As both a mother and a survivor of abuse, I know firsthand that we are the ones who have the capacity to stop the cycle of abuse within our own families and communities, so our children don’t suffer through the same pain we had to endure. It’s our job to protect, nurture, and guide our children while teaching them about healthy relationships.
If you happen to be in the same boat as I was, you know it can be quite challenging to raise our children in a healthy environment after cutting off the cycle of abuse. However, I’m here to tell you it can be done. From both the role of a mom and a survivor, I want to share a few tips I’ve learned throughout the years.
I had to learn how to protect my children by keeping them safe from perpetrators. The biggest tool I had to learn was how to discern who was trustworthy and who wasn’t—even within my own family. If you are the survivor of any kind of abuse, you likely have a keen sense for danger. Lean into it!
Another key component was learning to listen to my children and follow their lead if they didn’t like someone. The truth is, a child’s instinct is much better than ours more often than not. Not everyone is trustworthy, and it is our job to pay attention to people’s behaviors and our children’s response to them.
I took this one step further when I wanted to teach my children how to protect themselves. I had to find a balance between diligent, observational awareness, and not scaring the crap out of my kids! As a survivor, I had to learn not to overcompensate for my past, but I also couldn’t ignore the reality of predators in the world.
I chose to have hard conversations with my children from a very young age. I taught them guidelines and a clear understanding of boundaries when it comes to their bodies and emotions. It is also of utmost importance to teach our children to value their bodies and minds, as well as how to express themselves with their voices.
I firmly believe our children’s strength lies within their voices. Our children may not be physically or mentally strong enough to protect themselves from a predator, but their words can set them free. They need to always feel safe speaking the truth, no matter how scary a situation is.
As a mother, we need to empower our children, so they can protect themselves and express what they know as well as how they feel in any situation. Treat your child with respect and acceptance, and you will get the same in return. These are the kind of things that build a strong, lasting relationship between you and your child—a relationship free of secrets, uncertainty, and, hopefully, abuse.
For a child faced with a predator, the following could make the difference between a child who has to live with abuse or a child who prevented the cycle from continuing with them.
- Our children need to trust that we will believe and support them, no matter what.
- Our children need to know that we are behind them, regardless of what a perpetrator says or does!
- Our children need to know that we are strong enough to take care of them, no matter the circumstances or what they have been told.
- Our children need to understand they have a powerful voice, especially in confusing, fearful, and uncertain situations. They need to feel free to speak, and we need to be able to listen without criticism, judgement, or doubt.
When we give our children a voice, they will be able to express themselves freely and protect themselves against unwanted and unwarranted behavior. Lastly, we need to show compassion and empathy for our children so they will feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their own truths, regardless of the situation.
Mannette Morgan is the author of “Finding Your Voice: A Path to Recovery for Survivors of Abuse.”