It can be difficult to parent our children through things that we ourselves were not well-supported in as children. When we have been neglected by our parents at a certain age, we may find ourselves struggling with our own child at the same age. We may experience irrational irritation when our child has certain big feelings because these same feelings were not soothed in us when we were little. These situations may see us feeling the hopelessness we felt as a child, the rage we felt as a child, the powerlessness we felt as a child.
Familiar phrases from our childhood may have been, “Stop it, don’t be a cry baby”, “You’ll be all right, it wasn’t that bad”, “Don’t be so stupid”, “Go to your room”, “Pull your head in, you’re being a brat”. None of these phrases help a child to manage the situation or the big feelings that are overwhelming them.
It is important that when you feel angry, dismissive, irritated or disconnected from your children, that you take some time to be compassionate with yourself. Understand that you’re not bad; you are human. Allow yourself time to calm down and reflect on what might be the un-met need in you. Consider if there is a creative way to meet your needs now as an adult – a walk on the beach, nice soap in the shower, a kind friend to hear your struggles, a massage, a pet to cuddle – so that you feel soothed. This will make you more able to successfully in soothe your child’s big feelings.
Laura Markham said, “No one ever really ‘triggers’ you. They’re triggers from your own childhood, from other traumas or from your current stress. Your child has simply unearthed them and is giving you an opportunity to heal them.” If you find that you are often feeling triggered then it might be helpful to talk this through with someone – perhaps a friend or family member who will listen and support you, rather than someone who will judge you. Shame is not helpful when trying to learn new ways of being.
Homebuilder’s Family Support Services offer family support to help work through dynamics that result in you struggling to parent how you would like. We also offer free parenting courses (with free childcare) every term in both Wellsford and Warkworth. These are friendly, safe places to look at your current parenting and learn strategies to improve. They are designed to be compassionate about your struggles. Parenting can trigger every fuse you have, including ones you didn’t know you had.
Liz Cole, Homebuilders family support worker