One of my dearest girlfriends had a troubled childhood filled with abuse and hidden pain. She’s looking forward to becoming a mom, but I know that she struggles with how her past will affect her future as a parent.
We all know that parenting can be one of the most challenging things on the planet. But if you’ve been through a childhood trauma, parenting can be that much more challenging. So how can a parent that’s survived abuse, neglect or other childhood traumas make sure that the past doesn’t negatively affect his or her parenting?
Unfortunately, bad childhood experiences are all too common. According to the Adverse Childhood Experience study done by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 60% of adults have experienced child abuse, neglect or some other form of childhood trauma. But there’s good news. “Overcoming childhood trauma is possible,” says James P. Krehbiel, psychotherapist and author of Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life. With the right steps, Krehbiel says that you can “accept it, grieve it, and release the pain of the past and learn to live joyously in the present.”
Here are a few steps that experts suggest:
Acknowledge that trauma happened. According to Roni Weisberg-Ross of www.networktherapy.com, “Most abused children grow up in an atmosphere of denial–denial by the adults around them and, for the most part, denial within themselves as a means of survival.” Shaking off the denial and dealing with the reality–no matter how harsh it may be –is important to healing and not repeating your childhood with your children.
Get professional support. Getting over the affects of childhood trauma is hard to do alone. A qualified therapist, support group or even a leader at your place of worship can assist you in talking through issues. If you check into them you’ll find that many of these resources are inexpensive or free.
Rewrite your story. Letting go of bad experiences is easier said than done, but with professional help it can be done. Tracey McMillan, acclaimed television writer and author ofI Love You, and I Am Leaving You Anyway: A Memoir, advises looking at your past and rewriting your story. McMillan says, "There are two ways for me to look at my childhood story: in one, I'm a person who is so unloved, my own mother gave me away. In the other, I look at my prostitute mother and criminal father, and say to myself, I can totally do better than this. In one I'm a victim, in the other, I'm in power."
Take control of your parenthood. You may have had a rotten childhood that was beyond your control. But you’re in control of your parenthood and you get to call the shots. Work every day to make decisions that will make parenthood enjoyable for you and your child. One way to embrace parenthood is to read books that will help you continue to grow and heal. Check out these: The Transcendent Child: Tales of Triumph Over the Past by Lillian Rubin; Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr. Susan Forward; and Trying to Get Some Dignity: Stories of Triumph Over Childhood Abuse by Ginger Rhodes and Richard Rhodes.
All of us have the power to become the mothers that we want to be. With effort and determination, we can shake off the hurts of the past and fully experience the joys of healthy parenting.
How are you overcoming childhood pain?
Yolanda Darville is a mom, freelance writer, and blogger focusing on inspiring and empowering women. Read more of her writings here on her personal blog.