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Cycle Breaker: Breaking the Cycle of Trauma for my Kids

Updated: May 14

Most teens and young adults are finding themselves and/or developing their identities. As a young parent I had to do this while raising a child and while navigating my own childhood trauma with a parent who had an addiction. Both my parents were teens who struggled with mental health and substance use. As a child, the challenges my parents were going through impacted me a lot. Knowing how my parent’s trauma impacted me as a kid, I vowed I would not let my trauma impact my kids. However, as a teen parent, while I tried to move past my childhood trauma on my own, it all resurfaced while raising my son. . .

2 hands on a light coral coloured background with their pointer fingers almost connecting
Breaking the cycle

I became a parent as a teenager, and the things I had shoved way down from my own childhood trauma started to come up really quickly. I did not want to raise my son the way I was raised and I did not want him to feel what I felt growing up. However, these intentions did not give me a guide on how to achieve them. It became apparent I needed to heal instead of ignoring my own trauma history, but healing can be really hard, especially as a young parent caring for a child.  

So what was "healing" to me? The healing came in different waves for me - my son is 8 now and I am still working on healing, so I know it is a long process. Being able to recognize what I needed to heal from and being able to talk about it was the first step for me. It started as mainly working on the relationship and issues I had with one of my parents, and grieving the loss of the childhood I wish I had. Raising my son I see my own childhood parallel to his, which comes with a lot of emotions. While it still can raise anger and sadness about my experience growing up and all the losses I had, being able to acknowledge and sit with it, and knowing that my son won’t have to feel what I felt growing up is healing, and it helps heal the inner child in me.

Then it was learning how to actually parent, and I can not advocate enough for parenting classes. They taught me how to rethink things, skills and how to understand my child.Thankfully, the high school I attended had a student parent centre that provided support and parenting classes. This is where I learned what was healthy and what was not the healthiest way of functioning.

One of the biggest challenges for me was that I also really struggled with shame and guilt. I felt not good enough because I had to heal from my trauma, guilty that my son had a mom that was labelled as “damaged”. I felt like all the things I had to learn I should’ve already known, I should have been taught or shown it. But as I healed, connected with others in similiar situations, I saw that my trauma doesn’t make me “damaged” and that it gives me a different perspective and clear drive on how I want to parent. It also led to me wanting to do better, and to learn healthy coping skills, and eventually allowed me to reach out for support, no longer afraid of judgement from others, and move forward as a cycle breaker.

I still struggle with accepting my trauma, I'm human after all. I can easily get stuck in the mindset of “I shouldn’t have to deal with this” or “this isn’t fair”. While these things are true, my life is what it is. Holding onto the unfairness was hurting my mental health as an individual and now as a parent. But today, I take one day at a time: I listen to what my inner child needs which allows me to listen to my own child. I advocate for other youth who grow up in the same situation, as well as for parents who need access to harm reduction supports, like so many of our parents.

Healing the shame and guilt of being a parent needing to heal from trauma is hard, but knowing its possible, and it is, gives me hope to keep going.

Author: Starlings Peer Volunteer, Harm Reduction Advocate, Kayli


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