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Why Abused People Abuse People
Some of you may be unfamiliar with how abuse can be a reoccurring family issue, something that’s passed down. You’d think that a child who was abused would want to do anything but abuse those that they love. Let’s be honest, though, it is very common for a child to repeat the same family and parenting mistakes (for lack of a better word) because they were never taught how to properly problem solve or handle their emotions. If this child has never received help – because abuse is a secret, even if it’s not causing bruises – this child is left to figure things out on their own. No matter how some of them try, without proper help, they don’t know how to navigate these waters any differently then their own parents. The other side of this is they become abusive because anger and abuse became their only defense mechanisms. There is also the abuse that skips a generation because the original abused child goes to the opposite extreme with their own children. They make excuses for their bad behavior, they don’t discipline (often, well, or at all), and they enable whatever their own children do. The problem with this kind of parenting, even though these parents usually have the best intentions, is that they are raising their children to be abusive, just like the children’s grandparents were/are.
Abuse is All Around You
I will tell you now, that if you leave your house or talk to multiple people on the phone throughout your day for work or otherwise, you will have come across at least one person who is coming from an abusive situation. No two people or situations are going to be identical. As an empath, like myself, you probably like helping people, which is how you may have gotten into a relationship with an abusive person. I had control of who I decided to date and marry. I ignored plenty of red flags along the way, always trying to see the best in people. I endured abuse for over a decade at the hands of one specific person, as well as other surrounding people, whether it was outright or defending and agreeing with the abuser. I will tell you, though, knowing what I do know now, I would not do it differently if I could go back. Two reasons for this: First, my children. I almost left while pregnant with my first daughter. I’m so blessed to have all three, no matter how I got there. Second, my relationship with God. Really, this is the reason with more significance. That is exactly the love I have in my heart, God first, children second, even if I don’t always do it right or perfectly, that is the love I strive to have everyday. I realize, that if I choose a day not to put God first, I will be failing my children from the beginning of that day, and all the way throughout.
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
So, how am I breaking a family cycle, and how can you too? First and best thing to know is that it isn’t me breaking the cycle, it is God through my obedience. My marriage didn’t work, and I had no control in that. I am relieved that I don’t have to endure the abuse anymore, but my children have to still live with him close to half of their lives. Now, their relationship with him is definitely different than mine was. They are also fortunate to have each other. They are the only ones who know what each other is going through. They may each have their own version of the same story as it applies to their lives, and they each may be handling the divorce and separation differently, but no one else comes from the same family, situation, and parents. While still married, even throughout the divorce process, I was doing my best to Biblically obey God to possibly save my marriage, but moreso to change my own heart. At this point, I realized that I only had control of myself, which bothered me to an extent, but I accepted it. I decided that I would raise my children differently than I had been raising them, and way differently than most of the rest of the world. I might be not have been able to stop something painful from happening in their lives, but I can walk through it with them. These are the things I have been doing as a parent after the divorce to ensure that they are cared for, and don’t turn to anger and abuse someday (that’s the hope anyways):
- Counseling. I made sure my older two saw a counselor (and I’ll get my youngest in to see her once he starts school, at least for an evaluation). They go to their school counselor once a week, with the option to drop by her office whenever they feel the need. She has an open door policy, which I love. There were a few benefits to this. This is within their own realm and life apart from their dad and me. It is on their own terms. It is a free resource (underused and understaffed in all schools from the research I have done). It is something their dad and I could agree on, and we don’t have to go with them to their sessions (a benefit for the kids to feel free to openly speak).
- Raising Them to be Set Apart. I am raising them as Biblically as I can. I have surrounded myself with those who support me and hold me accountable. This doesn’t mean that everything is sweet and fine, this means I try to have them check their hearts and attitudes. Above all else, this means that I am letting them know that God is there for them no matter what. No one can replace Him, no one can fulfill all of their needs perfectly in the way that He can.
- I don’t enable, yet I don’t always blame. When I get a call or email home from the school, I try to remember that my child is capable of sin, mistakes, and lies. In the same way, I keep that in mind that all other humans are capable of the same. I try not to let my child escape consequences, whether self or other inflicted. I try to make sure they know that I am there for them no matter the outcome. If they aren’t keeping themselves at a distance from those who make bad decisions, they are letting themselves fall “victim” to the consequences. They sometimes have to be disciplined as an accessory. I also want them to know that I am their biggest advocate, and will speak up for them when no one else can or will, but they need to set good precedents for themselves, so I am able to trust them.
- Educating Them. I am raising my children with education. Thankfully, my girls are only thirteen months apart, so I’m able to knock out some of the hardest and most difficult conversations as a group. One might ask questions that the other doesn’t always think of. It’s great because it helps them trust each other to ask questions about things they didn’t understand or don’t remember. This includes talking about God, other religions, different cultures and people, boundaries, bodies, sex, abuse, and so on (all in ways appropriate for their ages at the moment we speak about each). I am as honest with them as I can be, understanding that each of these subjects is not a one time deal, but an opportunity to mentor and disciple my children God’s way.
- Getting Priorities Straight. I am raising them to love God first, then others. Letting them know that self naturally comes first, so we don’t have to worry about making sure we implement that. When loving others, my children will know that boundaries and tough love are part of that. That we honor God, others, and ourselves when we put others first, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable. They will understand that relationships will come and go, whether it is a family, friends, or romantic. They are allowed to have standards and boundaries that they enforce to protect themselves as the children of God.
- Love. I’m relying on God to help me love them with His love. I give them the best love that I can. I hug them often. I talk to them as much as I can. I eat dinner around a table with them. I cry with them. I laugh with them. They are the best gift I’ve ever been given, and I try to make sure they know that every. single. day.
There is No Perfect Way, There is Just Doing Our Best
I’m not a perfect parent. I don’t always do things right, I am not always patient, I don’t always want to discipline, but it’s all a part of a bigger picture. It’s for the future, for them and their children and their children’s children, and it’s living for eternity as opposed to living for right now.
I will raise strong children who become strong adults. I pray they will be protectors, advocates and problem solvers. They won’t be perfect either, but I hope and PRAY that they will love God with all of their hearts, souls, and strength in order to produce fruit here on earth. If I make any impact on their lives, they will not grow to become abusers, and they will not raise abusers, thus breaking the abusive cycle in their own family line. My pain serves a purpose. So does yours.
To read more on raising your children to end the abusive cycle, read How to Not Raise a Narcissist.
If you are looking for help or support in raising your children God’s way (even and especially when you are co-parenting with someone who doesn’t want/do that) please comment on here, email, or reach out on social media. This applies especially to those who are trying to not raise abusive children and/or are trying to break an abusive family cycle.
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National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255