Help! I Don’t want to Abuse My Kids!
If you were abused as a child, you probably are aware that you have a higher chance of abusing your children than other parents do. There is a well-known inter-generational cycle for abuse and neglect of children. There are many known reasons for this and some of these reasons are:
Abused children, or even children witnessing abuse or neglect, grow into adults who have increased cortisol and adrenaline output which gives them a hyper-sensitive fight-or-flight response. Because of this, you may experience strong responses of depression, anxiety, anger, or aggression.
Adults who were abused as a child have increased impulsivity.
People who were abused as children also have a higher risk of substance abuse which is a known precursor to becoming an abuser.
Survivors of abuse tend to have lower educational levels and therefore reduced employment opportunities. This can increase the stress experienced in the family.
Children in abusive families do not have the modeling of how a parent loves and cares for their children in an appropriate manner. They never learn how to be a loving parent.
Remember that you don’t have to actually be abused to carry the scars. Children who witness abuse are just as at risk as those who have been abused.
Am I Doomed to Abuse My Kids?
The short answer is “No”. The fact is that most people who were abused as children do NOT grow up to abuse their children. And there are things that you can do to help stop the pattern of abuse. The first thing that should give you hope is that you are asking the question! This awareness of what can happen and your willingness to try and make changes for your children counts for a lot!
Ways to Stop the Intergenerational Abuse Pattern
So, let’s get down to the meat of it! What can you do to help your family now?
1. Don’t ignore any issues that come up! It’s natural to bury your head in the sand and ignore problems, hoping they’ll just go away. However, this type of strategy rarely works. If you choose to ignore your issues, they will only get worse. Seek help. It’s also a whole lot easier to address issues as they arise, rather than wait for them to get worse.
2. Take some parenting classes, read books, or otherwise learn new ways of parenting your children. Most of us learn how to parent from our parents. If you didn’t have a good role model in your parents, then it’s OK for you to seek out different ways to parent your children. In fact, it’s more than OK, it’s imperative.
3. Seek out trauma-focused therapy for yourself to learn new ways of coping with your emotions, decrease your impulsivity and reactiveness, and treat any mental health or substance abuse issues you may have. There is no shame in seeking help. It shows a strength of character that you are willing to do what needs to be done even if it makes you uncomfortable.
4. Often someone who was abused as a child ends up with a partner who abuses their children. If you are afraid that this is happening in your life, seek professional assistance immediately. Your children need to know that you are doing everything in your power to protect them.
5. Social isolation can be a big factor in those who go on to become abusers. Seek out friends and build a solid support system. This can help you to process stress when it occurs.
6. When possible, put off becoming a parent until you have a stable base including being stable financially, have your education/career in order, and a solid support system. This again will help you to cope with life stressors as they happen in your life.
7. Learn to communicate with your children in a loving and respectful manner. You can learn this in therapy, take a class on the subject, or there are several self-help books on the market. Effective communication can help keep the emotional temperature lower as well as foster an environment of respect in your family. Also, remember that an important part of communication is listening!
8. Learn about resources in your community that are available to assist you. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some help, that’s what these resources are here for. Some you might consider include:
a. United Way can be found here:
b. National Parent Helpline:
c. Center For Parenting Education:
d. National Center for Healthy Safe Children:
For more information on trauma treatment, please follow the link. I’d love to hear from you!