Parent Mental Health Day is a good time for more candour & unashamed conversation about how hard it is to parent a child with relational trauma. How misunderstood such parents & carers can be, & how hard it often is still, to access timely & appropriate support.
All parents can struggle & family life is challenging, but there are added challenges if you are caring for a traumatised child. Re-parenting is not ordinary parenting. Therapeutic parenting is emotionally & physically demanding & require lots of self-awareness, patience, commitment & support. There will be many times when therapeutic parents feel that they’re not good enough & can’t do it, or don’t want to do it.
If this happens to you, please know that you are not alone & that you have not failed as a parent or carer, you are just human. Anyone on the receiving end of so much trauma would feel the same. That’s because our ‘parenting brain’ is designed to need reward – it’s the hug, or smile, or ‘I love you’ that you get back from your child, that makes it all worthwhile. If your child finds it hard to trust, battles with you & is invested in being in control, then the rewards can seem few & far between. It’s hard to maintain loving feelings when your brain goes into self-protection mode.
Although this is a natural neurological reaction, it’s distressing if you experience it. It can make you feel shameful & self-critical. Shame gets in the way of acknowledging struggles & reaching out for help. It gets in the way of knowing that you deserve support & that your wellbeing is important.
If you are a professional working with families where there is relational trauma, make it your duty to understand its impact on the parenting brain. Respond to parents & carers who are finding it tough with empathy & kindness, not blame or punishment. Support parents to heal. They are their child’s greatest resource.