How Trauma Informed My Parenting

How Trauma Informed My Parenting

Dec 20, 2023

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Welcome to our 100th episode of Become a Calm Mama! Today, I’m getting pretty personal about things I experienced in my childhood and how trauma informed my parenting. We’ll also talk about some ways to feel better and heal from traumatic experiences in your past.

I also have my best friend, Tiffany Howsam, here with me today. Tiffany is a licensed marriage and family therapist, as well as a certified life coach. We’ve been friends for almost 20 years, and she has created a safe place for me and been a big part of my healing and parenting journey. 

Please note, this is a really emotional episode, for me and possibly for you listening. If you feel stressed, embarrassed or overwhelmed at any point, please stop reading or listening, and take care of yourself. 



How Trauma Informed My Parenting

When my son Lincoln was 4 years old, he was having major meltdowns, getting in trouble at preschool and being aggressive. And I was screaming all the time.

There were times that I felt like a victim, like I was being abused by my son. When I told Tiffany this, she explained that it was not normal to feel this way and that I didn’t have to continue feeling this way. That is when I realized I needed some help. 

One of the first parenting workshops I attended was also my first experience with inner child work. I realized that when Lincoln was being aggressive, I felt like I was in danger, being attacked. 

As a result of my adverse childhood experiences, I never really felt safe in my body, environment or relationships. Everything always felt dangerous, so I was constantly seeking security and a sense of control. 

I tried to find the rules of how I was supposed to live, and it often showed up as perfectionism. I wanted to crack the code on everything  - figure it out so I could do it “right” and be safe. 

This trauma also showed up for me in the form of eating disorders, people pleasing and a high sense of vigilance, 

When I had kids, there were so many decisions to make, and I didn’t feel like I knew the right answer to any of them. And when it came to behavior, I didn’t know how to not yell at them. So I’d yell. Then I’d feel ashamed and beat myself up, tell myself that they were bad. When you don’t have good parents, you actually don’t know what else to do. There’s no template to follow.

As parents, we can have the best intentions. Then, we’re triggered and an old wound or stress response comes back up, and we’re in it, doing the thing we don’t want to do. 

There are so many things I went through that I wanted to protect my kids from. I made their emotional health my #1 parenting goal, which meant that I lowered my standards in other areas. I just wanted them to feel safe and held and cared for. 


How I’m Healing From Childhood Trauma

There are several choices I made and strategies I used over the past 15-ish years to help me out of the trauma response, overreactivity and toxic stress. 

A lot of my childhood stress came from growing up in an unpredictable environment. When I was a kid, I never knew what was happening. There was so much confusion, and nobody talked to me about it. 

As a mom, I became really focused on not having chaos in our family. I wanted everything to be simple and flow smoothly. When my kids were young I was doing a lot of healing work, and I needed routines to support me. 

I did a lot of work on my mental health, through journaling, therapy and other people in my life who I could trust. 

I learned all I could about parenting. I read books, attended classes and workshops, completed workbooks and put a lot of time and energy into it. 

Then I combined all I’d learned about parenting with skills I’d used to work on my mental health to coach my kids through their feelings. I practiced being more honest with my kids, narrating circumstances and helping them name the emotions (what I now call the Connection Tool). 

When I think about the things that have healed me, it’s radical listening, radical honesty, radical self-love and radical action. I’m willing to be honest with myself, trust my love for myself, listen to what I’m saying and then take new action. 

Tiffany thinks of this as showing up for yourself how you want to show up for your kids. I see it as showing up the way you wish adults had shown up for you. 


How You Can Heal From Trauma

Our bodies and behavior give us clues when we are not well. If you find yourself being aggressive, yelling, being physical, emotionally checking out, looking at your phone all the time, not paying attention…these are all signs that something is off. 

But instead of jumping to self-judgment, we can have compassion for ourselves and get curious about where it’s coming from. What is happening underneath? What are you protecting yourself from or running away from? What are you trying to create that is lacking? 

Be gentle with yourself, Mama. Doing something new is not easy. Learn to speak to yourself kindly. Bring gentle curiosity to how your childhood might be showing up in parenting and in other strategies you use in your life. 

Then, get some support from a therapist or through one of my parenting programs. Find someone who can give you a different perspective, awareness and the support to work through it. 

It is never too late to start working on this stuff -  to figure out how you want to parent and work on your mental health and stress so that you can show up the way you want to.




You’ll Learn:

  • How trauma in your childhood can impact your parenting
  • My story of childhood trauma and healing
  • How learning the language of feelings is like talking about water
  • Why healing your trauma and taking good care of your nervous system is so important for your kids
  • How to start your own healing journey

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