Decorative image of a mom comforting her son

Parenting trauma survivors will push you to be a better parent. If you are rebuilding your life you have the freedom to change how you parent and to heal your relationships with your children.

Each phase of childhood requires different strategies and boundaries. We’ll look at each phase and how to help our kids as they grow into adulthood. If you have adult children you have a different set of challenges which we will also look at. Let’s talk about setting limits and boundaries to rebuild trust and leadership. Learn how to help little ones with meltdowns and some tips and tricks for daily living.

Your most important tool is an open heart to your children and a strong will to pursue your healing journey. Your children will watch you heal and naturally follow in your footsteps.

decorative image for parenting trauma survivors

Parenting Trauma Survivors is Challenging

Why is parenting trauma survivors challenging? If you are a survivor of domestic violence or narc abuse from a partner your children have been impacted by trauma. Your children can also be affected by your childhood trauma depending on where you were in your healing before having children. It’s important to note here that we do the best we can with what we have at the time as parents.

We have to know what we are dealing with to know the solutions needed to raise healthier children than we were/are. These children may have to be in contact with an emotionally or physically abusive parent. We are working to teach them skills and change this pattern of behavior even if they remain in a dysfunctional relationship with their other parent.

Trauma-Informed Parenting

Trauma-informed parenting is a parenting style that acknowledges and addresses how past trauma impacts children. When you parent in this way you can help your child heal.

One hidden blessing is that we become better and gentler parents to help our children. This type of parenting is healing for us also.

We have to become strong parents who lead by example. Our children depend on us to teach them the tools they need to overcome their trauma and live well.

Young Children

Children can face many problems after surviving trauma which include learning difficulties, PTSD, mental health problems, trouble sleeping, nightmares, anxiety, fearfulness, and sudden changes in behavior among other symptoms.

That list was pretty scary, right? I think it’s important to know the symptoms of trauma in our children so we can understand the situation and the needs that these little ones have.

An important resource for you and your children is a therapist. For younger kids play therapy can help them work through some of the trauma. You can speak with the therapist for guidance on parenting through difficulties with your children.

decorative image of a boy being held by a woman

How to Help Children in Meltdown

During a meltdown, it is important to stay out of your emotions and remain calm. Your child picks up on your energy and if you are calm it can help them calm down faster. Make sure the child and anyone around them are safe and let the child work through the stress and anxiety. Sometimes you can distract a child before they reach a full-blown breakdown. Other times you have to wait it out.

When your child reconnects with you it’s helpful not to lecture or shame them for their behavior. When the opportunity is right you can talk about how to handle things better next time or talk about how the child was feeling before and during the meltdown. Once you know what is behind the most recent meltdown you can find teaching moments throughout the next week or so to give suggestions on handling that emotion in a way that makes them feel better.

Every child has unique obstacles to face. You will have to work with each one individually. Your children may struggle with working through anger safely, being kind to others, learning to be assertive, or fear. You can be creative and think of ways to work through some of these issues as a family.

As parents, we provide a healthy environment where children can learn and grow emotionally, mentally, and physically. One crucial element is teaching children that their feelings are important and it’s okay to feel angry, sad, happy, etc.

Special Considerations for Older Children and Teens

The teen years can be difficult to interpret because our children begin to pull away and seek more independence in their teens.

Our modern society is tough on teens and they may be displaying symptoms of that vs. trauma.

Your teens may choose to live full-time with their other parent. You may not have a choice but to let them, especially if the court allows them to choose. In some ways, this may be good so they get a clear picture of what living with a toxic or narcissistic parent is like. Keep the door open for them and let them know you are always available if they need you.

Do what you can to stay connected to your teens in a way that is acceptable to them. Yes, this can be a tough balancing act. Having other parents with teens can be helpful as you try to understand your children.

Decorative image of a mom comforting her son

Being a Good Parent to Adult Children

You may have to rebuild your relationship with adult children after leaving an abusive situation. They may blame you for the breakup of your family especially if you left a narcissist.

Your focus should be on yourself and your healing, healthy boundaries, and an open door to your children if they can safely be in your life. You will have to accept your children without judgment and build a relationship on the understanding that you are both choosing to pursue this relationship and are free to leave at any time.

They need to feel safe and so do you. If their other parent is a narcissist educating yourself on narcissistic abuse can be helpful especially how it affects children. If you can find some adult children of narcs to talk to it would be eye-opening in how they view each parent in the dysfunctional family and even how they interact with their siblings.

Your best tool is patience and the knowledge that your children have to become aware of the dysfunctional family dynamics on their own.

Tips and Tools for Daily Life

  1. Quiet activities help calm minds and anxiety in children. This also gives them time to think and use their imaginations. You can give them a plan or garden space to tend, go for walks in nature, cuddle with pets, read books, and practice stretching. *You can find some kid-friendly videos that teach stretching on YouTube.
  2. Get active. Being active helps children release tension from long days in the classroom or transitioning from one home to the other.
  3. Play together. Kids love when you get down on their level and play with them. You can dance around, make faces at each other, and be downright silly. If you want them to think you are totally awesome take them to a park with a play structure and go down the slides and climb around with them.
  4. Emotions tools. You can find toys, charts, and other tools to use with your children to help them share their emotions. You can make your own tool with happy, sad, angry, etc faces for your child to use to share how they feel.
  5. Fidget toys. These are wonderful for all ages to help with focus and nervous energy. Your child’s teacher may even allow your child to use one during school.
  6. Your own healing. The more you heal the more you can lead your children towards emotional and psychological health.

Being present with your children is healing for you too. Enjoy playing games, read-aloud time, and watching a movie while cuddling up on the couch together.

Decorative image of a girl smiling

The Important Role of Setting Limits With Children

After we have been in an abusive relationship we have to teach our children to respect us.

They have learned to see us as someone to be pushed around and disrespected by their other parent. Learning to give respect teaches them that they can and should receive respect from others also. This is important for them to learn, especially if they are in a relationship with a controlling, manipulative, or abusive parent. The bigger the contrast between how you treat your children with respect vs an abusive person who is disrespectful towards them the better.

How do you set limits?

  1. You set boundaries for yourself and your minor children so all of you feel safe.
  2. You give them clear rules with consequences so they learn to respect you and your word. This grows their confidence in you and teaches them you are reliable, predictable, and safe. This contrasts with the other parent and gives them a strong parent to rely on. They may still choose to live with the other parent but will learn even more about you when they do so. Sometimes they have to make bad decisions and face the consequences.
  3. You allow them to speak their mind in a respectful way when they don’t agree with you. You give them input on decisions they can help you make. You show them they are a valuable part of the family.
  4. You say what you mean and do what you say. Children who are being manipulated by an abusive parent don’t trust your words. You have to show them you will do what you say.
  5. You show them love more than you say, “I love you.” They need to know what being loved by a parent looks and feels like not just what the words sound like. Your actions must match up with the words you speak.
  6. You say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness when you mess up and you do what you can to make it right.
  7. You treat your children the way you want to be treated.
  8. You are fair, honest, kind, loving, and gentle, but you hold to the rules and boundaries and don’t let your children push you around.
  9. You are safe for your children.
decorative image of happy children

You Can Change Your Parenting Journey

Parenting after trauma may be one of the most difficult things you ever do but it will be worth it to you and your children.

You are the mother of your child for a reason. Don’t despair when things become difficult. Keep learning how to help yourself and your child. Your child knows you love them and they find security in your love.

You have the love and dedication to live a better life with your child and you will find what you need to make that happen.

What is the trite phrase oft-repeated to make us feel guilty for wishing the kids would grow up already? “The days are long but the years are short”. It’s true and someday you will be looking fellow adults in the eyes in place of your children.

Give them extra hugs while they still enjoy them with a smile instead of an eye roll. ❤

As time goes by you become more confident in being a single parent running a home full of children. You will find the right balance with your children and they will learn to follow your lead.

It will be tough to make changes to your parenting style. Your children will be confused by how different your household is from their other parent’s home. As they begin to trust you as a leader they will start to heal and learn to live in peace possibly for the first time.

When we do the hard work to change how we parent and teach our children to respect themselves and others we change their futures. It is worth it!

Your children deserve to live in freedom and peace and so do you.

Similar Posts