Developmental trauma can create challenges in your parenting journey. Developmental trauma is a blanket term for childhood trauma. These traumas can include chronic abuse, neglect, and other adversity within their homes. When we experience these traumatic events as children, they can affect us well into adulthood. They can become especially challenging to cope with as a parent.
During the course of parenthood, there will be times when your child’s life experiences can remind you of yours. There may also be times when you react a certain way that reminds you of a traumatic experience you had in your childhood. These moments can affect your parenting, and understanding how they can affect you empowers you to combat them.
How Developmental Trauma Can Damage Productive Parenting
It’s important to understand that even though you were traumatized as a child, this does not mean you will be a poor parent. In fact, perhaps these experiences give you a better perspective on what not to do in parenting. Equally important is understanding the ways trauma can sabotage even the best of parents. With this knowledge, you can equip yourself with appropriate coping strategies and be the best parent you can be.
Re-experiencing trauma can happen through memories, dreams, or even as a result of a seemingly unrelated event. Sometimes these memories can reignite old feelings of guilt, fear, or grief. In some extreme cases, you may relive the trauma entirely. These symptoms are scary for you, but they are also scary for your child. Children won’t understand what is happening or why. They may worry about their parent or even worry that their parent cannot provide them with the care they need.
Avoidance and numbness
Parents with PTSD often attempt to cope with trauma through avoidance. This means trying not to think of the traumatic event or shutting yourself down emotionally. You may avoid certain places or objects that remind you of your trauma. There might be things like going to the movies or a school event with your child that used to be fun but now hold a sinister undertone for you. Because of this emotional disconnect, children might feel that their parent doesn’t care for them.
Feeling on edge
PTSD often produces feelings of anxiety or “feeling on edge.” Therapists call this “hyperarousal.” This can lead to grouchiness or anger. You might startle easily or worry incessantly about the safety of you or your loved ones. These problems can affect all family members, but particularly children. If a parent is always grouchy or angry, their child may wonder if it’s their fault that their parent is always upset.
Signs That Your Developmental Trauma is Affecting Your Child
As difficult as it might be to face, it’s important to meet this realization and deal with it. PTSD and the symptoms of your trauma can spill over into your child’s emotional wellbeing. Some ways that children react when their parents experience symptoms of PTSD are:
- Your child may behave the way they see you behaving to try and connect with you on an emotional level.
- Children may take on the role of an adult to help their parents cope. This can present as a child acting too grown-up for their age or feeling an imbalanced sense of responsibility.
- Children may experience fear about their feelings and avoid asking for help to avoid putting further stress on their adults.
- These symptoms can further affect school, socialization, and relationships with other family members.
What Can You Do About It?
Speaking with a professional therapist and working through your trauma is one of the best steps you can take for yourself and your child. Together, we can practice healthy coping mechanisms and process your trauma. By tending to your mental health, you tend to your child’s as well. If you are ready to consider therapy, we are here to help. Please read more about trauma counseling and reach out for a consultation today. Let’s work together to achieve your healing as promptly and productively as possible.