We’ve all made mistakes as parents. Whether it’s losing it under stress, panic or tough times, the reality is that our children are the ones who have bore the brunt of it.
Child-rearing has changed so much; both parents are now normally working; financial demands mean that both may even be working longer hours. Little to no engagement with our children means that their source of validation comes from external sources or external family members who may step in as child care. With very little time with our children, burn out from the demands of daily life, we lose touch with what’s important and so the guilt kicks in and so does the lack of understanding from parent to child and when they’re older, child to parent. Not to mention our own traumas that we may be healing from which are then affecting the child.
Over the past few months, I have been working with a young girl of a tender 12 years. Her case wasn’t rare; it’s the third such case I’ve come across during the span of two years at my well-being practice. The pre-teen was suffering from severe migraines, that would render her bed bound, passed out and vomiting. The distress was obvious in the child and it was a massive cause for concern for her parents. They reached out to me stating that the daughter was having meltdowns due to a lack of boundaries with her friend who was dominant, overbearing and overly loud. The client could not say no to her. I thought it was a simple case and worked with the client. The first two sessions were fine, we simply addressed resilience via indirect resilience building exercises. I taught her calming exercises and engaged in EFT. But as with all relationships, a pattern emerges because the pattern was imprinted from a parent. So to gauge why the child felt the need to be so attached to her toxic friend, I tried a subtle love language exercise with the child. You can try this at home with your child:
(please refer to my previous article exploring the love languages of children in Islam for other ways of finding out your child’s love language Raising your children with Faith and Love).
The client had a lot to say about her mum but when I mentioned the same for dad, she shut down and gave one word answers. Her face changed also which was a big cue that there was hostility there. When her mum came at the end of the session, I raised it with her. Mum finally shed light on a period where her husband was under immense stress in their family home supporting his sister who had separated from her partner and had a toddler the same age as the client back then. The toddler cousin was aggressive, loud and dominating (you see the pattern?) and caused a lot of grief for client who was distressed by this cousin. They stayed for two years and whilst trying to keep the peace between the women in the home, the father would discipline the client in the hope it would scare his nephew as he felt he couldn’t lay those boundaries with the nephew so used his daughter to set an example. The mum explained that it was a traumatic time as she had to ‘protect client’ from the dad. I understood she meant physical aggression.
This isn’t uncommon in Asian communities. Many clients who come to the practise are suffering the aftermath of physical abuse from parents. In the case of my young client, she had carried the pattern left by her dad and toddler cousin throughout school. Her friends circle at primary and upper school meant that she was always trying to appease and fit in amidst louder more boisterous children. And it was comfortable for her but at the same time she knew something was wrong and hated herself for not being able to stand up to them. If not dealt with, this often leads to low self worth/esteem and lack of confidence in relationships. It opens people up to toxic relationships, whether within a marriage/partnership, workplace or friends circle. Either way, it isn’t a healthy way to live.
If you are a parent who isn’t proud of how things were handled between you and your child during tough times or when you didn’t know better, there’s still time to fix things whilst your child is young:
I will be working with the father soon and also the mum who has since felt responsible for a lot within the family home. The good news is that for the past few months, my client has not had a severe migraine and she’s doing well at school. All with the help of simple confident building exercises, journaling, EFT and affirmations.
A few books to help you along the way:
And for your pre-teen/ young adult:
Remember that trauma can repeat itself unless you actively help yourself to overcome it. And you may not completely heal but a few small wins help you better your relationship every day and that’s what causes the shift in your relationship with the people around you and mainly your child.
May we all have the guidance and strength from Allah SWT to raise our Amaanah well and break away from the toxic cycles imprinted on us as children. May we break generational curses and aspire for change with our children. May we raise our children with the guidance of the example set by our Beloved Prophet and set the best example for them to then continue our legacy with their own children. Ameen.
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