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5 ways to avoid causing trauma towards your child as a parent

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Undeniably, parenting is a difficult but rewarding job. Whilst a lot of what we provide children as parents is practical, part of our job as a parent relates to awareness. We become aware of how we parent and it’s valuable to consider how our actions can impact children in the future. Parenting in the past involved ways of doing things that we now know from psychological research that can be damaging to children. In this blog, 5 tips and strategies are outlined to support you to avoid common pitfalls in parenting that can negatively affect children’s development.

1. Express your emotions within your family (without screaming and shouting!)

It is crucial that you as a parent express and manage your emotions in relation to your child in a healthy way. This is important as research suggests that parental emotional regulation- the ability to have a range of emotions and to control your emotions in order to respond appropriately to a given social situation, can directly impact your child by shaping their own emotional development (Meyer et al., 2014). Why is good emotional development important for children in the first place? Well, research suggests that those which can recognise their own as well as others emotions have better social relationships (Castro et al., 2014).Therefore, by understanding and expressing your own emotions, for example by being open to your child about how you feel, your child will also have a better grasp on how to deal with their emotions during different situations. This can help them to understand how they feel about things in future situations.

2. Don’t invalidate your child’s thoughts and emotions.

Children can have a lot of emotions and can get very upset over little things. In spite of this, it’s important not to invalidate emotions. Invalidation is defined as dismissing and/or disregarding your child’s thoughts and emotions. Feeling that emotions are wrong can introduce several negative follow-on emotions into your child’s experience, such as unworthiness and loneliness. It can also lead them to be emotionally distant in their future social and romantic relationships. In some severe cases, invalidation can cause detrimental impacts on children’s emotional development and can cause poor mental health and worst cases, mental health issues such as, borderline personality disorder (Khiron Clinics, 2020).

3. Constant Praise and Comfort for your child

To avoid making your child seem invalidated, essentially you need to make them feel seen and heard (recognising that your child’s thoughts and feelings are important and valid). Gone are the days of children “being seen and not heard”. As parents, we may want our children to be happy, but part of being human involves a range of both negative emotions, such as disappointment, sadness, jealousy to positive emotions, such as excitement, pride and contentment. Growing up involves the full range of emotions, and it’s important to allow children to feel how they feel.

How to validate?

There are few easy ways to do this:

  1. Let your child openly express their emotions.

  2. Get comfortable with your child telling you when they are angry, sad and happy! You don’t necessarily need to say anything to them afterwards, all you have to do is listen.

  3. Always encourage them to voice their opinions.

  4. Use phrases like, “ I can understand how you're feeling” ; “It's ok to feel like that” as encouragement (Source: Khiron Clinics, 2020).

4. Avoid reflecting yourself onto your child

This is also known as living vicariously through your child. For example, you signed up your child for guitar because you always wanted to play guitar even though they said they hated it. There are a few signs to look out for if you think you are doing this:

  • Obsessing over the activities that your child participates in.

  • Forcing them to do activities YOU want them to do (e.g. playing a certain instrument etc.)

  • Encouraging them to have the same life goals as you.

  • Of course, this does not mean children have a carte blanche. Children can still be encouraged to do things that they might not want to do like eating vegetables, doing homework, and stopping playing video games (Villines, 2019).

Why do some parents live through their children?

Well, sometimes parents may set unrealistic parental goals for themselves and it may stem from wanting to give your child things you did not get as a child yourself or that you the parent was not able to achieve. Other parents may reflect the parenting style they experienced as a child onto their own child (Villines, 2019). Without careful reflection, parents may be unaware that they are projecting onto their child and so it can be difficult to accept if this is the case.

There are a couple of ways to avoid projecting onto your child:

  • Asking them about their likes and dislikes.

  • Give your child the space to explore themselves and figure out what they want.

  • Be there when they need advice, make sure to give them your honest advice without forcing them to choose one choice (Villines, 2019).

5. Accept your child as a unique individual

Parents often fall into the trap of saying, “Your brother does his homework, why don’t you?” Although at first it may seem like encouragement to compare your child to someone else, it can actually have the opposite impact. In fact, comparison can demotivate your child as they may have thoughts, such as “why should I even try if I’m not as good as my sister”.

Being constantly critical of your child and comparing them to others may be an indication that you may have adapted a critical parenting style. This parenting style mainly focuses on remarks about your child’s achievements (“why did you not get 100% on your test?''), messages of shame (“why don't you try hard enough”) among other negative remarks.

If you have noticed that you sometimes speak or act too critically towards your child, there are a few steps you can take to overcome this:

  1. First thing you must do is identify when you are being too critical of your child and take a step back to assess what would be the most positive way to approach the given situation.

  2. Acknowledge your child as a unique individual who has their own strengths and weaknesses.

  3. Give them constant praise and encouragement for their achievements, big or small. This will allow your child to build their confidence and self esteem.

  4. Even when your child is not happy with their achievements, you should encourage them to keep going as this will help motivate them to improve.

How do you find this topic, does it affect your parenting? Let us know how you get on with these tips and strategies in the comments section below.

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