How your trauma affects your kids…

Dear reader,

This article may not be an easy pill to swallow.  But trust me, when I say reading it and hearing it from your heart could be life changing.

PAX

Kristin Martinez- President

When we get the news that we are going to be parents (after the shock wears off), we often start thinking about what they will be like.  What our lives will be like, and how we aren’t going to f*k up like our parents did.  We find ourselves troubleshooting ways to be different, googling the best parting practices, or simply thinking about the needs we had that weren’t met.  Am I right?  I know it was like that for me.

But what people forget to tell you, is that your children will push the most painful buttons you have.  You will stare at your children and wonder where the hell they came from, and how they have such an intimate knowledge of all of the things that piss you off.

On an intellectual level, you are able to understand that they’re just kids, and they are pushing the boundaries, finding who they are, and starting to understand the explicit and implicit roles in the family.  On an emotional level, you are thrown back to your own childhood whether you admit it or not.  You do things your parents did, you have immense feelings of guilt for over or under reacting.  You blame and shame yourself for the future that you are somehow screwing up.

I want to first tell you, that it’s not just you.  Every parent struggles.  Yes, even Karen down at the school with her children that never fight, their house that is pristine, and her smug ass smile (sorry, to all the Karen’s reading).  Even Karen cries.

I want to secondly tell you, that this is trauma in action.  We all have trauma.  The Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente published a study that was primarily Caucasian, middle-aged, and college educated people… and found that 70% of them had at least 1 SIGNIFICANT trauma (I ain’t talking bullying, my friends).  If you add in chronic traumas such as bullying, trauma, poverty, separation, loss of a loved one, moving homes, etc- we are looking at damn near the whole population.  You get me?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where our “bad” experiences are kept “hush, hush”.  “Susie, we don’t talk about those kinds of things in public” (Sorry, Susie readers).  We are often taught that what happens at home, stays at home, or to shut up and put up.  We are taught to silently accept the crap that happens, and somehow miraculously be healed.  Trauma is psychological injury, and it needs to be treated just like a fracture, or a scraped knee needs to be treated.

When we fail to recognize our trauma, we also fail to recognize its impact.

Enter children.

When we walk around with unaddressed and untreated trauma, shit hits the fan.  OFTEN.  Now, I have the level of trauma that people write books about, and you’d say OF COURSE she acts bat shit crazy (which I do).  BUT what if I told you that any unresolved trauma will result in bat shit crazy kinds of behaviors.  No judgement here, but let’s call a spade a spade, and recognize how trauma might be playing out in our home lives:

Your 15 year old did not bring his laundry into the laundry room for washing over the weekend.  He is now upset because he has no clean underwear, or chones (as they are referred to in my house).

If you find yourself irritated, grumpy, or yelling at your child something like, “What the hell do you want me to do???” We may have a trauma response.

Your 5 year old is running around the house with his blanket in the wind behind him.  You’ve asked him to stop, but he doesn’t.  You hear a crash.

If you find yourself yelling, screaming, using expletives- you may be experiencing a trauma response.

I could give you examples of how trauma plays out all day long.  Not all of us respond with a trauma response to everything that is stressful.  Each of us have our own individual triggers.  Things that really set us off.  Talking back, breaking the rules, aggression, mean words, poor academics, etc, etc.  I know that if I sat in a room with you, I could find the traumatic event at the root of the reaction.

A great way to know if you just had a traumatic response is that you look back and wonder why you reacted that way to your child.  You feel SHAME (not guilt- guilt is totally normal).  I.e. “I am a bad parent”.  “I suck”.  “They will hate me”.  Etc, etc, etc.

So, maybe you’ve read up to this point and still identify with what I’m writing.  Good, because now I want to share some bad ass tips with you and instill some hope:

  1. Good Enough Parenting
  2. Grounding
  3. You Can Change it

Good Enough Parenting

Remember how I said we all pretty much have issues?  Notice how the world is still turning?  People still get educations, have families, and seem to kick ass in their life?  Good.  That’s because we are resilient, full of grit, and can overcome even the crappiest of parents (which you are probably not, since you are reading an article about how you’re affecting your kids).

Do you provide food for your children?  Check

Do you provide a roof over their head?  Check

Do you encourage their education? Check- this is like beyond a good enough parent, so props to y’all.

Do You provide clothing in some way for your child? Check

Do you feel hurt when your child is hurt? Check

Do you want to help your child? Check

BAM.  Your kids will probably survive you.

Grounding

Now, some of the things we do when we have our own issues can really damage the relationship with our children.  Doing grounding can take us from being good enough parents to good parents.

Using grounding on the regular can help calm you down, call attention to your body experience, and give your children a better experience of who you are.  From being scary and mean, you can be more approachable, loving, and the dreams you had of your relationship with your child can start to come to fruition.

I know I am talking about it like it’s a magic pill.  It’s not.  But it can help you from getting upset 7 times a week instead of 10.  Everything counts and matters when it comes to our kids.

You Can Change It

Having trauma in your life does not mean you and your kids are destined for failure, or having a strained relationship.  It’s important to know that there is help.  For those of you who feel you could use some support, reach out to a professional.  There’s nothing wrong with you.  Life is hard.  Kids are even harder.  Most highly successful people actually engage in therapy, did you know that?  There’s a lot of emotional crap to get through on the way to success, and even more once you get there.

You may be thinking that therapy is some touchy- feely stuff, but it really depends on who you find to do therapy with and what kind of therapy they do.  A lot of the research now points to combination of body based and talk based therapy.  Because a lot of our quick responses need to be addressed on a physical level and then on the talk/cognitive level.

If you struggle with depression, trauma, anxiety, or just feeling lost in life- you can reach out to a therapist for support.  We are good at it.  It’s our careers.

If you hang near the Whittier, CA area, you can always check us out www.paxtherapy.com  I am biased, but I think we have some pretty stellar therapists.  You can fill out a contact form if you have questions, or want to connect.