Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a condition resulting from persistent traumatization over the course of months and even years. This may include physical, mental, or sexual abuse and torture, domestic violence, living in a war zone, surviving a plane crash, car accident, dealing with narcissists, being kidnapped, growing up around alcoholism, human smuggling etc.
Although adults can also develop CPTSD, it is more common in people whose trauma persisted in childhood. As a child, the brain is in it’s developmental process and this delicate time is for learning about themselves, their society, and relationships. Severe trauma interrupts the neural mechanisms between the right and left brain hemispheres and clouds their intellectual and neural growth. CPTSD symptoms begin and follow through into adulthood where these children then become parents.
Parenting and CPTSD
Parenting is not easy and for those with CPTSD it can be twice, if not three times as hard because of unhealed wounds and troubled processing. These sufferers can be known to go to extremes either over-parenting or not parenting enough. It is now being considered that those with CPTSD, or those trying to cope with CPTSD by abusing substances, are directly linked to poor parenting skills. Research shows that a mental history of victimization can grossly affect a parent's care-taking skills later. Studies also suggest that parents with CPTSD are at higher risk of using harsher, more violent, and correctional parenting strategies or “Helicopter Parenting” which can then lead to a child's mental and physical maltreatment or own CPTSD issues.
CPTSD is brutal if untreated. Being a parent with misunderstood CPTSD is often just plain dysfunctional! One of the more difficult aspects is unpredictability with reactions. Because the CPTSD parent is often caught in RIGHT BRAIN emotion, they can over-react causing fear, or under-react causing neglect. More often than not, parents with CPTSD from childhood trauma become strict parents to avoid the same thing happening to their children. They can be controlling about outside play or their child’s personal hygiene. Fear hijacks their parenting leaving their own child feeling imprisoned and unable to escape (one of the major contributing traumas to CPTSD). CPTSD sufferers are known to parent from a state of constant fear. They closely monitor everything their child does. This robs children of their freedom, leaving them with CPTSD processing in their own minds. It’s important for CPTSD parents to become aware of this and begin to break the cycle of impaired neural processing.
“A child abused by its parent does not stop loving its parents, it stops loving itself”
Parenting Successfully with CPTSD
In a nutshell, kids need the right to their own identity and lives. Parenting should not be centered on the parent, this leaves no space for the child to acquire an identity or become a responsible adult. To parent successfully, while living with CPTSD, the parent must acknowledge their disorder, work to heal it and try to regulate their brain processing. This can be done. And generations after will reap the rewards.
Can CPTSD sufferers make good parents? The answer is YES. The following tips will help:
Try to Match Reactions Appropriately to the Situation
If your child makes a mistake or chooses not to brush their teeth before going to bed and you are using insults or scare tactics, chances are you have lost emotional control and CPTSD has taken over. When you feel anger taking over it’s generally not what your child did but rather, what’s triggering you to feel “not good enough” the way someone traumatized you with when you were young. Every issue you have is really about your own unhealed wounds. Do you really want to make your little one carry your baggage? Too much Right Brain emotion needs a balance of Left Brain logic. Take a pause, breathe. Is it really the end of the world if your kid makes a mistake? Mistakes are how they grow. Aren’t they supposed to grow with you? If they can’t grow with you, they’ll be stunted in their own emotional processing than be at the mercy of the world! Balancing your logic and emotion will allow you to respond appropriately in tough situations. If you feel you need help with this, or another perspective, get with your life coach or counselor. A good one will remind you that you are to “coach” your little one into proper processing AND provide them freedom and space to make mistakes and still be GOOD ENOUGH.
Talk with Your Kids Not At Them
Talk to your kids about your behavior and make proper apologies. The best thing a child can see is that you’re human. But remember, the best apology is changed behavior (everything else is manipulation, you DO NOT want them to learn manipulation). Take responsibility to control your anger and change your reactions. Kids are to be seen and heard, regardless of what you’ve been told. Ask your kids how they feel about the life they are having to live. Let them have a say in anything that pertains to them. Not all kids want to play sports, instruments, or make you look good. Their existence isn’t about you, once you give them life, they are supposed to have one. Ask them about themselves and what THEY want. You may have not had the opportunity to create an identity but they should. Don’t make your child suffer for your parent’s parenting.
Be Easy on Yourself
This may all sound harsh, but with the way the world is today, many of us need a swift kick in the pants and it needs to start at home. As a parent, you always want your children to be happy and safe, and you try your best to protect your children. Of course challenges make a child strong but you shouldn’t be their challenge. It’s OK to not be a perfect parent, go easy on yourself, and make it easy for your kid too.
Seek Professional Help
A professional who is specialized in helping and coaching victims of CPTSD will help you manage your stress processing. YOU can be the one to prevent continue cycles of trauma in your family but you have to want it. Parenting classes will also help you understand your child's needs and cope with difficult parenting situations. Feel free to reach out. Some of the best parents out there came from weak backgrounds they fought to strengthen.
In my opinion, one of the best books out there for today’s parenting needs, is Conscious Parenting by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. (Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Conscious-Parent-Dr-Shefali-Tsabary-ebook/dp/B005LRXNGU) It’s about parents letting go of ego, desires, and attachments and instead of forcing behaviors on their children, parents learn to focus on their own expectations, language, and self-regulation. Children grow and develop
In your opinion, do CPTSD sufferers make good parents? What’s your take on it? Let's hear your side.