On being a parent whose childhood was not happy

This article from Emotional Geographic on The Courage of Parenting with a History of Trauma really resonated with me. As a survivor of childhood trauma myself, I’ve struggled with my knee-jerk urge to simply shut down my kids when they experience strong emotions. I recently realized that some of my happiest childhood experiences might not be things that are as important to my kids, as they’re not seeking refuge from traumatic events like I was. This passage in particular blew my mind:

What I tell parents who have lived through trauma is this: If all goes well, your children will never completely understand you. They will love you and they will learn from you, but your experience will always be foreign to them. Maybe when they are adults they might be able to understand some of it, but they will never know what you really lived through. They will never see the world through the same lenses as you do. They will take things for granted that you see as the biggest gifts. They will not see all that you do for them, because what you do for them is a part of the fabric of their lives. Children only see what they live in. This is as it should be. It means you are doing it right, but it can feel so isolating.

That does feel lonely, and I never realized that until now! And yet, I certainly would never wish my experiences on them.

This also really spoke to me:

It is tempting when you have had a difficult childhood to want to give your children the childhood you didn’t have. Yet the most important thing you can do is give your child what he or she needs. Each of your children will need different things—different parenting—than you needed –or even than the other siblings need. A more anxious kid needs different parenting than a more risk taking kid, for example.

I have worked hard for the last 6 years to resist trying to fix my past by providing a different childhood for my kids, but the reminder that it’s not about what I want to give them, but rather what they NEED — that’s very valuable.

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