How My Own Childhood Abuse Has Shaped My Parenting Styleby Emma Longden
When I was twelve years old, I was sexually abused by a male who was close to the family for over a year. I kept the abuse to myself, too scared of what he might do to me if I told anybody. In fact, I was so traumatised by what happened to me that I didn't tell anybody for years, and I only reported the abuse to the police, and opened up to my parents, a few years ago, in my late twenties.
Having experienced abuse as a child myself, I have at times struggled with being a parent to my own children, worrying about the world and all the dangers that exist out there. How can I protect my children if my own parents didn't know what was going on with me? Along with the additional anxiety, I have found that what happened to me has shaped me as a parent, and not all of these are negative.
For a start, I have found that I encourage the children to be open and honest with me, and I give them the same back. I want them to know that I am here for them no matter what and that nothing is off the table when it comes to discussions. I was so scared to tell my mum what had happened to me, and I don't want that for my kids, so I am conscious of making our conversations a safe space for them from an early age. Additionally, I want them to understand what is normal and what isn't, in language that they can understand and deal with.
I also try and be a fun parent, allowing them to be wild and free within some set boundaries, whilst encouraging them to enjoy their childhood. I lost a part of my childhood because of what happened to me, I shut out the memories and I stopped enjoying playing with my siblings and being a child. I was no longer carefree, and I don't want that for my own children, I want them to have happy memories to look back on. I want them to be free spirits.
Finally, I am more cautious about elements of parenting that I wouldn't necessarily be without my own experiences. Sure, it makes me a little more anxious, but I would rather be safe than sorry, and I am always extra careful about the people I introduce to my children, and have in their lives because of it. What happened to me when I was a child, it was done to me by somebody who was meant to be a safe adult, somebody I was in the care of. That means that I am careful and cautious with the people who are a part of our lives, just in case.
Childhood abuse is awful, it has a long-lasting effect decades after the event itself, but the experience has shaped the way I am as a parent myself, and I am determined to give my own children the happy, carefree childhood that I was denied in the past.