I love the conscious parenting movement. Amazing teachers like Janet Lansbury and L.R. Knost changed my perspective with their focus on respecting the child. I have to admit, the concepts came easy to me. I knew deep down inside they were right even though I did not experience that type of parenting as a child. I innately knew this was my parenting method as my conscious thoughts lined up with everything I was reading. I knew I was going to be that kind of parent, a respectful parent.
I had already been in recovery for a few years from my childhood of abuse and trafficking so I knew I would be different from my family. I had removed the abusers from our lives for my children’s safety. I had already embraced yoga, meditation and some daily awareness practices. I was sure I was equipped to handle it.
So I was surprised that, in practice, I wasn’t handling it. My kids were triggering me with their behavior. But their behavior wasn’t bad. It was normal for children. They were just being kids. They were pushing boundaries. They were expressing their individuality. And I was coming unglued. I was exploding at them for the smallest reasons. And I was so sad, guilty and anxious about it which made everything worse. I wanted to be the parent I was reading about. And I wasn’t.
Bridging the Gap
I decided that conscious parenting was not enough. I knew that my kids deserved respect. And I was aware of what I needed to do. But that wasn’t going to change my trauma responses. My trauma responses weren’t coming from my logical brain. They weren’t based on reason. As I say often, trauma isn’t logical. It comes from a deeper place. It comes from an instinctual place.
It comes from the inner child who separated during the trauma. And that inner child is terrified. That inner child sees boundary invasions as life or death situations. That inner child looks at my children and sees my abusive parents. That inner child is repeating her past behavior in a desperate attempt to create a different result. But that will never happen. The only way to break the pattern is to start the conversation between my adult self and the inner child. The only way to stop the trauma response is to help that inner child understand things in a different way.
Several years later, I have learned how to embrace my inner child, love her, parent her, while teaching her to let go of the past and the behavior that perpetuated it. But it has not been easy. She didn’t trust me, the children or anyone else. She was sure her behavior would keep her safe. And she wasn’t so sure about allowing me to see the memories and beliefs behind that behavior.
Passing It On
But my persistence has paid off. The results have been life changing for everyone in my family. I no longer respond from fear (most of the time) when my children push my boundaries or disrespect me. I can stay calm and respond from my adult self because overstimulation is not a matter of life and death. When I do make mistakes (all the time), I can apologize for those mistakes. I can allow myself the freedom to be human because my perfection is not a matter of life and death. And as my inner child calms down, I calm down. And as I calm down, my children calm down.
So I wanted to share what I learned. I developed a workshop and guidance program to help parents with trauma to learn the same process that officially broke the cycle in my little family. I hope to help others with the same understanding I have gained. I want to help others break the real cycle, not the cycle of abuse, but the cycle of habits and beliefs perpetuating the potential for abuse. Even more importantly, I want to help others find their own inner peace, so they can pass that inner peace to their children. And those children can grow up to make a world without child abuse of any kind, a world where conscious parenting is not a movement, but a way of life for everyone.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW
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