Singapore Women's Weekly September 2021

5 Tips On Parenting Your Kids Without Emotional Baggage

Don’t let trauma from your past affect the way you bring up your own children. These 5 tips can help you parent from a place of peace

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There’s no manual when it comes to parenting and sometimes, the road can be rocky – in particular if you have unresolved issues with your own parents or come from a home that was less than stable. Even without realising it, these experiences can cause trauma and will affect how you react to your own children.

Rany Moran, the owner of children’s indoor playground Amazonia, understands these things. Now a trained counsellor, life coach and parenting expert, she has begun a new business doing one-on-one and group life coaching and family counselling sessions. “I want to build a safe, judgement-free space for personal and professional growth,” she says of her goal.

“Inheriting trauma can mean the cycles of trauma, where a victim of abuse of any form (physical, emotional, psychological) then reenacts and inflicts a similar concept of “pain” onto another person. This can be passed down and inherited from anyone—parents, grandparents, siblings, regardless of gender,” she explains.

“Children’s response to trauma largely mimics that of the parent, the more disorganised the parent, the more disorganised the child,” she continues. “Children who have experienced violence have problems managing in social settings and tend to be withdrawn or bully other children. During adolescence, they tend to engage in destructive acting out against themselves and others without early intervention the children cannot outgrow these problems.”

As a parent, it can be difficult and even surprising to find yourself navigating your own trauma and how that can affect your children. Without realising it, this can manifest in things like favouritism, or comparing siblings to each other, or constantly fighting with your spouse. “Such toxic emotional stressors can disrupt brain architecture and other organs systems, increasing risk of stress-related disease and cognitive impairment,” says Moran.

And beyond that, there’s also traumatic content (the Covid pandemic, news of violent events) that can affect our children. Says Moran, “It is our role as parents to explain what’s going on in the world to our children — don’t be afraid to discuss the news and current affairs with them, let them know your point of views on correcting discrimination and how violence, racism or corruption shouldn’t be tolerated. Discuss instead of shelter them from the realities of life, so that they approach any potential traumatic experiences in the future with educated opinions of their own.”

Here Moran shares her five main tips for how to parent children without trauma.

Empathise with your child's distress instead of dismissing it as a weakness

When working on a difficult subject, recognise signs of distress and allow your child to stop and take a break. A good parent is a good listener. Listen to your child’s challenges and validate his or her issues—then explore the root of their problem and what led to it, rather than zooming on the inability of overcoming an obstacle, mistake or wrongdoing.

Recognise teachable moments in daily challenges

This will help young learners be open to lessons of character. Turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones by taking personal responsibility to clear up mistakes by being open to learning from challenges and by replacing shaming with naming values. Brainstorm ideas to solve problems together. Always remember that humility is the goal not humiliation. When considering teachable moments there needs to be the opportunity for reflection.

Speak to them about trauma at a level they can understand

If your child has been through a traumatic event it is important to discuss with them in a way that they can understand. These are the tips: Let them know that trauma is common and that’s okay to be upset, let them know that the event was not their fault, provide reassurance, encourage them to talk openly about how they have been feeling and try to get an idea about any worries they may have or difficulties they are experiencing.

Be mindful of your own trauma

For parents who have unresolved trauma, it is important to identify potential triggers and corresponding emotional responses, then develop coping strategies to manage those reactions. You can do this by going to therapy with your spouse so that you can work together to help address and heal your issues without having to subconsciously inflict that upon your child

Be honest and open with your children about your past trauma

Tell your child about your trauma or any transgenerational trauma that has run in the family. By sharing what has happened to you and your siblings or parents, they can learn how to identify similar trauma in their lives and address it accordingly. This not only lessens the burden of dealing with traumatic feelings, it provides them relief that they are not a lone, and it is not their fault or their weaknesses that initially cause it