful for keeping your parenting grounded in the midst of all of the other voices in your lives, including friends, media, in-laws, babysitters, school, the church, and other parental figures in the life of your child.

VALUES KEEP EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE

One of the best ways to learn and check your own understanding on a topic is to teach it to someone else. So ask yourself, do you know your parenting values well enough to teach them to someone else? Everyone involved in parenting your child has had a different experience with the world, and even if they say they have the same values as you, their nuanced interaction with the world around them will make their understanding of a particular value a little different than your own. Being able to clearly articulate the values that are important to you to your co-parent or other parenting figures in your child’s life ensures that everyone is on the same page. If your babysitter, your neighbors, your best friend, and your in-laws all know your family’s top three parenting values and what those values mean to your family, then it will be easier for everyone to participate in your family’s life in more seamless ways that reinforce your values.

KEEP IT VISIBLE

Once you have decided on your parenting values and have taken the time to really evaluate what those values mean for your family specifically, keep them visible. Create a family motto and hang it on your wall. Have your kids draw a picture of what those values look like to them. Set a reminder in your phone to talk to your parenting partners periodically about how well you are doing in creating a life that reflects your values. Change the lyrics to a song to include your values and learn it as a family. This way when the questions and uncertainties of parenting come your way, you can make sure that what you value is also what you are living.

In the joy and in the chaos,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in counseling, motherhood, parenting, trauma

The Trauma Mama

I’m really excited to introduce this week’s guest author. Jessie Howell lives in Pensacola, FL and has been fostering with her husband, Taran, for 10 years. She’s a mom of 7 amazing kiddos, 2 of whom are biological, 3 have been adopted, and 2 are currently in foster care. Jessie and Taran have fostered over 100 children and Jessie teaches parenting classes in their community. Jessie also does work as a behavioral consultant, observing parents and children in their homes and working with them to help create a more functional home environment. I hope you are as impacted by her words as I have been. – Selena

As a foster mom for the last 10 years I have been able to serve trauma babies, children, teens and their parents. All of them are trying to navigate their lives and break the cycles of trauma.  It is an honor and a burden.  Each child brings up new challenges and new discoveries about myself.  I have sat in trainings, read books, listened to Ted Talks, talked to therapists and gone to counseling.  There are things that make today so much easier than when I began 10 years ago and there are still things that take my breath away the very same as our first experience. If you are a foster parent, an adoptive parent, a parent of children with special needs this blog is for you.  When I think about the biggest obstacle I have faced as a trauma mom personally it was the isolation.  The times I sat and cried alone grieving for children and the abuse they experienced. 

There have always been people in my corner, but to even let them in is hard.  When I meet with parents and hear their stories, isolation is always a theme. Today I want you to know that you are not alone.  The behaviors you see, the unmet expectations you experience, the life adjustments that feel like no one else in the world is having to make, in those things, you are not alone.  There is a community that sees you.  There is a whole community that is coming up for air and then plunging back into the depths of despair to live with their loved ones and meet them where they are.  My prayer is that this post will bring you comfort, peace, and a sense of community that is so hard to find and feel in the trenches of trauma. 

My two oldest sons recently went on a trip to a summer camp.  When they returned,  I started the normal drilling them of their questions, as any mom would do.  As I listened to one share all the funny stories another sat quiet in the backseat, finally I asked more specific questions.  I found out that on this trip he had been alone.  He sat alone at meals, walked around alone, played games with the adults because the other kids weren’t playing with him. I was heart-broken and angry.  This child is fun, kind, creative, athletic, and so much more.  How could he be so alone in the midst of so many kids and so many activities that demand community? This led to me examining my life deeper, how can I be in the midst of so many people and activities that demand community and still be alone? 

            We cannot heal from our own trauma or help others heal from trauma alone.  We can surround ourselves with people, but if we do not have a strong sense of belonging and love we are still alone. We have to be on both the giving end of love and the receiving end to fully experience it. It is easy to be busy with people and be alone.  I also know that statistics say that 80 % of families that have trauma children or children with special needs will stop going to church or quit all social clubs after the first year….80%.  I have to believe this is because we go to all these places and still feel alone.  This is one of my favorite quotes from Brene Brown:

            You, my dear friends, are too important to quit on community.  You belong in community.  You are loved.  The way you love is a beautiful example. One time when talking to a fellow trauma mama about doing community she said “Jessie, I just couldn’t show up one more time with cookies from Publix while everyone walked in with their homemade desserts.” As hard as it is to believe, let me tell you: no one else cares about the cookies.  We didn’t care if she brought anything.  She brings enough to the table just by showing up.  If you are in a season of store brought cookies, (or if even that sounds like a struggle) keep showing up.  You belong in community.  Your community doesn’t care about your cookies, and if they do, find a different community.  You are more important.  You love others well.  Come be loved on.  Belong to your community.  The definition of belong is “to be specifically placed” I am telling you find your place to be specifically placed.  Choose to not believe the lie that you don’t belong.  Come to these beautiful places that talk about trauma and see that you are not alone. 

            We ask our foster children to let us meet them right where they are.  The beauty and strength it requires to be exposed and to accept the love right where you are is hard for anyone.  Trauma has taught us (and those we serve) to depend on no one, but healing comes in the moments of belonging.  Maybe today the idea of re-learning how to live in community, as a parent of trauma kids or even dealing with your own trauma, sounds exhausting. 

            The truth that I hope you hear is that things will not get better, healing will not happen, we cannot teach our kids how to be fully loved and belong without living the example.  It doesn’t have to be a big community.  The community isn’t going to be perfect at loving you and your family all the time.  The community you choose is the one that you will keep showing up to, the one that you can be fully you at.  If you haven’t found that, start online.  You are too important to not live in community.  Your trauma children need an example of showing up with store bought cookies and greasy pants.  A full life comes in loving others, being loved and belonging.    Start today by showing up, go back to the friends you left and start again.  Start here by believing you are not alone and others are ready to walk with you on this journey. 

Jessie Howell

Posted in counseling, emotion regulation, home, isolation, parenting, trauma, Uncategorized

Don’t Let it Go

Behavior is a greater indication of a child’s emotional state than the words that come out of their mouths. An almost knee-jerk reaction to “how was your day” is often “good”. Similar to our daily interactions with others of “how are you” and the anticipated response of “good.” As adults, we struggle to put the status of our heart into words, and kids have a more difficult time. 

As most parents can attest, the movie Frozen has wormed its way into the singing mouths of our children. Watching the movie for the millionth time, it became clear how the two main characters react in opposite ways to their trauma. These two expressions of turmoil identify many warning signs that your child may be dealing with internal struggles. 

As Selena wrote in “Trauma 101, “Warfare, tragic accidents, natural disasters, and other “big” events are often described as big “T” trauma. Little “t” trauma, such as grief, neglect, bullying, and many others are less often associated with the longer-term and severe side effects of trauma, but repeated exposure to little “t” trauma can be just as impactful as experiencing big “T” trauma.” Trauma can mean a variety of experiences. There is no need to catalogue all the possible “traumas” your child may be dealing with when these behaviors surface. However, it can allow you to have more intentional conversations with your child. 

ANNA

Spoiler alert! Be aware that I am going to address a major plot twist in the movie! Hans is not a good guy. He addresses Anna’s behavior that is a primary indicator of trauma. Hans tells Anna that she was, “so desperate for love, you were willing to marry me, just like that!” Throughout the movie, Anna engages in attention seeking behaviors and is very easily drawn in by a stranger professing affection. 

When children begin acting out in attention seeking manners, we often react negatively. Understandably, their attempts to manipulate our focus can be difficult to respond to in a positive manner. However, their behavior is asking for approval and affection. Trauma targets the core of a person. It converts feelings of confidence and contentment into anxiety and desperation. 

This may look like constant attempts to show off in an area they feel confident or in extreme cases, trying to sabotage attention or affection given to someone else. It can be difficult to keep their behavior in perspective. It is not a control tactic as adults might seek to control. It is a means to receive affirmation and love. 

ELSA

Irritation and isolation are often behaviors that drive us to anger. “Why won’t you talk to me?” or
“Why are you being so mean,” can be frequent internal dialogue responses to our children. It seems as though you are the punching bag for their daily explosions. However, this is a call for understanding. The way children treat their parents, can often be an indication of how they feel about themselves. When children struggle with self-hate, it translates to negative treatment of their parents. 

Elsa responds to her fear by keeping away, and lashing out at, the one person that is seeking to care for her. In the same way our children react to our attempts to reach them. This does not mean we need to leave them on their own. It can be tempting to leave the slammed door shut or let time pass into morning without reengagement. 

For more information visit this website: https://www.samhsa.gov/child-trauma/recognizing-and-treating-child-traumatic-stress

NOT LETTING IT GO

It is important to carefully address these behaviors. Something to consider is following the acronym ASK.

A- Acknowledge that something difficult occurred 

S- Sympathize with their emotion and struggle

K- Know that you cannot and do not need to fix it

Utilizing statements rather than questions can be a way to bypass their reactive behavior. Statements can include, “I know you are struggling right now”, “I love you no matter what happened today”, or “I am on your side”. These can address the questions they are asking themselves without their need to verbalize the concerns. 

Identifying the emotion for your child can be very healing and helpful. As adults we can struggle to articulate our emotions beyond angry, happy or sad. We have many more years and exposure to more vocabulary than our kids. This targets the cause of the behavior rather than the symptom. They will feel seen and heard. The core desire of any person.

You cannot “fix” a trauma. It is something that has left a scar. The scar will heal, preventative measures can be taken to defend against infection, but nothing will make it magically disappear. Walking with your child through the trauma will be the best way you can help. Keep in mind that some big “T” or even little “t” traumas may need professional help as prevention of infection. That is ok. It does not make you a “bad parent” it means you are doing what is necessary for the health of your child. 

Thawing the ice together,

Allyson Pitre

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in emotion regulation, motherhood, parenting, trauma

Hope in the Darkness

Trauma. Just the word evokes an array of emotions. You have your own feelings and thoughts when you hear this word. Darkness can and often does surround when trauma occurs. As parents we never want our children to experience any sort of trauma, and the idea of this can simply unravel of us.

I am not getting into any specific types of trauma in this post. If you have been following along in this series, you know we have defined types of trauma and how to heal from any trauma in your own upbringing or adult life. I aim to provide a clear path to help you be your best self if your child has experienced any sort of traumatic event.

OXYGEN

When we do not have enough oxygen, we cannot see clearly and are likely to only see the darkness. If you have ridden on an airplane, you know that the flight attendant directs parents travelling with small children to first place the oxygen mask on themselves then on the child in the event of an emergency. I never understood this growing up. It seems counterintuitive as parents seem to first think about their children. Bottom line if a parent does not have air, they cannot help their child. So put on your own emotional oxygen mask and breathe so that you can be there physically, spiritually, and emotionally when your child is hurting.

This will likely look like getting some professional help yourself in addition to getting professional help for your child. You may need extra support from family or friends. Taking care of yourself will mean doing the fun and stress reducing things to keep yourself afloat. We need these pleasant activities the most when we feel like doing these the least. So exercise, journaling, spending time with God, listening to music, art, or whatever may soothe you is needed.

THERMOSTAT PARENTING

When you are able to breathe, you can be present with your child. They may want to talk a lot. They may not want to talk. They may be avoidant or overly clingy. They may avoid expressing emotion or they may be very emotional. They are hurting and you are hurting, but you are doing enough to take care of you so that you can take care of them.

One of the hardest jobs as parents is to regulate our own emotions when our kids’ emotions are dysregulated. Picture yourself as a thermostat. It sets the temperature for the environment. It does not vary like a thermometer that simply matches the temperature of the environment. The more you can regulate like a thermostat, the more available you will be to your child. This does not mean that you cannot show emotion or have a meltdown. You may need to have a good long cry in private to feel better so that you can soothe them. Tend to your emotions individually and then tend to your child’s needs and feelings.

HOPE

I pray that you are not in a season of trauma and will not be, but if you are or you have a friend that is, do not lose heart. Do not lose hope. If I did not have hope and know evidence based practices to help people heal, I could not do my job. As a counselor, I see so much pain. Please know that pain can be worked on and through. Love your child, be present with them, and know that with your support and the right help they can be okay. The process of healing is a journey and takes work but is so worth the time put in.

As a Christian counselor, I often give clients Bible versus to meditate on. I will leave you with one that I have given to people who have experienced trauma. I hope that you can claim a verse or quote that will provide hope in your life too.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Hoping through the hurting,

Andrea

Posted in counseling, motherhood, parenting, trauma

A Messy Inheritance

After the passing of my grandmother, I received her beautiful floral china that held a special place in my memory.  We often hear of stories such as these as our friends and families inherit material belongings that are meaningful to them in the wake of a loss.  These inheritances are considered sweet and allow us to treasure the memories and experiences of our loved ones that are no longer with us.

When considering inheritances, material possessions listed in a will are not the only items that find their way into the lives of our loved ones, for better or for worse.  We humans pass on beliefs, traditions, physical characteristics, habits, and, unfortunately, trauma.  I recently read a quote that spoke to this topic: 

“Pain travels through family lines until someone is ready to heal it in themselves.  By going through the agony of healing, you no longer pass the poison chalice on to the generations that follow.  It is incredibly important and sacred work.”  -Unknown

The beautiful thing about our bodies and our brains is that we are capable of healing and changing, but it comes at the cost of vulnerability and difficult work.  “Stuffing,”—as is often used to describe the denial and avoidance of the hurts, losses, and abnormal dangers that have impeded our lives—feels much safer and easier to do as we often convince ourselves that it is less painful and less risky.  However, unresolved trauma effects us and the generations that follow in much greater ways than we are often aware.  So what do we risk passing on to future generations if we are unable or unwilling to deal with our own trauma?

We risk passing on relational difficulties. 

Those that have unresolved trauma often struggle to experience meaningful connection and intimacy as trauma often hijacks the brain and hyper-focuses and scans for trouble, diverting attention from the safety of relational connection.  An individual’s ability to connect to a spouse and child are foundational for establishing a home of safety, security, and belonging.  This basic human need is not met when caregivers use their energy to continue surviving the internal battle that wars within rather than tending to the intricacies of connection and relationships. 

We risk passing on poor mental health. 

Children can often develop psychiatric disturbances due to the psychological abnormalities experienced and modeled by a parent suffering from unresolved trauma and psychiatric disorders.  Simply said, it is expected that when a child is modeled mental disorder and unhealth, their brilliant brains will spend effort replicating and developing the deceiving patterns modeled for it. The international Society for Traumatic Stress Studies reports, “…depression, anxiety, psychosomatic problems, aggression, guilt and related issues may be common in the offspring of trauma survivors (Felsen, 1998).”  

We risk passing on harmful behavioral patterns. 

Unresolved trauma, suppressed under layers of shame and hurt, often finds its way to the surface in behaviors that harm others.  These behavioral patterns are all too easily picked up and repeated by the children we raise.  But there is hope.  Trauma does not have to remain unresolved, waiting beneath the surface like a land mine to harm others.  We can do the hard work of addressing our traumatic past and thus altering the way we live, love, and relate to others. 

My encouragement to you is this.  You are capable of change.  You are capable of storing up a wealthy inheritance of mental health for your child by laboring and storing up the fruits of healthy living, thinking, and processing.  Mama, be the one in your family line that refuses to pass the poison chalice on.  Instead, pass on the fine china of health, safety, and security.  Seek counseling and sweet relationships.  Tell your story.  Refuse to hide in the shame and waste your energy keeping the hurts inside.  Spend that energy on promoting your health and well-being, and investing in the health and well-being of generations to come. 

Keep up the diligent work mamas, Tiffany Raley

References:

http://www.ISTSS.com. (2002). Trauma to One Family Member Effects the Entire Family.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Viking.