You’ve been blessed with these wonderful bundles of joy you call your children and you are doing your best to take care of them and protect them. You don’t feel like you’re always doing a good job at being their parent. Sometimes it’s really hard, when you can’t figure out how to help or discipline them. There was no parenting crash course and if we’re being honest, you are probably winging it just like most parents.
Parenting is all about learning in the process. It would be great if the mistakes were avoided but life has no manual. You could be doing the best you can, then a life event shakes the foundations of your family. Children are very vulnerable and they easily get affected by sudden change or trauma. Sometimes your protection as a parent feels inadequate, because you have no control over what happens in life. However, there are mistakes you can avoid and that’s what we will focus on today.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
ACEs refer to traumatic experiences that a child experiences before they are 18 years old. They fall within the range of physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, household dysfunction, and neglect. A child needs a home environment that is safe and stable for them to develop as they should but ACEs stunt their growth.
When a child is under a lot of constant stress, their brain goes into survival mode. This means:
- Their thinking brain is underactivated so they’ll have difficulty concentrating, learning, responding, or figuring things out.
- The part of the brain responsible for processing fear and threats is overactivated so they’ll have difficulty calming down, feeling safe, or sleeping.
- Their emotional regulation center is under-activated so they’ll have a hard time processing or managing emotions which can result in poor social skills.
The long-term effects of ACEs include:
- Serious problematic and defiant behavior problems that could lead to incarceration
- Trouble forming and maintaining lasting relationships
- Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, chronic illnesses, esteem issues
A child is like an egg. They are delicate and need parental protection and guidance. It’s the small things that can break their shells. The small traumas disguised as parenting build up over time and cause the child to live in survival mode. We have so many adults who have to heal from their parents’ mistakes. The CDC reports that at least 61% of adults had experienced at least one ACE by the time they were 18 years old.
“Adverse childhood experiences are the main determinant of the health and social well-being of the nation.” – Shaili Jain
Parenting Mistakes To Avoid
There are no perfect parents but there are intentional, aware, and well-informed parents. You will make mistakes once in a while but it matters what you do after that. Some parents don’t own up to their mistakes or correct them which causes harm and trauma to the child. The intention here is to create a positive childhood experience for your babies and bring them up in a healthy environment. Be careful not to make these mistakes;
- Minimizing or ignoring their feelings. Kids move from one emotion to the next so fast and they need to know that all their emotions matter and serve a purpose. Instead of telling your child, “Get over it” or “It’s not a big deal” try asking them “Why do you feel this way?” so that they can investigate the source of their emotions. Don’t make them feel like their emotions are a bad part of them or an unnecessary one because that might withdraw or suppress their feelings.
- Projecting your fears, disappointment, expectations, and insecurities. Projection puts pressure on the child to meet your expectation of them, which can make them feel inadequate and develop people-pleasing habits. Your child isn’t a mini-you; they are their own person with their feelings, fears, and dreams. Allow and encourage them to follow the trajectory of their life instead of treating them as an extension of yourself.
- Comparing your child with others. Every child is unique in their own ways – seek to develop that in yours. Comparison is the thief of joy. When you compare your children to others, you are showing them that they aren’t good enough as themselves. They’ll grow up envious of other people’s achievements because theirs don’t feel like enough or worse develop depression as a result. Identify what your child excels at, then help them grow in that area.
- Punishing instead of disciplining. Punishing instills fear or inspires rebellion. It also involves inflicting pain on your child which does more harm than good and can scar the child. They might also grow up thinking that violence is how you eliminate bad behavior. Discipline is using positive instruction and teaching the child how to make better decisions. Whichever way of correction you chose, stays with the child their whole lives.
- Poor conflict resolution with your spouse in front of the child. Verbal abuse, throwing and breaking things, blaming and shaming the other parent should be done away from the children. How you fight with your spouse is how your child will fight with others outside your home because that’s what you show them to be normal. If you can, keep your marital issues away from the children at all costs. Don’t let them see you yelling or screaming at each other.
The joy of a parent is to raise a healthy child but it all starts at home. Home is where they first learn their worldviews, coping mechanisms, and behavior. Some adverse childhood experiences can be avoided if parents choose positive parenting and don’t inflict trauma on their children. Do your best mama! Do your best papa! Your babies learn so much about who they are by observing you.
If you fear that you may have exposed your child to ACEs, we can help you create healthier home environments. We also provide family therapy. Feel free to schedule a call with us today.