Parenting, one of the most difficult jobs in this world, can often provide an awakening for us and help us to grow.
What do I mean by this? When we become parents, we often have many unmet needs, wounds or issues from our own childhood that can be stirred up. We are usually unaware of this, knee-deep in the day-to-day parenting journey.
The simplest thing, like a child, perhaps wasting food, can trigger a response from us that stems from our own conditioning. It might seem like a little thing, but our reaction is far from simple. Has this ever happened to you?
A trigger is an internal button that is triggered when your child speaks, acts or shares in some specific way and you immediately find yourself having a negative response. These triggers are like automatic responses, knee jerk reactions, big emotions, that have no thought. They just happen. Many times, the response does not fit the crime and it’s our conditioning responding, not actually our heart.
So where do triggers come from? They often come from our own upbringing, experiences, societal pressures and conditionings that occur when we are younger. These things can program us to have a negative response when the past experience is recreated or, at least feels like it has been recreated.
These triggers are opportunities for us to go back in time and meet that need, speak to that limiting belief or conditioned way we were taught as children ourselves. Though it is easier said than done, right? Bringing awareness to what has happened in the past is the only way we can move forward without the big emotions. We must decrease the reaction that occurs when we feel the trigger ignited. In many cases, these triggers are unmet needs or unresolved issues that need attention, nurturing and lots of compassion. While it can be painful to acknowledge them, it is essential to our own parenting journey.
So, when your child is “being a child” and you are triggered, it is important to remember that your reaction is not about your child’s behavior. You are simply having a reaction because of what the behavior is bringing up for you from your own experiences and past.
Today we focus so much on emotional intelligence – helping our children learn to express themselves and share their feelings and emotions freely. For many of us as parents, this was not the case during our childhood. We did not always learn how to identify and share emotions without some form of punishment or shame.
Here’s what we can do:
1. Try not to limit your child from expressing their feelings and emotions even if you are uncomfortable. If we react, shame and punish our child for what makes us uncomfortable, they will learn to suppress, and perhaps grow up to have the same or similar triggers as us. As you move forward, keep your attention and awareness on when your emotions show up and make sure to take time to pause and reflect, not respond in a way that shuts your child down. It does not serve us or our children to impulsively react.
2. Identify your own triggers – try to bring attention to what causes you to feel these big emotions and reactions. This is the first step to helping ourselves to move forward in a different way.
3. Pause and reflect on this trigger. Think back to a time when this was present in your life. Perhaps with the child who is wasting food and creating a reaction from you, think back to your dinner table, your parents’ values, etc. What was said about wasting food? If you cannot remember, perhaps have a very light conversation with a sibling or family member around the topic just from a place of curiosity. You don’t need to share the trigger to get the necessary information. Once you have a better understanding of the root, you can create action steps to move forward.
4. Most triggers are unmet needs that we have experienced. Now is the time to meet the needs. It might mean re-parenting yourself, nurturing yourself in a way that was not available or offered to you as a child. Self- compassion is huge during this process. The only one that can help us move past the trigger is us. Be who you needed when you were a child. Provide yourself exactly what you might have wanted back then, whatever age that might have been for you. Reparent your inner child that is calling out for attention every time she or he is triggered.
5. Remember that taking care of ourselves daily is important. This involves self-compassion and self-care. Take time for reflection, nurturing and reparenting. It doesn’t happen overnight; it is a process that takes place over time, helping us heal little by little.
In these moments where you feel triggered, share with your family that you are having a hard time. Verbalize that something is resurfacing for you and you need time to look at it. It is so important for our children to know that they are not the cause of our reactionary state, but rather, that there is something else taking place.