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Fear of Repeating History as a Parent

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Fear of Repeating History as a Parent

What if my baby turns over in their sleep? What if I didn’t give them enough formula? What if they’re sleeping in a dirty diaper? There are many worries and fears that arise in a new parent’s mind. These fears and worries, however, are not limited to food, physical safety, or hygiene of the child. As parents begin to watch their little newborn open their eyes and take in the world, we begin to realize the weight of the responsibility on our shoulders to guide and inform our child of how to move through this thing we call life. Memories begin to flood back to how our own parent(s) guided us through our childhood. These memories could range from receiving abuse to just thinking as children, “I want to do things differently when I’m a parent”. As these memories build, we begin to feel the pressure to be better for our children. To not repeat mistakes. To do better.

This is a genuinely positive perspective to have in general, right? Personal growth. Improvement. Benefiting future generations and so on. The tricky part comes when we overwhelm ourselves into paralysis. As the parent of a now toddler, there are already moments I hear my mom’s voice and words coming out of my voice. How did she get in there? As a clinician, I hear parents share similar concerns. For some, it can cause great distress or fear of themselves. It can cause parents to backoff of discipline because they don’t know how to implement without the strategies of previous generations such as hitting, dismissing, shaming, invalidating, etc. This is incredibly tragic because children desire structure and need, above all else, a loving caregiver to meet them in their most dysregulated state and teach them how to cope in a healthy way.

As a parent, it is important to demonstrate emotional regulation strategies in front of your child and when there is a clear moment of disrespect, dysregulation, or destruction, to connect and validate while maintaining the standards of your household. This could look like you helping to label their feelings, but stating and reinforcing standards of safety. “It looks like you’re feeling very overwhelmed and having a hard time regulating. I love you and I want to help you. I’m going to help you move away from your sister because we do not hit in this family. I’m going to give you the option to hit this [insert soft and acceptable object].”. All of this may be still received with screaming, but try continuing emotional regulation conversations outside of dysregulation. This is still a completely different response from yelling back at them, hitting them, belittling them, or dismissing them altogether, but still communicates expected conduct in a loving way. If you are uncertain of how this would look in your household, finding a therapeutic space can be helpful to practice or process further. As a parent, there are so many needs to meet, whether basic or emotional. Make sure you are not parenting out of fear of the past, but hope for the future and grace for the present.

by: Olivia Espinosa

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