Chapter 3 - Beneath the Surface: Digging into the Past Reveals Keys for the Future
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties. -Psalm 139:23
How you make sense of your childhood experiences has a profound effect on how you parent your own children. --Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell, Parenting from the Inside Out
Sometimes the keys to figuring out our children's needs lie in our own childhoods. You're probably wondering, What does my childhood have to do with connecting with my children? If we never make sense of our childhood experiences, the consequences are likely to affect our own children, whether we realize it or not. Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell explain it like this:
If you had a difficult childhood but have not come to make sense of those experiences, your are not bound to re-create the same negative interactions with your own children. Without such self-understanding, however, science has shown that history will likely repeat itself, as negative patterns of family interactions are passed down through the generations. -- Parenting from the Inside Out
Having coached many parents, I have seen this to be true. People come into the workshop with either a chip on their shoulder toward their parents, or as soon as they left childhood they never looked back. Many who have had difficult childhoods don't even realize that they are carrying around baggage. Siegel and Hartzell elaborate:
When we become parents we are given an incredible opportunity to grow as individuals because we ourselves are put back into an intimate parent-child relationship, this time in a different role. So many times parents have said, "I never thought I'd do or say the very things to my children that felt hurtful to me when I was a child. And yet I find myself doing exactly that." Parents can feel stuck in repetitive, unproductive patterns that don't support the loving, nurturing relationship they envisioned when they began their roles as parents. Making sense of life can fee parents from patterns of the past that have imprisoned them in the present. -- Parenting from the Inside Out
Through observing and making sense of our past we can improve the present and our children's future. I wish I'd learned this truth when my children were little; however, I discovered it's never too late. I also discovered that making sense of my seemingly senseless past held some very important clues to restoration and healing.