As I continue my journey in conscious parenting, I have noticed a trend. I probably noticed it before, but didn’t have the time or energy to think about it much. But now that my kids are older and more individual and more vocal and well, more everything, it is getting more obvious. And frankly, there doesn’t seem to be very much support in our house.
This isn’t surprising to me. Throughout my life, I have felt invalidated and unsupported. It started in my childhood when I tried to get help and it wasn’t there. When I would speak up, I was told to stop making things up, stop lying, stop trying to get attention. I was told that I was not worthy, beautiful or intelligent. I was told that nobody loved me.
As I approached desperation, I realized that I would have to give up on my dreams of being helped and repress the traumatic memories, so that I could stay alive. This was a critically important step in my survival, but with it, came a darker side, a big compromise. I had to invalidate an entire part of myself. I had to pretend that my inner child, the part holding on to the pain and trauma, did not exist. When I would get a flashback, I would have to explain it away with a justification. “I must have watched a movie about that.” “I must have dreamt that.” “None of that is real.” “I don’t know why I have so much anxiety. I must have trouble tolerating life, since nobody else seems to have this problem.”
And so my childhood of invalidation turned in to a lifetime of invalidation.
But then I became a parent. I worked hard to validate my children. I told them how smart and beautiful and worthy they were. I gave them hugs and kisses when they were hurt. I told them I loved them every day. Whenever I was conscious of my actions and words, my children were validated.
But when I wasn’t conscious, my words were not so supportive. Don’t get me wrong, I was never like my parents. But there were comments, skepticism, sarcasm and otherwise invalidating statements. Because when I am not conscious, my parenting is a mirror of my internal struggles. And there is nothing I can do to change that … except stay conscious. It still might be a mirror but at least I am aware of what I need to change.
And so now, I listen to my twins have conversations and I hear concerning statements. “Oh come on, that’s not true.” “I don’t believe you.” “You are trying to trick me.” “Why are you sharing that toy with me? What do you want in return?”
Some might think I am being over-sensitive. And I am sure that some level of skepticism is completely normal. But I know better. I know where this is coming from. I have to change… again. I have to use different words.
I have written about the healing power of saying “I believe you” to survivors, but children have the same need. So I have to tell my kids that I believe them. More importantly, I have to believe them.
When they have done something wrong, even when they are trying to hide it from me, I have to tell them that I know they are a good person even though they made a bad choice. I have to tell them that it doesn’t change my love for them … that nothing ever will.
When they do kind things, even when I know those kind things might have ulterior motives, I have to use words like, “you are such a kind person to do that for me”.
When they tell me something happened, and it may not be the most believable story in the world, I have to tell them that I trust them to tell me the truth.
I know my children will become who I expect them to become. So, if I want my children to be honest and loving and kind, I need to see them that way. And to see them that way, I need to see myself that way. I have to set aside my fear-based approach to life and others. I have to access the trust which has always been there, waiting for me to find it. And that trust will bring healing for me and my family.
Nothing else can.
Learn more about building trust with your children in my virtual workshop, The 7 Habits of Parents with Complex Trauma.