When I was young and growing up in an abusive household with an abusive parent, I couldn't have possibly imagined that I would one day be looking back on the experience and contemplating what I would later tell my son about my childhood. But here I am, armed with lessons that surviving an abusive childhood has taught me, thinking about what I will tell my kid when he inevitably asks about my life, and what it was like when I was his age.
There are some things I'm not sure I'll tell him; details that will do nothing but hurt me and scare him. But there are other things — important things that growing up with an abusive parent has provided me with — that I believe should absolutely be shared.
When I found out I was pregnant, I silently promised the growing peanut inside of me that I would do everything within my power to end the cycle of violence with me; that he or she would never be forced to endure life with an abusive parent. For me, and many others, constant communication is a key component to ensuring that domestic violence isn't a shared commonality between generations. It's easier said than done, to be sure, and there are numerous factors — socio-economic status, relationship dynamics, the culture within any given community — that make abuse prominent and ongoing and repetitive.
However, every mom who grew up with an abusive parent is going to want to tell her kid these 11 things, to help ensure that her children will never, ever, experience what she has lived through.
Sharing stories about an abusive past and the trauma that was inflicted, is a personal decision that absolutely no one can (or should) make for you. How the collective "we" deal with trauma varies from person to person, so while some people find comfort and cathartic release from sharing their experiences, others simply do not. No way is "right" or "wrong" and the manner in which anyone chooses to work through the lasting effects of abuse, is a personal decision that should always be respected. Whether you tell your kids exactly what you went through at the hands of an abusive parent, is entirely up to you.
However, every parent who has experienced parental abuse is going to want to tell his or her children the truth. No, you don't have to go into detail and no, you don't have to share every painful story, but being open and honest with your kid about what happened (even in the abstract) will be beneficial, for both of you.
Why Grandma/Grandpa Isn't Around
Perhaps you still have a relationship with your abusive parent. Perhaps, you don't. Again, how someone moves forward from abuse is entirely up to them, and some children of abusive parents do, eventually, establish a healthy relationship with that parent. However, if you don't, and that abusive parent is out of your life and, subsequently, your kid's life, you'll want to let them know why. Again, you don't have to go into detail and you don't have to paint your abusive parent as a monster, scaring your kid into thinking that all grandparents are evil (because that can happen), but it's a good idea to let your kid know that their grandparent's absence has nothing to do with them. Kids are smart and they notice everything, so when the inevitable question of why your dad or mom isn't at a holiday or family function, it'll be beneficial to be upfront and honest.
Abuse Is Never OK
A mother who grew up with an abusive parent is going to be dead set on ending the vicious cycle of violence. Children in homes where there is violence are physically abused or seriously neglected at a rate 1500% higher than the national average. If you grow up with domestic violence, you’re 74 times more likely to commit a violent crime against someone else. It's important to teach our children that abuse in any form — sexual, domestic, physical, mental, emotional, or financial — is never OK. It's not OK if someone says they love you; it's not OK if someone buys you something to apologize; it's not OK if someone had a hard life and they're "trying." It's just not OK, and a mother who experienced abuse in her childhood is going to insist her kid(s) know that they should never, ever, consider abuse a form of love or affection or care.
The Reasons Why Leaving Can Be Hard
Victims of abuse are often made to feel guilty for not leaving sooner. Individuals who have never experienced the manipulation, isolation, and financial oppression that can keep someone trapped in an abusive environment end up shaming and judging victims because, hey, you can "just leave"...right? Wrong. A mother who grew up in an abusive household is going to make sure that her children learn compassion and support, instead of judgement. There are numerous reasons why abuse victims stay with their abuser: money, fear, children, low self-esteem, pressure, lack of options, etc. The list literally can go on forever. There are as many reasons to stay in an abusive situation as there are reasons to leave, and...the devil you know, etc.
I grew up angry at my mother for not leaving my abusive father. I was too close to the situation (and too young and too naive) to realize all the reasons why my mother couldn't leave. It's important to me that, as my son learns about my childhood and the situation my mother, my brother, and I were in, that he realizes why grandma couldn't take mom and uncle away. It's vital that he learns that strength comes in all shapes and sizes, and doesn't just look like a victim leaving her abuser.
Compassion Is More Helpful Than Condemnation
Which is why it's paramount that compassion and support for victims of abuse, instead of judgement and shame, is continuously taught to those who are lucky enough to have never experienced it. A mother who has grown up in an abusive environment is going to be acutely and painfully aware that kindness and encouragement were what assisted her and her family, instead of constant pressure to "leave" and "better your life" and whatever else people say with disdain and misunderstanding.
The Early Warning Signs Of Abuse
A mother who grew up with an abusive parent is going to want her kid(s) to easily identify the warning signs of dating or domestic violence. Many of those warning signs seem harmless enough: never wanting to spend time with friends, insisting you "check in," extreme jealousy and/or insecurity, etc. We all want better for our children, and a mother who grew up in an abusive home is going to work tirelessly to make sure her child won't have to experience anything remotely like that, whether it's from a parent, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or anyone at all.
How To Ask For Help
It's difficult to reach out and ask for help when you're a victim of abuse. Many victims don't realize that there are people and organizations that can help, while others are made to feel like they're the problem instead of their abuser. A mother will do whatever it takes to help her child, which usually means equipping them with the ability and knowledge to help themselves. Victims of abuse can get help, but it can be a complicated process and knowing what to do, how to do it, and where you can go after you've done it, are a vital part of eventually separating from an abuser.
You Will Never Put Them Through What You Went Through
The cycle of domestic violence and abuse is a difficult one to break. The continuous patterns are often learned and repeated, as children of domestic violence are 3 times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood. A mother who has grown up in an abusive environment is not only go know what abuse looks like, she is also going to know how to end it. While it's not OK in any way, shape or form, having an abusive parent is having a living, breathing example of what not to do. A mom who had an abusive parent, is going to want her kid to know first, foremost, and always that what she experienced is something they'll never have to experience.
It's Not OK, But You Learned A Lot
When you grow up in an abusive environment, you learn a lot. They're lessons you definitely didn't want to learn, but they're lessons that can make you a better parent, a better person and just, well, better. Your abuser doesn't deserve any credit for those lessons — you learned to find the silver lining of a horrible, dangerous and violent situation despite their best efforts — but it's perfectly OK to let your kid know that while it was a horrific situation, you came out better for it. It's fine to show them that even the worst things that could possibly happen to us can play a part in us eventually becoming better versions of ourselves. It's a hopeful lesson, and when you're proof that it's also a truthful lesson, it will be a moment your kid never forgets.
They Can Always Come To You
A mom who survived an abusive parent, is going to insist on cultivating a healthy, respectful, supportive relationship between her kid and herself. You know, the kind of relationship she wasn't able to have with her abusive parent. That means that she will undoubtably ensure her kid that regardless — whether it's about sex, a failing friendship, school, or a date that didn't seem right — they can come to her. They will find safety and comfort, not anger and violence. A mom who had an abusive parent will want to give her kid what she didn't have: unconditional love.
The Most Important Relationship You Have Is The One With Yourself
Arguably, one of the most important things a mom who had an abusive parent is going to want to tell her kid is this: Self-love is the most important love you'll ever experience. Domestic violence and abuse hinges on the abuser's ability to convince his or her victim that they're nothing; that they are incapable, stupid, defunct in some irreversible way and dependent on their abuser. A mom who had an abusive parent is going to work tirelessly to teach her kid that they're worthy of respect, safety, and love; that they have value and no one — not a romantic partner or otherwise — can take that value away from them.
They're going to tell their kid that they should love themselves for who they are and who they're working to become. They're going to tell their kid what they weren't told by their abusive parent: They're worthy.