Children are like sponges. They soak up cues in their environment and learn social skills from the people around them. While many things impact children positively, generational abuse can harm them and future generations of their family. But there are ways to break this cycle of abuse. Family therapy and individual counseling are big steps in the right direction to help your family build healthy relationships.
Breaking the cycle of abuse is not easy. Below, we examine this phenomenon and steps you can take for a healthier and happier family.
What is the cycle of abuse?
The cycle of abuse occurs when one person in a family experiences childhood trauma and then passes that trauma down to his or her children through emotional or physical violence. Those children are then vulnerable to continuing this generational abuse through similar violence against their own children.
Examples of the cycle of abuse include:
- Abuse disguised as "discipline" for a child who then uses the same methods of discipline against his or her own children
- Sexual abuse and intimidation leading a child to keep the abuse secret, then fostering secrecy in relationships with his or her children
- A victim of a controlling parent who grows up to use tactics of control against their own kids
Of course, not every child abuse perpetuates the cycle. Nor does abuse always look the same from one generation to the next. But according to statistics from the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, about 30 percent of child abuse victims continue the cycle of abuse. This tendency goes back to the early lessons learned about relationships in the family environment. Those lessons form the foundation for adult behavior.
Why is generational abuse hurtful to families?
Generational abuse turns the child victim into an adult abuser. This is the ugly cycle. But that is not where the problems for families start or end. This abuse goes along with unhealthy coping methods that also run in the family. Individuals struggle throughout their lives with issues like denial, low self-esteem and minimization of trauma.
It is important to not deny trauma because doing so only prevents healing. When you deny what happened to you in childhood, your block your emotions and then express them outwardly against your children or others. You also cannot heal if you or someone else minimizes your trauma. Minimizing your own trauma can lead to minimizing the trauma of your children. It can also lead to development of mental health conditions like borderline personality disorder, BPD.
Both denial and minimization erode a child's self-esteem as part of the trauma. Instead of trying to break the cycle, a child raised in generational abuse then continues the trend in their adulthood.
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse in Individual Counseling or Family Therapy
The cycle of abuse is not etched in stone. You can break the trend in your own family. Although this journey is not easy, it pays off for yourself and future generations. You only have to know the signs of child abuse and learn healthier coping mechanisms. This often means working past denial and minimization of the trauma. As a result of recognizing your trauma and working through it, your self-esteem will also improve.
Steps in breaking the cycle of abuse include:
- Recognizing your need for help
- Reaching out to a qualified therapist
- Learning healthy boundaries and how to respect them
- Engaging in healthier adult relationships that meet your emotional needs
- Protecting your child and teaching them about boundaries
There is no shame in having suffered childhood abuse. But it is very important to recognize this trauma and not reenact it as part of generational abuse.
No matter your age or your children's ages, it is not too late to break the cycle of abuse. The road to healing and having healthier relationships starts with individual counseling or family therapy at Greene Psychology Group in Raleigh, NC.
Greene Psychology Group provides teletherapy and face-to-face individual counseling and family therapy for residents of North Carolina. To schedule your first visit and break the cycle of abuse, call 919-205-5339 today.