Look for patterns around ages and dates. From my own experience researching my memoir, things recur on anniversaries, in patterns, at certain times of the year, or at certain ages. I was three when I was molested. My mother was three when her parents divorced and her little sister died and so on. This is one way to manage emotions and triggers ahead of time.
Evaluate whether No Contact is a viable option for you
Take the positive elements from your family. Even the worst families have them, though they are likely misusing them. Resilience, perseverance, work ethic, discipline, creativity, humor, spontaneity are a few.
- Example: your parents may be narcissists who held down good jobs and worked hard – you can apply that work ethic and discipline to areas where it would benefit you in your life.
- Addicts can be incredibly resourceful – apply that kind of resourcefulness to looking for a job or something else positive instead of scoring drugs or other destructive or negative behaviors.
- Perhaps your caretakers were totally dedicated to something awful – take that sense of dedication and apply it to exercise or eating clean or something else for your long-term benefit. Now you’ve transforming a hideous legacy into one that can work for you and your children.
For all the negative stuff: Do the opposite!
- Examples: my mother insulted me – I praised and encouraged my two
- She forced me to eat foods I hated, my rule was they only had to try a new food – a bite or a taste – and I didn’t serve stuff they hated. Side note: I didn’t serve food I hated either. They have the rest of their lives to eat beets and string beans if they choose.
Eat dinner together as a family and talk to each other. Establish a pattern where each of you takes a turn answer a few regular questions such as, How was your day? What was the best part? How were you kind or helpful? What are three things you’re grateful for? Then discuss something that’s going on at school or in your neighborhood or in the world and try to keep the mix tilted toward the positive.
Give your children the chance to talk about what’s bothering them about a teacher, class, assignment, friend, etc. without judgment. Validate their feelings. If their feelings are negative, come up with a way to reframe the situation, help them find other ways of looking at it. Ask if they want advice. If you don’t know the answer, that’s okay – tell them you will solve it together and then follow through. Get the advice needed from a counselor, therapist, trusted advisor, an expert, etc. Also have them practice getting answers from actual humans and not solely from Google, Alexa, Echo, or Siri.