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How do we traumatize our children?

Every time a child attempts suicide, society reacts with shock and concern. Unfortunately, this was the case in Plovdiv past week. Rather than offering condolences, however, people engaged in a flurry of accusations, searching for culprits and analyzing relationships. Unfortunately, these were all mere speculations. Some blamed the parents, while others blamed the teachers, but nobody took the time to reflect on their own actions.

This could happen to any child, yours included

Although you may not want to believe it.  You probably convince yourself that you’re a good parent, that your child’s school is the best, and that your child is adaptable. These thoughts are comforting, but they don’t guarantee that your child will lead a happy life. When your child is older and more self-aware, they may point out exactly which words, actions, and attitudes of yours have negatively influenced their self-image. …If they have overcome them.

Overt trauma

I often hear people say, “Nothing really bad has happened in my life, but I’m still unhappy.” Usually, this “bad” thing falls into the category of overt adverse experiences: physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; neglect (whether physical or emotional); and dysfunction in the household, such as mental illness in the family, violent relationships, divorce, encarceration of a family member, alcohol or drug abuse, death, or serious illness.
When a child has experienced or is regularly enduring such events, the risk of their mental health deteriorating increases. However, this is not the whole picture. The absence of such events is not a recipe for happiness.

Covert trauma

In family dynamics, implicit messages are constantly exchanged – things that are left unsaid, things we may not even realize we are demonstrating through our behavior. These are messages that our emotionally developing children pick up on with their sensitive radars, but often don’t have the ability to fully process. The most common deficits that arise in the family environment include: lack of emotional validation (“There’s nothing to be afraid of”), prohibition of negative emotions (“Stop crying!”), lack of appropriate and responsive physical touch (“You’re too old for hugs now”), lack of unconditional love (love for who the child is, not what they do – “If you want me to love you, do this or don’t do that”), lack of pride in identity and heritage, lack of shared time and quality contact, lack of developing the ability to enjoy the moment and have fun, lack of a sense of one’s own abilities and freedom to pursue personal goals, and lack of healthy boundaries and respect.

No parent is perfect, so no child leaves the family environment without any deficits whatsoever. They then enter the school environment, where they face even more challenges. Without a stable foundation, their resources for coping are limited. And when the suffering becomes too intense and there is no support from anyone, there may seem to be only one way out…

How do some children cope better?

However, the presence of traumatic events does not determine a life of suffering. If a child grows up in an environment with reasonable and clear boundaries, in an atmosphere of safety, acceptance and love, they will not develop maladaptive patterns. Some children who experience adverse childhood events or covert trauma are able to cope successfully and grow into healthy adults.

You can see more about me and the cognitive behavioral approach .

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