Trauma and parenthood

Parenthood can be particularly difficult when one has had an experience of trauma in one’s youth. Even more so when one is confronted with the aftermath of trauma undergone by one’s own children.

Parenthood in the best of circumstances arouses ‘ghosts’ from the past, as Selma Fraiberg wrote about so poignantly in her piece ‘Ghosts in the nursery’. As children grow up, each phase of their development can remind parents of their own experiences of being that age, or struggling with those developmental tasks. For example, the ‘terrible twos’ is a massive test of any parent’s own issues with control and autonomy, eliciting memories of the pleasures and struggles of becoming mobile and independent.

When there has been a particularly traumatic experience in a parent’s own history, it may rear up at crucial times and make parenting very difficult. If the child is also struggling with the sequelae of trauma or abuse, the combination can be particularly explosive. Both may find themselves in post-traumatic states of numbing or exploding, in any case, not managing well and longing for someone or something to help contain them.

Here are a number of publications I have written on the issue of trauma and parenthood.

Shame and resilience in a teenage mother

Schaamte en veerkracht in een tiener moeder

Resilience in traumatized parents

Getraumatiseerde ouders: ervaringsdeskundigen in een steungroep voor ouders van seksueel misbruikte kinderen