Most parents who look into the eyes of their new baby see whatever lies ahead as a clean slate. Yet attachment research tells us that the biggest predictor of how we will perform as parents is how much we’ve been able to make sense out of our own past. So, while the last place we may look when we become parents is our own childhood, we should do so if we want to be better present-day parents to our children.
Even though what happened to us in childhood shows up in our parenting, this doesn’t mean we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents. In fact, no matter what distress or even trauma we endured in early life, what matters most is how much we’ve been able to feel the full pain of our childhood and create a coherent narrative of our experience. By processing what happened to us, we are better able to relate to our own kids and provide the nurturance they need. We can come to recognise that our “instinctive” reactions are not always representative of how we want to parent. And we can start to understand why our kids trigger us the way they do.
Here are 7 ways our childhood can affect how we parent:
1. Imitating. – your parents, noticing their negative traits
2. Overreacting. – to small incidents
3. Projecting. – yourself on to your children or others
4. Recreating. – in the present the past that is familiar
5. Being defended. – psychological defenses from the past that hurt us as adults, particularly as parents
6. Getting triggered. – emotionally reminded of pain from our past
7. Listening to a critical inner voice. – we perpetuate self-defeating self-talk from internalize negative attitudes our parents had toward us and themselves
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Knowing ourselves and making sense of our experiences helps us to differentiate, to shed destructive layers from our past that limit us in our lives and become who we really seek to be. For all parents, looking for answers on how to be the best parent they can be, the key is often to venture into yourself and to do so with strength, curiosity and compassion.
Your childhood hurts do not need to be a life sentence. That is good news!!
Want to know how to heal your childhood wounds and become healthier yourself so you can be a better parent to your children, message Debra for an appointment.