Work to be the parent your child doesn't need to heal from

The writer urges parenst to be a safe place for their children.
The writer urges parenst to be a safe place for their children.
Image: 123RF/ Jennifer Hogan

And so here we are, in yet another Monday in lockdown, and for many of us the uncertainty and dread about the future persists.

But we are still here, hopefully healthy and alive. And for as long this thing has not killed us, we must try each day to live as best and as joyfully as possible within the constraints of our new "normal".

This task, however, is not something that is possible for everyone. For some among us, joy is stunted by things beyond our control. One of the things I have seen over there is that a lot of what adulting is, is dealing and coping with childhood trauma.

The basic definition of trauma is this; the damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. The result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope.

The International Society for Traumatic Stress posits that childhood trauma presents in one or all of three areas; emotional, mental and physical stress. And further states: "Surviving abuse or trauma as a child has been linked with higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and self-harm, PTSD, drug and alcohol misuse and relationship difficulties."

Children suffer trauma in many ways, for me it was losing my mother at the age of 12. My inability to cope with that has had everlasting scars and turmoil that I deal with to date.

Many other people in my walks of life have suffered differently. Others have been sexually abused or abused in other ways.

What has been interesting to observe is that where people felt traumatised the most, where they struggle the most, is where the trauma is a result of their interaction with their parents. Which completely makes sense to me, your parents are the people that are meant to be your safest space.

We live in a society of emotionally stunted human beings who have not stopped to consider what the effects of their childhood is on who they are presently. And because we love our parents, it makes it especially hard for us to begin to deal with the fact that they have hurt us and the results of that hurt continue to inform who we are as people.

For example, I have a paradoxical relationship with men as a direct result of both the positive and negative aspects of being a girl child that was raised by a widowed father.

I am a person who observe human behaviour as a way to support my theory that we need to love people within context of they are. And who we are is influenced heavily by who we have been.

Revisiting a traumatic childhood is a tough exercise, it demands that you engage with memories and experiences that once threatened to break you or may have broken you. I am not asking you to do that.

Someone on Twitter once said we ought to endeavour to become the parents that our children do not need to heal from. And that is my ask. Use the opportunity, quietness and stillness that this lockdown has afforded us to interrogate yourself as a parent. How are you taking responsibility for the emotional and well being of your children?

Do your children know that they can come to you if they are distressed? What is your willingness to help your children interrogate feeling?

Do you apologise to your children? Do your children know they are loved and that they are beautiful?

There is more to this that this space can't accommodate, mine is to help start a conversation.

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