Parenting as a Complex Trauma Survivor: A New Resource to Support Caregivers
A new complex trauma resource has just been released to support parents and caregivers with a history of complex trauma: Turning the Tide: Parenting in the Wake of Past Trauma.
Read below for a preview, or click here to access the full resource in PDF.
A Preview of the New Resource
Developed by Foundation Trust Training & Resource Development Associates Dr. Jana Pressley and Kaitlyn Marie Wilson, LICSW, this new resource was inspired by stories the authors witnessed in the lives of therapy clients, colleagues, and within their own families of origin. Reflecting on stories and experiences of deep insecurities and countless questions about the ability to nurture and protect children due to the impact of surviving one’s own childhood trauma, the authors offer suggestions to support parents and other caregivers in building self-awareness and self-compassion as they navigate their parenting journeys.
Understanding Intergenerational Trauma
For adults who are living with the painful effects of their own childhood environment and upbringing, becoming a parent and/or becoming a caregiver to a child may introduce a variety of new emotional and functional challenges. Adults who experienced abuse or neglect as a child, or who grew up with caregivers struggling with substance abuse, mental health difficulties, family, community, or structural violence, or intergenerational, systemic, or ancestral trauma, may feel particularly anxious about their parenting choices due to self-doubt, fear, hopelessness, and shame related to past life adversity.
Information and tools included in this guide can help readers reframe their thinking about their past and how it relates to their present situation raising children.
“This article clearly and beautifully articulates the importance of understanding generational trauma and historical trauma,” states Doreen Hills, LPC, Executive Director of the Center for Healing Trauma and Attachment. “These traumas have been silent epidemics in our societies and as a mental health clinician, I need to know about these and identify and implement appropriate and effective therapeutic approaches that will help my clients and communities I serve.”
Turning the Tide describes how past and present are connected, and identifies potential triggers or challenges that parents and caregivers with a history of complex trauma may experience.
- Memories may emerge that haven’t surfaced for years, which can elicit confusing and painful responses.
- It may be challenging to manage or express emotions, and it could be difficult to self-soothe, and therefore to soothe children when needed.
- Caregivers may feel detached and find it hard to connect emotionally with their child, or they may have difficulty trusting their instincts.
The resource also addresses vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing systemic injustice or violence due to their identity. Individuals currently or previously identifying as part of a marginalized group, or experiencing bias due to race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, age, gender identification, religion, and/or culture may suffer compounded symptoms from the combined stress associated with their marginalized status and intergenerational trauma. Raising and protecting children under the legacy of historical or ancestral trauma creates a disproportionate level of chronic stress for many BIPOC families.
“Parenthood challenges can be further exacerbated for trauma survivors, because there’s an added layer of past traumatic experiences that can make reactions or activities feel outside of our control. With this resource, it was important for us to show people that what happened to them in the past does not have to dictate the relationship they have with their children,” said Dr. Jana Pressley, one of the resource’s authors. “Intergenerational trauma is real, and its effects can be debilitating, but our hope is that this guide helps survivors learn techniques to parent in confident and healthy ways.”
Overcoming patterns of intergenerational trauma
This resource is grounded in attachment and parenting research, presented in easy-to-digest ways, with a series of vignettes demonstrating how individuals can learn new parenting approaches that overcome their histories of complex trauma.
“Although Jayden and Naomi are fictionalized depictions, their experiences, internal struggles, and desperate desire to create a different life for their children parallels the experiences of our clients, families of origin, and caregivers who are childhood trauma survivors. Often individuals do not realize the impact childhood trauma may have, particularly once they become a parent or caregiver. The reflection we see within these two vignettes demonstrates the potential growth and resilience a survivor can have within their parenting journey; honoring and acknowledging their past, obtaining new insights and skills, and gaining the confidence needed to parent in the wake of childhood trauma,” shared Kaitlyn Wilson, LICSW, co-author of the resource.
Turning the Tide presents numerous strategies and resources that individuals can employ to learn to care for themselves as well as build or enhance connection with their children. Each of these sections contain valuable guidance to help individuals become more aware of their internal experiences and what is happening in our and our children’s brains and bodies. Developing an understanding of these behaviors, triggers, and responses form a groundwork for connecting with children, whether through reflecting emotions, using the power of physical touch, and engaging playfully and joyfully.
“This parenting resource is an invaluable approach to helping parents with complex trauma histories that can emerge during the parenting journey. It provides support, encouragement, and practical ideas for acknowledging past traumas so they don’t take center stage in their current lives,” commented Dr. Eliana Gil, Founder and Partner of the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education. “This is an important contribution to the parenting literature, with a sensitive and trauma-informed focus that will immediately address critical issues and hopefully prevent repetition of unhealthy patterns. The authors draw from their substantive background helping individuals with complex trauma, and their advice rings authentic and grounded.”
Concludes Dr. Joseph Spinazzola, Executive Director of the Foundation Trust, “Parenting is a process, and one that all parents are constantly learning and relearning. It is hard work, and the most important work that many of us will ever do. This resource recognizes the hurdles that many trauma survivors face while parenting, and offers a chance to take a step back and see a path forward. The Foundation Trust is proud to release and share this valuable addition to caregivers’ toolkits, crafted with love and expertise by our senior resource development faculty, Jana Pressley, Psy.D. and Kait Wilson, LICSW.
This resource was made available through the Foundation Trust. Development of this product was supported in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI) grant #H79SM085102, awarded to Adelphi University to establish the Complex Trauma Training Consortium (CTTC), a national trainer-training and workforce development initiative that will establish sustainable expertise in complex trauma across the United States.
A PDF-version of Turning the Tide is available for download here.