This has been a major challenge for me in my career. It is also a very sensitive subject for me because I have always wanted a child. May this post show people that people don’t have to be parents to advocate for children and have a career in child and family services.
The post below is from my friend, Elaina; we both had abusive backgrounds as children. That makes us even more passionate about advocating for children.
What is to follow is spot-on for me too. Having been subjected to obvious abuse from my dad and covert abuse from my mother who is now out of my life, I have always wanted to help stop this cycle. I want children of my own, but with my severe cerebral palsy, it just never got to the point of being able to afford help. Believe me, I don’t know what parenting is like, but I know it’s tough to re-parent myself—something I work on constantly.
I have spent a lot of time studying child development (I have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education) and have worked with many children, including many young children. And, being severely physically disabled, I have gained a lot of insight on being totally dependent on others for my every need. I know how it feels to be treated harshly and gently.
Please take to heart Elaina’s reasons for being so passionate about advocating for children despite not having children of her own.
Twenty years ago I was about to turn 20-years-old and a college student. I was newly engaged and my now husband was my personal aide in school. The 9/11 attacks happened while we were on the way to school that morning. We had no idea what happened until we walked into the office where I was allowed to get extra time to get my homework done due to my severe cerebral palsy. Everyone was quiet and in shock. My tutor asked if we had heard what happened and we said no. She told us and led us to the television. We watched in shock as the towers were on fire and eventually fell. It felt like I was watching a movie. I didn’t know how to process it and trying to get my work done was stressful.
As time went on and I watched it all unfold, I got emotional. And my birthday 48 hours later was somber despite my turning twenty. Everything was somber for a while and the skies were so quiet from the airplanes being grounded. We didn’t know what was going to happen next. It was a very hard and scary time. My husband’s friend from grade school was one of the casualties of that day.
But what I remember most, except for a few conspiracy theorists who were ignorant, and still are, about the attacks, the country actually came together. People were kinder. Drivers had more empathy for each other. Definitely a total contrast from today’s current reaction to the pandemic.
Children got comforted and observed the adults coming together to help each other deal with the trauma. Oh how I long for that type of empathy and compassion again. Social media is probably going to be the destroyer of the world since it allows people to become even more ingrained in their beliefs and argue with everyone. It is now spilling over into the real world.
As Covid is raging on and affecting our children more due to the virus mutating and “learning” how to infect yet even more vulnerable people, once again we hear parents who don’t care about the well-being of their children or others scream, “Let the children breathe!” Some states have enacted laws banning schools from mandating masks. Thankfully, an increasing number of school districts are defying those states’ laws that ban mask mandates in schools. Here’s what is already happening as children are back to school full time.
As of this writing, children are not yet eligible for the vaccine if they are under twelve years of age in the United States, and yet, after over a year and a half of this pandemic, people refuse to accept the fact that this pandemic is dangerous and deadly. Some people may get lucky and have a mild case, but not everyone is that lucky. Look at the hospitals and talk to the healthcare workers.
It turns out that children are more accepting of wearing masks than adults. The adults are, sadly, teaching aggression and selfishness by fighting (sometimes literally) over masks, vaccines, and other mitigations to try to stop the virus. This is the wrong direction for all of us. We need to stop politicizing the health crisis and come together. Our children need to see us caring enough about our fellow man that we wear masks and get vaccinated if possible. Otherwise, this world will never be healed.
People talk about selfishness all the time, especially when it comes to raising children and not wanting the children to become “selfish little brats.” However, the parents who are arguing about wearing masks as well as getting vaccinated and protesting against mask/vaccine mandates are teaching the children how to throw a “fit” and be “defiant” to get their own way. These parents, ironically, tend to be pro-spankers. It is so sad that their children are getting spanked/hit for similar behavior that goes against the parents’ wishes. This makes no sense. We have to model appropriate behavior for children. They are mimicking us!
Another thing is that as soon as infants are able to get into dangerous situations, we teach them about danger. An infant doesn’t know that an electrical socket is dangerous, but we tell him/her it is and move him/her away from the outlet. Young children can’t see the danger of running out in the street until we panic and scoop them up out of the street while saying, “DANGEROUS!” There are so many dangerous things from which we have to protect children. They must take our word for it or suffer possible horrific consequences. It is just the same for Covid. Just because we can’t SEE the virus floating around in the air, does not mean it’s not dangerous!
We need to step up and do what is right for the whole world instead of the individual. We must protect our children and everyone else by looking beyond our own wants to the needs of our society. Let the children breathe.
That was the message I got throughout my childhood. I would try to say that I was sorry to avoid being hit or yelled at and my parents would say, “Sorry isn’t good enough” either outright or through hurting me in some way to punish me for whatever I either truly did wrong or they perceived as wrong.
I, unfortunately, now say “Sorry” a lot and I mean it but my therapist said that it comes from my childhood abuse and that I say it too much, even when I am not in the wrong. I hate conflicts and try to fix them as soon as possible, but I keep having relationships that reinforce the “Sorry isn’t good enough” message. It is a major trigger for me when people don’t accept my sincere apology.
So what are we teaching our children when we either force them to apologize and/or don’t accept their apology? Well, obviously if they are punished and/or abused, they may learn to try to use it as protection, only it doesn’t work and then they learn that apologies don’t work.
Children also learn to apologize when they don’t feel sorry. It is better to apologize for the child until he/she is truly able to apologize and mean it. Forcing the child to apologize for something just teaches him/her to say it when he/she is in trouble.
It also teaches children to believe that people won’t accept the apology. We break the “Sorry isn’t good enough” message by modeling apologizing to them and always apologizing to them when we make mistakes. They need to see the adults in their lives do it and have it accepted. If it isn’t accepted, then explain to them that some people don’t have the ability to accept the apology and that is on those people and not our fault.
There should be very few instances when an apology truly isn’t enough such as major crime and other adult things that children shouldn’t have to deal with but will because we live in a world where crime and truly horrible things happen.
Finally, while a child should never be punished, natural consequences will happen. If a child hits another child, the hurt child will cry and may not want to play with the child right away. Ask the child that hit what he/she can do to help the other child feel better. Apologies that are sincere should always be good enough!!!
March was Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month and April was Child Abuse Awareness Month, and I have been wanting to write this post for a while now. This post will cover CP and abuse and mental health issues as May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the brain causing difficulty in movement. It can be mild, affect one side of the body, or severe. I have severe cerebral palsy and I can’t physically take care of myself at all. I didn’t breathe for 40 minutes after I was born and they almost gave up on me. I was in the NICU for a couple weeks and I wasn’t expected to live. But I did! I will be 40 in September!
But the lack of oxygen caused the brain damage that led to the CP. I can’t control my muscles and have spasms which are involuntary contractions of the muscles and involuntary movements. I am typical cognitively. I type with my nose and write books and these posts with my nose. My children’s book about my life with CP will hopefully be out at the end of the year. Getting the right illustrators has been hard but I finally found the perfect people to do it and they are doing a wonderful job with it!
Having a severe physical disability is hard but I refuse to let it ruin my life. I am a survivor and I hate pity! I crave acceptance and to be seen as a person! Sadly, many people are not able to see the real me. They see me as a child or subhuman instead of a competent person. I am so much more than my disability.
I prefer person-first language. I am a person with a disability, not a “disabled person.” I am a person with cerebral palsy! I refuse to be defined by my disability. Words like “handicapped,” “cripple,” “retard,” and “spaz” are very offensive to the disability community. We are people who deserve respect and rights and support. But again, despite making progress in this country, some people just refuse to accept and see us.
Children with disabilities are more likely to be abused and bullied. I was. Children that didn’t know me would make fun of me at school. I was also physically, mentally, emotionally, and verbally abused by my parents. As I have written in another blog post, I truly believe that both parents are/were narcissistic which is confusing because they did fight for me for the services that I needed and did care for and loved me, but there was also abuse at home. Some of the abuse that I experienced I recently found out through professional therapy that it was abuse and that I wasn’t protected like I should have been and have been put down even through adulthood. I am now protecting myself from those people and my husband does a wonderful job with helping me.
What is sad is that in a Facebook group my abuse was questioned by some of the parents and these parents claimed that adults with CP are harder on parents. There’s no evidence that this is the case and all the people I know with CP have wonderful relationships with their parents because they weren’t abused by them. Never ever question the abuse of someone!!
Due to the lack of being able to do what typical children and adults are able to do combined with the abuse and trauma I have suffered, I battle anxiety, CPTSD, PTSD, and depression every day. Sometimes I have it pretty together and other times it is a struggle. The pandemic has heightened everything and I am struggling to get out of it again. I will though. Therapy is helping me.
Having CP is just something I live with like my mental health issues. I try to use my pain to help people. If I can stop one child from being hit or otherwise abused, I will keep advocating and educating people who are willing to learn. My pain and abuse doesn’t define me either but it is something that I live with.
I wish there was more acceptance for people with disabilities and mental health issues. I also wish that people understood that how we treat children will affect their mental health. If one isn’t a white, rich man, it’s still hard to get along in this society and this must change. There should be no stigma for the abused, people with disabilities, or people with mental health issues.
Let’s raise our children to be more aware and accepting. I hope my children’s book that will hopefully be out by the end of the year will help with creating a more zombie accepting world.
Note: My friend recently read a book that is on the side of the abuser. It is triggering but I feel that survivors need to be aware that there are psychologists who minimize our abuse.
Parents Who Spank Face ‘Epidemic’ of Estrangement Dr. Joshua Coleman’s latest book offers caution, comfort to cut-off parents
By M. Dolon Hickmon
Content warning:This is a review of a book written by a psychologist who specializes in treating the grief of parents who have been divorced by their adult children, often over allegations of abuse or neglect. Although this book contains valuable insights, the author’s frequent minimization of child abuse may be upsetting to trauma survivors.
According to a 2021 book by psychologist and formerly estranged parent Dr. Joshua Coleman, mental health professionals are facing a new crisis: generations of older parents cut-off by their adult children over allegations of child abuse. Importantly, Dr. Coleman says that what constitutes adequate reason to end contact has changed: “It doesn’t have to create marked distress in almost everyone,” Coleman writes in chapter two; “nor does it need to produce obvious distress in the traumatized person.” Rather, evaluations are based on the child’s perception: “if I say that you abused, neglected, bullied or traumatized me,” Coleman writes, “then you did.”
Coleman compares the wounds of estranged parents to life imprisonment in a purgatory of guilt and sorrow where only their children can commute their sentences: “Speaking of pain, what are you doing for the holidays, your birthday, your child’s wedding, the birth of your new grandchild, your child’s graduation? These are all events that you never in your wildest dreams thought you’d be excluded from. If you’re like almost every estranged parent, you feel a sense of morbid dread when these days approach.”
Adding salt to these wounds is the fact that estrangement often feels completely unfair to the cut-off parent: “There are plenty of dedicated parents whose children choose to end the relationship. The fact that so many dedicated parents are estranged today shows that this is part of a larger social phenomenon, more than the problem of any one parent.”
Among other relevant social trends, Coleman identifies shifting attitudes about what constitutes physical child abuse as a driving factor: “However loving, dedicated, or invested you were, your adult children have their own scale to weigh your behavior as a parent, one calibrated in a way far different from the one you brought into the nursery.”
Part of that different scale is reflected in modern attitudes about the inappropriateness of whipping, switching, smacking, or paddling. “A common thread in the perspective of estranged children are allegations of harm committed by the parent. This is challenging terrain for today’s parents of adult children because much of what younger generations consider hurtful or neglectful parental acts, would barely be on the radar for parents of almost any generation before.” In fact, despite estrangement being roughly as common as spousal divorce, examples lifted from Coleman’s estrangement-focused psychology practice feature a telling number of physical abuse allegations. Coleman claims that many are based on conduct that previous generations would have considered reasonable and even responsible parenting.
“There’s been a generational change,” says Dr. Robert Sege, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement against corporal punishment. “As we’ve woken up to the issues of domestic violence and intimate partner violence there’s been a growing rejection of any sort of violence within the home, including spanking.”
Global approval for physical punishment has been in decline for more than a century. New Jersey banned paddling from public schools in the 1870s, and similar laws have expanded to cover more than 90% of American public school children. Dozens of countries including America’s closest allies list physical punishment of children as a criminal offense. In the U.S., it is against the law to spank children in group homes or foster care, and tales of parents heading to prison for whipping or paddling their kids appear in the news every day. Such developments are cheered by all but a fringe of secular experts, who broadly agree that spanking carries serious risks of physical, emotional and psychiatric harm not offset by any potential benefit.
In contrast to prior generations, the majority of today’s parents have taken to heart the global consensus on physical discipline. According to a Monitoring the Future study of 25 consecutive groups of graduating high school seniors, among adults with children aged 2 to 12 years old, the proportion who said they spanked their child dropped from 50 percent in 1993 to 35 percent in 2017. As a consequence, younger adults may feel a moral responsibility to deny both sympathy and affection to a parent who they consider a serious criminal for inflicting emotional injuries while willfully ignoring widely publicized and accepted scientific evidence.
Coleman points out that the decision to estrange from such a parent is now also likely to be met with considerable support, particularly on social media. “The current model of how we become who we are puts adults on a path of self-discovery where the quest is to hunt down and eliminate — not only those traits that stand in the way of happiness, but the individuals they believe to have put those problems there in the first place.” So while there’s nothing new about ending family relationships, “conceptualizing the estrangement […] as an expression of personal growth and achievement is almost certainly new.”
Coleman’s heart is clearly for healing estranged parents — so much so that I, as a survivor of child abuse, spent an hour crying in the shower after reading this book, which is filled with Coleman seeming to minimize crimes like child torture and rape with statements like: “however small or great your mistakes as parents, those mistakes don’t mean that living the rest of your lives without your children or grandchildren is a just punishment for whatever complaints they have about what you did or didn’t do.”
Ultimately, Coleman is forced to admit that most of the estranged children he contacts demonstrate little interest in relating to their parents. By his own estimates, nearly two- thirds of estranged adult children he approaches either ignore or openly rebuff his guided attempts at reconciliation. “Many” use mediation sessions as a platform to verbally berate their abusers for as long as the therapist allows it. “It’s one thing for an adult child to say, ‘I resent that you weren’t there for me more, that you were critical, self-absorbed, whatever.’ But it’s another to scream insults and tell them they should die.”
When reconciliation fails, Coleman’s task is to help parents come to grips with the heartaches of being permanently exiled. He offers advice on what to do with the estate that your adult children do not want, how to respond when your son or daughter files for a restraining order, and how you might excuse yourself for a cry when your dinner companions start sharing photos of their grandchildren. “The message of estrangement,” Coleman writes, “is that you can have your most treasured person torn from you and there’s nothing — or seemingly nothing — that you can do about it.”
Supported by case-studies lifted from Dr. Coleman’s psychology practice, the author’s latest, titled Rules of Estrangement, (Harmony Books, Releasing 2021) is a brisk read that packs valuable insights into a few well-thought-out pages. Coleman clearly has little empathy for victims or survivors of child abuse, but his work is a harbinger, making it clearer than ever that the debate over legally sanctioned family violence has already ended. For a while longer, America’s governing generation will deny children legal protection, but nothing protects parents from their children’s moral outrage: “some parents have been so destructive when the child was young that there is little left to build a foundation upon, even if the parent is able and willing, later in life, to make amends.”
With the ongoing pandemic going on, my husband and I have been in isolation for eleven months now, and in October, the one place I could safely go in was taken away because of the rising numbers of COVID-19. So except for rides and medical appointments, I have not been anywhere in four months. There’s a little hope with the new president that takes the virus seriously and with the shots that may prevent COVID-19, but there’s a lot of uncertainty and people still don’t want to take proper precautions to limit the spread.
All this is leading to unprecedented anxiety, depression, and desperation for me and many others. I am a trauma survivor with the serious side effects of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and CPTSD. I am losing track of the days and I am feeling like time is going in a weird speed. My trust issues and abandonment issues are becoming worse and I don’t want to push the very people who truly love me away. It’s a scary, lonely place and I am continuing to work with a therapist to get through the trauma of the abuse that was heaped upon me. But even therapy is harder because I can’t go in person.
This has been leading me to think about isolating time-outs for children. I know I covered it in this post I wrote a few years ago, but with this new understanding of isolation and what it is doing to my 39-year-old brain, I want to talk about it again.
It can cause anxiety, depression, desperation, despair, anger, and hopelessness. This article shows the research on the effects of social isolation. We are social beings that need meaningful relationships. As someone with a severe disability, even before the pandemic started, there have been many times in my life that I was in a room full of people but I still felt lonely because I wasn’t able to find a deep relationship with anyone there. I communicate easier online due to my slurred speech, but I still require in-person interaction.
Due to the experience of being isolated from the world except for online, I have an even better understanding isolating time-outs. Using isolating time-out is damaging to the child’s brain. I am not talking about the quick break that we all need sometimes. I am talking about forcing the child to sit quietly alone for a specific amount of time and then making it longer if he/she doesn’t sit quietly. This is punishment and harmful. It is essentially isolation.
While if a parent is still bent on using punishment, I would rather have the parent use time-out rather than spanking/hitting their children. However, isolating time-out doesn’t teach anything but that the child deserves to be alone until he/she can behave. Children, especially young children, have no sense of time so they feel like it is forever. I remember feeling that way when I was put in my room and I would scream with anger and fear. I hated my parents. It didn’t teach me anything.
My husband remembers his dad leaving him for a brief period of time and he felt anxious about when his dad would be back because even though he was 8-years-old and old enough to be left briefly, he still had no sense of time.
As I mentioned in my previous post about time-outs, children are usually not sitting there thinking about what they did wrong. Rather, they’re angry, confused, in fight or flight mode, and wondering how much longer they have to sit there. Some may learn to berate themselves for messing up. Some may learn to distract themselves during the time-out.
Time-in, however, allows for quiet time with a supportive adult even if he/she just sits nearby until the child calms down enough to talk through what happened. The adult can use time-in to teach children emotional regulation, empathy, validation, and coping skills such as deep breaths or using words to help them express themselves in a healthy manner.
I understand that we are all on edge right now but isolating children to punish them will only make the children feel even worse and may exacerbate negative behaviors. We all need to give each other grace and empathy during this ongoing stressful time.
How many things are truly unconditional? It’s almost Christmas and we tell children that Santa will bring them presents if they are good. We put Elf on the shelf so that they know he is watching them for Santa. I know that some families play games with this toy but many people don’t.
Love is supposed to be unconditional but it often demands things from others or it’s removed when the child misbehaves—no matter how old he/she is. Christian doctrine teaches that God is love but one must say the “right prayer” to avoid going to “Hell.” I feel like true unconditional love is rare. I have seen both in my life and now it’s even more apparent with the pandemic. Love for our neighbors means doing everything we can to protect them from COVID-19 by wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands frequently, and staying home for Christmas with immediate family.
And children should have presents just because they are loved; not because they were good. The real St. Nick gave to the poor and helped the oppressed because he was kind and loving. He didn’t expect anything from them. Here’s a wonderful video on the history of Santa.
Have you ever just given something to someone without telling anyone or given something to a complete stranger who needs help? These have been the most rewarding experiences for me. This is loving people unconditionally.
I believe that respect is earned but love is not. Love, especially for children, should never ever be earned. This doesn’t mean that we have to be involved with toxic people. Love them by walking away from them.
I understand that some people have very high-needs children and it is really hard but they should love their children for who they are. Speaking from my own experience of being a very high-needs child as well as having a parent ask in a Facebook group about what to do to prevent damage from not being able to meet every single need, I believe that it is more important to explain to the child that we are trying our best and validate the child.
However, coming from an abusive, narcissistic home and struggling to come to terms with my own mother being narcissistic and and that she will never be able to be a good mom to me, what hurts is parents not talking about it in a healthy way. I have severe cerebral palsy and even my husband can’t meet every emotional need I have and sometimes he gets frustrated which is human but it triggers me. The difference is that he is truly trying and admits to his shortcomings. I do the same.
But with narcissistic parents, they don’t care and won’t admit that they are falling short. In these cases and other abusive situations, the love is not unconditional. I think as long as one has a good connection with his/her child and teaches healthy coping skills, the child may need help later on in life, but he/she shouldn’t have the same amount of pain and damage that us who were abused by our narcissistic parents have.
Accepting that one’s child is different than the parent is unconditional love. When this happens and children have very different personalities than the parents, the best thing that parents can do is accept it and support the children. Get involved with at least one activity that the child enjoys. And share each other’s interests with each other knowing that it’s ok to be so different. Yes, it is hard at times but the key is to validate and accept.
This Christmas, with so many people sick and dying from COVID-19, let’s remember the little Baby that came to Earth to try and teach us what unconditional love is. Or if you don’t celebrate Christmas, please think about how you can make this world better by loving people instead of being selfish.
Have a peaceful Holiday season. We remember all who we lost this year. May 2021 eventually be a better year!
Emily Graham is from Mighty Moms. I hope you find this helpful.
Do you have a friend, sister, or relative who has been trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic while pregnant? There’s no denying that pregnant women have dealt with many unexpected challenges during this pandemic. Whether your loved one is looking for helpful parenting resources like Disciplining With Gentle Firmness or guidance as she aims to protect her health (and her baby’s!) during this difficult time, these tips will allow you to give her the support she truly needs.
Has your loved one cancelled celebrations because of the pandemic? You can mark these milestones with virtual events!
Bring your friend’s baby shower online by planning a virtual shower with her — you can still celebrate while social distancing.
Has your loved one considered calling off her gender reveal party? Host it over video chat instead!
If your loved one wants maternity photos, help her stay on the safe side with suggestions for a DIY photo shoot.
Outlining a Birth Plan
Your loved one may be wondering whether or not she should plan for a hospital birth with the ongoing pandemic. These resources can help her decide.
Is your friend considering a home birth because of the pandemic? Research the pros and cons to see if it’s a smart choice for her.
Will your friend be heading to the hospital when the big day rolls around? Help her go over the precautions she should take to stay safe.
Remind your friend that no matter what she decides, her unconditional love for her child is what matters most.
Nothing will cheer up your loved one like a thoughtful gift. Check out these ideas to find the perfect present.
Put together a basic postpartum gift basket, which you can drop off at the hospital or your loved one’s home.
Before her due date, give your friend a cozy labor and delivery gown so she can stay comfortable during labor.
Cook up healthy meals for your loved one, which she can reheat when she’s too tired to cook after the baby arrives.
Pregnancy isn’t always smooth sailing, especially for mothers-to-be who are trying to avoid unnecessary risks during this pandemic. If you have a pregnant woman in your life, now is the time to lend a helping hand. She will definitely appreciate having someone to lean on!
Interested in learning about effective disciplinary methods that don’t involve spanking? Sign up for one-on-one parent coaching with author and parent coach Stephanie G. Cox today.
Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving and while my husband and I are used to celebrating on our own, I know many of you are doing the right, selfless thing by staying home to celebrate with immediate family only. Some of you are facing a first Thanksgiving without loved ones due to COVID-19. Please know that we’re thinking and praying for you.
This has been a year of constant anxiety, trauma, uncertainty, and unrest. Therefore, as we, hopefully, stay home and gather with immediate family, may we try to find things we’re grateful for even if it is small. May we think or look at the children in our lives and consider the type of world we want for them. One full of divisions and hate and bad church doctrine. Or one full of unity, love, kindness and compassion.