It’s never too late to heal. It’s never too late to love – yourself and your children. You can be the line in the sand.
As a clinician I seem to get “batches” of similar clients. It seems to be a common phenomenon in my profession.
Currently I’m getting a batch of parents who feel they have been particularly harsh, overly-controlling, neglectful, unloving, disconnected or even abusive of their children. They feel terrible, and are often filled with regret, guilt and self-hatred. Some of them try to justify their actions, but soon catch themselves out. They are frequently plagued with addiction, over-eating or other unwanted urges. Much of the time, they feel helpless, like they’ve irreversibly stuffed up. Well the good news is they’re wrong.
The relief they feel when they realise they can heal, their children can heal also, it’s never too late and their healing will generate their children’s healing is palpable. And often this realisation is followed by tears – tears of relief and hope.
Many parents, albeit unconsciously, repeat the patterns of their past. They can be plagued by a background of dysfunctional parenting which they themselves were forced to live through. Suddenly their conscious ability to recognise these repeated patterns is triggered by noticing the resulting impact on their child or children.
The interesting thing to note here is children are basically a mirror or reflection of the environment they’re in. When I get a parent asking me to “fix” their 11-year-old who has started “acting out”, for example refusing to go to school, or displaying compulsive behaviour or anxiety, I explain that the child is responding to what’s going on in the environment around him or her. Essentially, you can’t expect to take someone who is in a difficult, destructive or toxic school or family environment, “help them fix themselves” internally and then send them straight back into the same external environment that broke them down and expect him to “stay fixed”.
It’s for this reason that the best thing a parent can do to help their child is heal their own hurts, fears, emotional scars, anxieties, sense of inadequacy and ability to love. Then, once the parent is able to be more open, loving, kind and connected, the child will be able to begin to heal. If the child or teenager then needs to heal the damage they have been carrying, they will be able to do so – when they are ready – without going back into the interactions that generated the problem they are reflecting.
So parents who are able to take responsibility for the impact they have on their children are making an incredibly empowering choice – for both themselves and their child.
The beautiful truth is:
You can be the line in the sand. You can change the course of history.
I’ve witnessed so many lives change in the most incredible ways, as parents have come to realise they can heal and in doing so they help their children to heal as well.
Cathy and Lauren’s Story
Cathy and her gorgeous 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, illustrate a wonderful example of what’s possible. (Please note, names and some minor details have been changed for the sake of anonymity.)
Cathy and Lauren arrived together. Upon meeting them, Lauren presented as a highly anxious teenager who was trapped in a shell of self-doubt, fear and anxiety. She felt helpless and unable to change. She’s seen psychologists and counsellors to no effect. She had felt increasingly debilitated in her unhappiness. She found talking about the problems made them seem worse. Her doctor had recommended anxiety medication, but fortunately Cathy had refused to take the psychotropic drug route – at least not before she’d tried every other option. Lauren was sleeping badly, waking exhausted, and was struggling with her school work. She was also struggling socially and emotionally at school, with both peers and teachers. She wanted to change schools, which her parents were reluctant to allow. Lauren felt trapped and overly controlled, and this made her feel even more trapped. Her increasing sense of futility had recently resulted in destructive behaviour which Cathy had noticed. This is what prompted Cathy to seek my assistance.
Cathy presented as a highly anxious mother who was exhausted by her own constant need for perfection and control. She was extremely worried about Lauren. She wanted to be a loving mother and was concerned about the part she may have unintentionally played in Lauren’s anxiety and recent self-destructive choices. I had spoken to Cathy about the interplay between parents and their children and she, most admirably, had decided to do the healing work herself so that whatever negative impact she may have been having on Lauren could be corrected.
The processes were explained to Cathy and Lauren and both were keen to start their healing journey. Lauren started first.
A few weeks later both mum and daughter were literally like new people. Lauren had blossomed in unimaginable ways. She was out socialising again when before she was fearful to leave home. She now felt repelled by even the thought of self-destructive behaviour. She was literally like a new kid. The timid teenager had blossomed into an amazing calm, confident and happy young woman. She had been an inspiration to her mother, and to her younger sister.
Cathy couldn’t believe the changes in Lauren. She was absolutely blown away. She was so thrilled to have her happy, lively daughter back. She commenced her own healing process and couldn’t believe how rapid and permanent the changes were. She completely surrendered the over-controlling aspects of herself which had turned her into an easy-going, super relaxed, fun mother. She trusted her daughter to make wise choices, and Lauren didn’t let her down. Cathy went from a regimented, stressful running of her household to creating a happy, relaxed, inclusive, supportive family environment. The difference in Cathy was incredible. She even stopped obsessing about food, which paradoxically was creating unhealthy relationships to food for all family members, including herself. It was such a blessing to see how a happy healthy mum can change the entire family dynamic. I was so proud of Cathy. She’d even convinced her husband to allow Lauren to change schools – but the irony is once Lauren developed her confidence and was no longer bothered by the actions of teachers and peers, she no longer wanted to change schools. There was a comfort in knowing that she would be supported by her parents if she was to change her mind though.
It’s quite remarkable how quickly we can change and heal when we want to. We forget that life is simply a series of choices. We choose what we think, what we do, what we decide to feel, and how we decide how we respond to events, circumstances, situations and others.
We forget that we change every moment of every day. In fact change is synonymous with life. Without change there would be no life. We simply forget that we can choose the changes we want.
We change every moment of every day. In fact change is synonymous with life. Without change there would be no life. We simply forget that we can choose the changes we want.
When it comes to our family there is no greater change we can make than to heal, to connect and to love. And if we heal ourselves, in doing so we automatically begin to heal the relationships that matter most to us.
Of course, it’s much better to do no harm in the first place. We can never love our children too much.
However, for those who have caught themselves on an auto-pilot they no longer want to be on, it’s never too late to change.
10 Important Reminders:
Perhaps the greatest New Year resolution possible is healing ourselves and our family.
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