When Parenting Hurts

Posted By Kirstie on Sep 25, 2013 |

Children’s lives depend on their parents.


They look to us to provide protection, boundaries, strength, and leadership. This is especially true for children with histories of broken attachments, loss, and trauma.

Yet these are the children who can test our resources to the limit (and beyond).

Parenting wounded children can be a relentless, intense and painful experience, not least because we are at risk of secondary trauma and compassion fatigue.

It’s no surprise we end up feeling disempowered, deskilled, and defeated.

It’s not that we don’t know how to be a great parent (we may have other children to prove it!), its just that knowing theories about parenting  is not enough to keep our heads cool, and our confidence and compassion intact, when our own bodies react to the internal chaos and distress of our hurt, scared and defensive children.

We may be offered strategies to help us manage our children’s behaviour, but we have fewer solutions to help us thrive, especially when nothing we do seems to make a difference.

If we are to begin to address the increasing pressures that our families are facing every day, then we must take a stand on behalf of our children, by becoming more resourced and empowered parents.

We especially need to become parents who can remain skillful and present in the midst of strong emotion and difficult behaviours.  We need to become parents who embody safety, certainty and compassion, so children can release into the process of reconnection, recovery and healing. And we need to become parents who have learned and practiced the tools of emotional and trauma resilience so we can model and share this knowledge with our children.

The problem is, adding to our theoretical toolkit of tools and techniques is just not going to cut it.

embodied parents trioBecause when we are under pressure, we revert to what we have practiced most, our embedded patterns and reactions. We move into a response that is reactive rather than creative. Especially if we are triggered by our own old wounds, that may be  underneath our conscious awareness.

And our children have an extraordinary talent at finding our achilles heel!

So we need a new kind of wisdom, and we need to learn how to do things differently, consistently, over time. We need to learn how to take the actions we want, even when parenting gets tough. We must first step into awareness of our habituated patterns and reactions, then embody what we learn through intentional practice, so we can act in alignment with being the parent our children need us to be, exactly the moment we need it.

It may not be in our control to fix, change or heal our children. That’s their own journey to make. But we can learn how we can create the kind of compassionate, nurturing presence and space that allows for whatever strengths, possibilities and potentials that are hidden, to emerge.

Kirstie created Embodied Parent Education especially to support parents who are struggling with the extraordinary challenges that adopted children can bring to the family, as she is an adoptive Mum herself who has discovered how valuable and transformative this approach can be, even when parenting ‘from the trenches.’  Please see Upcoming Events for information on workshops designed for adopted parents and caregivers.

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