When Parents Have Issues
Karen James, April 2014:
I was thinking about this Sandra said last night as I lay in bed:
"If your childhood abuse and neglect have left a lot of closed-off areas inside you, it would help to get therapy—even light help, to get you started on looking, a bit at a time, at what happened, and looking with a compassionate eye—compassion for the child you were, compassion for the adults who might have done better if they could have, if they knew more, if they had support for being kind and gentle. Then that would help you spread "kind and gentle" into the present, while you were gently untangling the snarls of your childhood memories."
I felt a lot of shame for a long time about not being a better person. I mean, I wasn't a bad person. But, I was very closed off. Very protected. I knew I couldn't give the people I cared about the kind of love they deserved because I couldn't do that for myself. I went to therapy for a number of years. It was a good start, but it only took me so far.
Being Ethan's mom changed me. I surprised myself in good ways. In learning to give to him, I grew to really like myself. The walls started coming down. I started to soften - to have compassion for myself, as Sandra shared above. I challenged myself to continue to do better, because I now knew I could. I had a found confidence in that new truth. Honesty and humility too. All good things for learning to really flourish.
As I became happier with myself and the world around me, I would say that real learning started to happen. From my experience, when trauma heals, learning begins to become more fluid again. Richer. More meaningful. More lasting.
I liked the original poster's question about will her brain grow bigger. That made me smile because I do feel like my brain has grown bigger and stronger in the past decade or so. My heart has grown bigger too. I trust this will continue. I still have lots of room to grow.
Debbie Regan, 2014:
If parents don't heal from those kinds of issues in their own childhoods, they will likely be perpetuated onto the next generation. Parents discovering and letting go of their old baggage is essential for unschooling to flourish.
And, as well as being good for unschooling, it's also good for the parents themselves, their children, family and other relationships, and generations to come! (original, Debbie Regan, 25 Oct 2014, Always Learning)
In a discussion on food controls, Joyce wrote, "We all have issues about something. They go deep and are tangled up
around other stuff but working at them bit by bit can make them
I posted this to the Always Learning list October 20, 2009, and Shan suggested I put it on its own page for future expansion.
I want to use it as a jumping off place to
bring together some bits and pieces of posts, chats and questions over
the past few weeks.
Some people cling to their issues because they've labelled themselves
and made a little secret fort (which they keep announcing) to hide in,
and nurse their glorious wounds. There were a few years when I was
learning about the effects of alcoholism on the non-drinking children
and relatives of the alcoholics, and because I went to a meeting every
week and helped other people understand it I was very definitely the
Adult Child of an Alcoholic. I was vigilant and self-conscious in the
choices I made, seeing them all in that light.
I had discovered I had a big issue, and I worked through it. I'm
still an adult child of an alcoholic, but now the thought comes to
mind two or three times a year, maybe, if someone else doesn't bring
I could have lived there. I could have used it as an excuse for
reactive and irrational behavior, but in working through it bit by
bit, I also started to see what was a natural part of me and not
caused by my mother's inconstant and unreliable presence, or by my
feeling that if I helped her pay her phone bill, and let her borrow my
car, somehow the alcoholism would be gone.
Because I had children, I consciously worked on those issues so the
problem wouldn't be passed on to them, too.
Other parents have other issues, about abuse or neglect or bereavement
or religion or guilt or higher education or class or race or body
image. For the purposes of unschooling, those are the things the
parents need to deal with directly and quickly, with professional help
if necessary (at least indirect professional help—books, groups,
webpages) to get clear what is a natural part of you and what is odd
emotional rashes and baggage.
Meanwhile, while the issues are being examined, be attentive and sweet
to your children. That might be one of your best healing tools. It
helped me immensely, and I've seen it help some others. Don't justify
reactionary treatment of your children by saying "Well, I was raped so
they will be"; "I overate so they will"; "I was forced to go to
church so they will never see the inside of a church ever."
When a parent's choices are based on being the same or being the
opposite of their own parents or of anyone else, they're reacting. Sometimes in
a healing phase that can help. It can help to have role models. It
can help to have bad examples, marked like crime scenes in our
memories, to remind us. Let the reactions be part of a temporary
healing phase, though. Let reactions be a stepping stone toward
When the issues are identified and dealt with, let them fade into
occasional memory, not constant reminder. Don't label yourself in
ways that hurt your children. Don't declare yourself to have a
handicap and keep that for life as a "get out of jail free" card that
you play when you were irresponsible and want to whine, "Yeah, but..."
and not be a mindful adult.
Unschooled kids can't have irresponsible parents and still have the
full benefit of unschooling. Being a good unschooling parent involves
being a good person, a good parent. Unschooling can't work unless the
parent is there, whole and attentive and not screwing it up.
Claire Horsley wrote that beginning unschoolers should know...
Something about relationships being at the heart of a wonderful and peaceful unschooling life. About the way connecting with your child through little daily events forms the basis for something big—a profound and deeply enriching connection for both parent and child.
I think one of the best skills an unschooling parent can possess is the ability to be open. Open to other ways of doing things, other timeframes, open to admitting they made a mistake, open to change. Unschooling will only really fly if the parents face up to and deal with their shizz so it is not passed on. Parents stand between school and their kids, but also between their kids and the hurts of previous generations. If they can stop those hurts being passed on, who knows what their kids can do!
I had written, of someone's husband's childhood issues:
He needs to look at his childhood as something he does NOT want to
repeat, and make choices that provide better situations.
He should not use it as an excuse to be the same way.
Please also suggests ways to make this happen. If it is not an unschooling
question please ignore.
One should no more try to make something happen in a spouse's learning than in a
If someone asked "How do you make a child read?" or "How do you make a child
like history?" the answer would be simple. You don't. You make it interesting,
You make it casual. You back off as soon as they're uncomfortable. You don't
risk ruining their interest forever by trying to "make" them do something, or
If one's childhood is an issue, then recovery to the extent of using it to
inform one's decisions now, with children, is important. TOTAL and complete
"recovery" from childhood hurts isn't necessary; probably isn't even possible.
How one decides to act toward, be with, think about and respond to children
happens inside a person with a history, a person who had a childhood. Will
childhood hurt be passed on to new children? Sad childhood memories can be
seen as the things NOT to do, and healing can flow, but that can't be forced by
anyone else. If it's not part of the thoughts and decision making of each
parent, it won't work as well as it could.
Unschooling-friendly therapists, counsellors and coaches
Living in Moments instead of whole days
Building an Unschooling Nest