I previously had a podcast episode on kids dealing with trauma. If you have not heard it you can check it out, here.
I wanted to add something to that conversation for your consideration.
Many parents, may not recognize that your actions may be traumatic for your children. You have done the best you can to provide them with the best life possible - good schools, best neighborhood you can live in, making things happen when they have no clue what goes on behind the scenes. You do your best to support your children and be there for them so how could you possibly be traumatizing them?
Well, first let's start with the fact that trauma is relative. This means while there are certain circumstances that we can all agree are traumatic (any kind of abuse, being badly hurt in a car accident, natural disasters, etc) trauma is really more about the way the person responds to the event than the event itself. It also means people can experience the same event and have completely different responses. For instance, let's say three individuals are involved in a car accident, all with the same impact and injuries. Afterwards, one person is terrified to drive and vows to never drive again, they have consistent nightmares about the accident, and thinking about driving or even riding in a car cause debilitating anxiety and fear. Another person goes back to driving as soon as they recover without a second thought. The last person experiences some anxiety but gets back to driving fairly quickly. All the same experience, but very different responses.
I clarify that because it is important to note that trauma is not about what anyone else perceives as traumatic for someone else. So, while you may not think what has happened should have been traumatic for your child it is about their response to what happened and what they are experiencing and I want you to keep this in mind as you continue reading.
So, what are things that are potentially traumatizing to your child and what are the solutions?
Feeling unheard and unseen
This may be a result of being cut off when speaking, feeling misunderstood when trying to communicate their feelings, not listening to their "side of the story", or being punished in different ways for expressing themselves. This can lead to struggles communicating with others, feeling that their words are not important, and struggles with self-confidence.
Solution: Listen to and validate their feelings and what they are expressing. Not sure how? Ask what they need from you. They may struggle with telling you, be patient and let them know you are open to hearing their needs.
This is still a hot topic that many parents disagree on, however, punishments that cause physical harm can be traumatic as well as create struggles in other areas as they grow older. Adults who were punished using physical tactics often struggle with communication, depression symptoms, and anxiety symptoms that often go unrecognized.
Solution: Focus on discipline tactics that increase skills to make better choices next time. Natural consequences may also be sufficient.
Words that Hurt
Words are powerful. Unfortunately, our brains tend to hold on to negative words that we hear more than positive ones, it's just the way humans are wired. Your words have the power to impact the way they feel about themselves,.
Solution: Incorporate more positive words than negative, focusing more on their positive behaviors than the negative ones (not ignoring the negative behaviors, just making sure positives outweigh the negatives).
(Comment below if you immediately thought about Keily from 3LW when you read that 😂)
It is understandable that things do not always go as planned. The trouble here is that it is often not explained why so the child is left to come up with their own reasoning which is typically that it was not important to you or they were not considered. This can cause them to struggle to trust you (without trust it will be difficult to get respect) as well as others, after all if you cannot trust your parents who can you trust?
Solution: Explain what you can about why the expectation was not met. Also, connect with their disappointment. Letting them know that you are disappointed as well helps them process that feeling and watch how you handle it.
Navigating a Parent's Emotions
Not knowing how your parent is going to respond to a situation can be a scary thing, particularly when your parent is prone to explode or have big negative reactions. The same goes for feeling that they have to be responsible for your emotions. For example, believing they need to present a situation to you perfectly to avoid being yelled at or physically punished. I will also add to this, being emotionally unavailable. Maybe you are there for them physically but you do not express affection.
Solution: Increase your emotional regulation skills and know your own triggers. You may do this through therapy, reading books, or other research. Take a deep breath. Response > Reaction.
I know that these solutions are easier said than done or maybe you're not sure how to do it. I'm here to help. Book below to discuss how I can help you and your pre-teen or teen get on the same page, reduce arguments, see changed behaviors, and improve your relationship.