Trauma and stress affect our households in many ways, parenting being one of them. Many parents commonly communicate with their children through yelling and arguing as if it’s normal and healthy. Many parents fuss at their children and oftentimes it’s for no reason other than from being stressed out and traumatized.
Here’s an example:
Child walks into parent’s room for the second or third time and asks mommy if he/she can talk to her or go to an event mommy can’t afford or doesn’t want her child involved with, possibly due to her own traumatic memories or fearful thoughts. Mom has avoided the conversation for as long as she can for whatever reasons, but the child is full of anticipation. Instead of responding with ease and answering wisely, mom goes off yelling in frustration that the child kept “bugging” her. Emotionally charged mom yells “no” and demands for the child to leave the room. Emotions in the entire house snowball out of control, stressing the parent out even more, causing a domino effect of other negative reactions in the house that may eventually mold into other unhealthy behaviors which may spark further traumas.
When this is a typical interaction from parent to child, the child may then begin to build resulting patterns of repeat, retreat or aggression—all emotional reactions to stress and trauma that are being normalized in the home.
All parents have their challenges. But what happens when traumas and an overload of unhealthy stress is thrown in the mix of parenting and doing life as usual? Our children too often become casualties of our emotional wars. We lash out at them over the smallest of things.
The problem with parents who constantly lose their cool with their children is that they’ve created a pattern of emotionally reacting instead of wisely responding.
It’s wise for parents (if you do lash out), to probe your parental behaviors. Where did this behavior come from? Where did you learn to snap off and lose control? Is that what your parents, other family or social circle normalized? If you aren’t or weren’t surrounded by this type of behavior, then have you faced traumas in your life that you never sought therapy for? Our behaviors and traumas, no matter how much we attempt to justify or ignore them, dictate how we treat our children, whether good or bad. The parent’s emotional behaviors are often passed down to the next few generations through what’s called social learning and transmission theory.
The traumas of the parents cause reactionary emotional behaviors that create traumatic experiences in the children and so forth. Researchers have found that “epigenetic changes” actually take place in the DNA stress markers of parents who have had traumatic experiences and suffer from PTSD. They found that trauma not only changes the DNA of the parent but the epigenetic changes also pass down to the children and are found in their same DNA stress markers! These such changes make children more susceptible to certain disorders. Awareness and healthy changes can make all the difference.
It’s imperative that we submit our ways to Christ. We must renew our minds in God who is love and operate in His word and seek His counsel.
What are some natural solutions? The first step is ceasing to normalize these traumatizing behaviors. Sure we fuss at our children, but emotional-isms shouldn’t be the fuel for disciplining children. The unnecessary yelling, cursing out the children, spanking out of being emotionally charged, etc, must stop. Become intentional about operating in the fruits of the Holy Spirit as taught in Galatians 5. Also, seek wise counsel and therapy. Face your emotions and traumas. Confess your issues and sins so that you can be healed. Repent of the unhealthy, unkind behaviors. Become your children’s godly example of how to be overcomers of trauma and be humble before them about your emotional imbalances. Then, as a family, begin to learn how to become more emotionally intelligent instead having an emotionally charged household. Children have to be taught how to mature emotionally or else various “disorders” can develop. But the parents must first be mature in order to lead.
Watch this eye-opening clip of Dr. Joy Degruy explain the effects of social learning in traumatized families.