When we are dealing with our own pain and trauma, we struggle to be there for others in their time of need. When helping our kids through addiction and other problematic behaviors, we might face our triggers while guiding them through the healing process. We could have our own unresolved trauma that influences how we approach others, sometimes without our knowledge.
Conversely, our kids might claim that we do not understand them if we do not share their experiences. We may have a challenging time understanding what they are going through, which can impact our approach. Additionally, we might have struggled with what we perceive as more challenging issues than our kids. The things that could trigger their anxiety or depression might appear insignificant to us if we grew up in what we believe were more challenging circumstances.
Being Mindful of Our Approach
Regardless of whether we share some of the same trauma or not, we need to take time to address our own baggage and preconceptions to be there for our kids truly. While we can try to relate to our kids and what they are going through, sometimes, we can unintentionally give them advice that is not helpful. We need to take a step back, heal ourselves, and then we can minimize our own potential triggers that might unintentionally influence how we treat our children.
Often, as parents, we want to have all the answers for our kids and fix their problems. We fall back on what we have learned growing up or treat our kids based on what we have learned from our parents. Other times, we try to treat our kids equally, assuming that the amount of support and guidance we provide for one child needs to match with others.
Each child is different, and a child who struggles might require additional help or guidance than other family members. Like the death of a loved one or other traumatic event, some events can impact one child more than the others. The best approach is to give each child the guidance that they need to be their best.
Helping Ourselves First
We can consider the analogy of securing an oxygen mask on a child during an emergency on an airplane. Airlines instruct physically capable adults to secure their own masks first before assisting vulnerable passengers, such as children, the elderly, or physically challenged individuals. Instinctually, we may want to jump to the aid of others first during a mid-air emergency, believing that helping ourselves first is selfish. However, we cannot help anyone if we cannot breathe or pass out from a lack of oxygen.
When a child struggles with problematic behaviors, mental health issues, or addiction, we want to jump in and save our kids as quickly as possible. While we need to act quickly during emergencies where our child’s life is at risk, we need to consider our own mental health to help them during their healing process through therapy and treatment. We need to prioritize self-care to avoid getting burnt out or encountering issues we are not emotionally ready to help with.
Self-Care is Crucial to Support Others
As parents of kids who struggle, we often feel overwhelmed by some of our child’s behaviors. We feel shocked by their actions, even angry at them. They could perhaps be keeping us up late while getting into trouble. We may worry that we have failed them as parents if our children are depressed or overly anxious. We might be recovering from substance use ourselves and feel guilty or triggered if we see the same signs in our child.
We are allowed to feel our emotions. However, we need to separate our emotional responses from the crisis with our child. By taking care of ourselves first by seeking support, therapy, or other means, we can process our own emotions without allowing them to influence how we treat our children during their struggles.
Managing Our Own Emotions
When we see a loved one, especially a child, struggle, we may well go through several emotions. We would like to see things go back to normal and get our kids back from the brink of self-destruction and despair.
However, we need to remember that we need to manage our own emotions to be the most effective parents for them. Our kids need us to help them right now. We might not have all the answers; however, others have been in our shoes before. We can lean on others throughout this challenging time to show up for our kids during their struggles.
Helping others when we have our own emotional struggles can be challenging. We could potentially have our trauma or preconceptions to be there for our kids when they struggle. We might perhaps be shocked, saddened, angry, or disappointed in our child’s behaviors. Powerful negative emotions like shame, guilt, and self-blame can drive us to overreact to our child’s behaviors. We owe ourselves the opportunity to experience and process these emotions. Only by caring for ourselves can we be strong enough to show up for our kids during their time of need when facing serious issues. Remember that you are not alone. When things are overwhelming, the staff at Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center have your back. Visit our Facebook group “Parenting Teens That Struggle” to connect with Fire Mountain and other parents like you, or call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest.