As parents, we often think about what our child will feel when they are older and looking back on our youth. We often imagine that they’ll see the love that we have for them, or the way that we kept them on task with our strict rules, or how fun and relaxed we were (depending on your parent styles). We may want them to remember us as cool, or remember us as a motivator for their success.
One thing we do not typically want to believe is that we are the source of childhood trauma. We think about all the children that have grown up with challenges as adults because of the way they were treated in their past, and we want to believe that we’re not creating childhood traumas – or creating situations that can affect our children’s mental health in the future.
Unfortunately, you probably are. Pretty much all parents are.
That’s because at least some degree of childhood trauma is, in some ways, unavoidable. There are many different levels of trauma – for example, abuse is likely to be far more traumatic and cause long lasting benefits – but a raised voice, a firm word, or even *too much kindness* can potentially be the cause of issues that a child needs to deal with as an adult.
Parenting is About Doing Your Best
The truth about raising a child is that it is not possible to prevent all traumas because we also cannot know our child’s entire experience. They’re in the process of developing their emotions, learning how to cope with challenges, and figure out their place in the world. All of those create impossible requirements for any parent. You cannot be:
- Too Strict – Parents that are too strict can create traumas in children that felt they needed to learn how to be free and create their own path. Children do need opportunities to make mistakes and have experiences, and strictness can prevent those experiences in ways that make a child struggle into adulthood.
- Too Relaxed – Children often need some boundaries, otherwise they do not know how to navigate the world. A child that doesn’t have rules can struggle to follow them, and may experience feelings of being lost or confused as they end up growing into a world that has far more requirements of them.
- Too Distant – Every child needs to feel love. Parents that do not adequately share the love a child needs can cause issues in how the child grows up to give and receive love in the future. It may affect their relationships, their self esteem, and more.
- Too Loving – Yes, it is possible for a child to receive too much love. Too much adoration and praise can cause a child to grow up expecting non-stop affirmations from others, potentially leading to an inflated ego and expectations that other people will not reach.
As you can imagine, no parents can provide the perfect amount of all of those behaviors, all the time. Nor should they. You are who you are, and your child is who they are. Parenting is about doing your best, and but there are going to be mistakes.
What This Means for Your Child
The reason this matters is because, as parents, we sometimes think there is more we can do to prevent mental health challenges in our children. While certainly some children experience traumatic events so significant it causes PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other issues, the reality is that parenting is complicated, and many children are going to need therapy and support for their mental health no matter how you parent. You may even find out that your child, teen, or young adult expresses reasons for needing that help that have to do with you.
Children that need mental health deserve to receive it. They will benefit from the care in the short and long term. But you also have to remember that you cannot be a perfect parent. It does not exist. Instead, focus on doing your best, and don’t be hesitant to seek out a child therapist should you find that your need needs additional support.