Parents of the past may have lacked emotion education. Without having an understanding of the complexities of emotional expression and regulation, generations struggled, passing down the turbulence from parent to child. Without the guidance for how to cope with the unpredictable floods of emotion and help their children grow through pain, it's no surprise that many families have experienced generational trauma as a result.
The nature of parenting is ever-evolving. Each generation applies different strategies, technology, values and educational tools in an effort to make life better for the next. While educational toys, devices and support are at our collective fingertips – unfortunately, until recently, there has been a staggering lack of emotional education accessible to families.
Generational trauma involves lingering residual effects generations after the initial incident was encountered or created. Understandably, this can cause a heavy emotional burden. Every generation contributes their own personal histories and experiences which shape how they raise their children – and when the trauma is unresolved or overlooked in a value system, it can cycle onto future generations. It has long-standing impacts on beliefs, triggers, social behaviour as well as physical health.
The key to breaking the cycle of generational trauma is getting emotionally educated. By providing resources to help families understand how to cope with feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and stuck in coping mechanisms that ultimately don't work, the family tree will reap the benefits for years to come.
Individuals with a strong emotional vocabulary are able to recognise their emotions more accurately and quickly, express them within appropriate boundaries, pause and reframe situations that challenge them and cultivate respect and empathy towards themselves and others. Having the understanding of how your body works on a physiological level allows any emotion to be felt without having to mask it or hide it away. The sooner we move away from outdated parenting techniques that stimulate fear and distress as discipline and punishment, the sooner we will move towards practices that embrace healthy boundaries of expression and connection.
When we start learning about what exactly is meant by ‘emotional intelligence', constructing relationships between feeling, psychology and actions is essential. We must begin to change the language from negative talk such as ‘bad behaviour' to empowering phrases like ‘ regulate yourself, practice self-compassion'. This creates conscious awareness instead of deep shame within our daily interactions with family members and others.
Parents must become aware of the labels that are given to each emotion and retain curiousity about them. How does anger feel ? What does sadness look like? When I am anxious what do I see? Finding out the answers to these questions helps us identify our inner workings and make better decisions. taking a moment to focus on our breath can instantly reset how we are feeling and thinking, giving us a logical window through which to observe our situation.
The cycle will never stop unless proper education and knowledge is put into play. Supporting parents as they learn new skills like mindful listening, non-judgemental questioning, purposeful practise – along with establishing spaces where individuals can be open, honest and vulnerable with one another - all contribute in helping a family navigate difficult times while growing closer together.
Lingering generational trauma can have a powerful influence on many aspects of our lives but remembering its source shouldn't fill parents with shame or guilt for its existence. Instead, look towards these moments as opportunities for growth and healing – not just now but for generations ahead. With increased accesses to resources for emotional education families can overcome trauma and create healthy supportive environments for everyone involved in the home.