Do you think your personal childhood trauma is negatively affecting how you raise your children? These tips might help.
As a student of Sociology, I have no right to judge people. I endeavour to find out why people behave the way they do, especially in a group. When you were born, you were a clean slate waiting to absorb influences as you grew into your environment.
And right now, as a mum, you’ll realize your parenting style is largely influenced by your upbringing!
Case Study 1
In uni, Sandra pursued a law degree. She prefered studying to smoking weed. Though she had a bunch of friends who engaged in risky behaviours like drug abuse and unprotected sex, Sandra never bowed down to peer pressure. She had fun responsibly, said no to the young men who threw themselves at her and was generally a kind character. Everybody loved Sandra.
Case study 2
Jennifer was Sandra’s classmate. She missed class to engage in illicit drinking and smoking. When sober, she is depressed and anxious, so she has to drink to escape from herself. She had irresponsible sex and didn’t say no when boys touched her inappropriately. She is an A student but her laziness made her score Ds and Es.
Sandra grew up in a stable home. Her dad was and is still respectful. Always encouraged her and her siblings to pursue their dreams and steer clear of negative peer pressure. Sandra’s background is one of love and genuine care.
Jenifer, on the other hand, grew up with a distant mum with unpredictable mood swings. Her father was a narcissist, and would abuse her at any chance he got. To her parents, she was lazy and would amount to nothing.
Both Sandra and Jenifer are currently parents. Sandra expresses her love for her children just as her parents did. She is slow to anger, her children trust her with their emotions and are excellent in their academics.
Jenifer says she loves her son, but her actions show otherwise. She scorns him whenever he doesn’t tie his shoelaces properly; calls him a girl whenever he cries and prefers partying all weekend to building castles with him. She treats her son less gently because that is what she got as a child.
See, there are mums who got lucky as children. They were loved and genuinely adored. For them, it isn’t hard to show affection to their children.
If you were unlucky in your childhood, then this post is for you.
If you are reading this, chances are, you realize your parenting is toxic.
As you parent your babies, the flashbacks to your upbringing trigger anxiety which makes it hard for your loved ones to be around you. Realize this. The bouts of anger and depression you keep getting are your wounded inner child asking to be parented.
Being a parent doesn’t mean pushing all your childhood traumas at the back of your mind. Suppressing your emotional trauma only leads to it manifesting in other ways like anxiety, depression, headaches and so on.
So how do you deal with your personal childhood trauma while parenting?
Be gentle on yourself when you make parenting mistakes
Parenting is challenging, especially if your brain grain leans towards an invalidated upbringing. You will make mistakes largely because you are human.
While you are conscious of how your own trauma can affect your children, holding yourself to an impossible parenting standard will just frustrate you. A misstep is fine.
Know when to draw a line.
If your parenting deviates from normal errors to blatant child abuse then you need to hold yourself accountable. Don’t demean your child and say: Oh, I had it rough growing up too. Or, ‘I was abused too so please understand’.
The world owes you nothing for whatever you went through, so be accountable by seeking help.
Stop what you are doing and reflect on your reactions/feelings
You may want to get angry as you change your crying baby’s soiled diapers. You may want to angrily flip at your husband for leaving a dirty cup in the sink. You may want to smack your toddler right in the face for throwing tantrums at the supermarket.
Acknowledge the emotions. Acknowledge that your reaction in a situation is what matters, and not how your child or husband acts. Allow your wounded inner child to take you back to how your parents/guardians would react in the situation you are in with your child, and do the opposite of what they did.
It is what it was. Abusive!
Next, acknowledge their reaction to your actions as a child as abusive.
Did your mom slap you in the face for not finishing your food? Abusive.
Did your father call you useless for taking home a below-average grade? Abusive.
Did your grandma liken your character to that of your toxic mom? Abusive.
Here is the thing, your wounded child wants a hug and is taking you back to your ugly childhood so that you can ‘UNROMANTICIZE’ the abuse you faced. Your ugly reaction to your children’s behaviour is partly a result of thinking how your parents/guardians treated you was okay and contributed to your ‘success’.
Acknowledging your parents/guardians’ reactions as abusive means you will strive to do the complete opposite just so your children can grow up healthy and complete.
To forget the past is to relive it today.
Give your wounded inner child some care
Your inner wounded child keeps crawling up on you because it wants to feel loved and cared for. It wants nurturing.
Sweeping your hurt feelings under the rug only serves to exacerbate the pain. And it’ll keep showing up as anxiety, depression, irresponsible sex and drug abuse, to name a few.
Don’t be harsh on your wounded inner child. Instead give her the care she lacked when she needed it.
You can cry, journal or talk to your therapist.
Know how you cater to your infants’ needs when they cry? That’s how you should treat your inner child– with tenderness.
Also, recognize the habits you picked up to cope. Don’t suppress your pain with alcohol or porn.
Oh btw, if you believe in Jesus Christ, the next is for you.
Meditate on the Word of God
You may have asked yourself many times: Why did God allow it to happen to me?
The enemy pushes people to abuse children so as to plunge them from their innocent state into a world of secrecy and lies.
The bible says in Joshua 1:8, ‘Keep this book of the Law always on your lips. Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you may be prosperous and successful.’
The abuse you experienced as a child may have made you secretive. You began acting happy in public but you had dirty little secrets that made you sad.
You may have also pushed the abuse into your subconscious, which made you meditate on it. The more you meditated on the abuse, the more you grew angry or depressed and embraced toxic coping habits like masturbation or drug abuse.
What you meditate on leads to a reaction.
Notice ‘meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it’? Yep! Even the Bible knows whatever you meditate on leads to an action, that’s why it advises you to meditate on the Word of God for godly actions.
God doesn’t want you to keep your abuse a secret. Secrecy is what the enemy intended, not God.
The Word of God is powerful. When feelings of anger or depression begin engulfing you, say a bible verse out loud. It works for me, and it will for you. Meditating on the Word of God leads to better parenting choices too.
I am not a therapist or a counsellor. This post wasn’t inspired by any psychology course. It was inspired by my own childhood, adulthood and parenting experiences.
My childhood was very chaotic and that led to a lifetime of chaos, until I got married and became a MUM.
My invalidated childhood makes me work hard to be conscious of how to treat my son (and husband, and nanny, and the dog).
Every moment, I ensure my son is validated with words like: You are handsome. Oh wow, the greatest man of all time has woken up. You must’ve inherited your father’s high IQ.
I breastfeed him when he just breastfed 5 minutes ago. I hug and kiss my son when he walks to me. I stop everything I am doing to give him the eye contact he wants.
Guys, it is a never-ending job to validate my child and I love it. When I am conscious, everyone in my household is validated. But, when I am not conscious, my words can be quite unsupportive. So I have to be conscious all the time so as to NOT reflect my internal struggles to my son.
I’ll give an example of when I invalidated him.
One time, he didn’t want to eat his lunch– he was 1 year. That wasn’t the first time he refused to eat delicious meals I lovingly prepared for him. As I struggled to feed him, I grew frustrated and gave up. I decided to watch something on youtube to cool down my frustration as my son played by himself. Then out of nowhere, he walked to me for a little cuddle as he always does. Guess what I said. I said: I am not your friend because you have refused to eat. The memory of that makes me want to cry.
I’ll excuse myself to go give him a big warm hug.
Where were we? Oh yeah.
It takes me back to when my guardians would say hurtful things to me when I didn’t meet their expectations. Many years later I said a hurtful thing to my child for not eating. See the cycle? I vow to treat my child with love and respect even when he doesn’t meet my expectations.