15 Jul Telling your children
When deciding to inform your children about your childhood sexual abuse, it’s important to approach the conversation with care, taking into account their age, emotional maturity, and ability to comprehend difficult topics.
Some valuable questions to ask yourself first is
- Why now?
- Who will this benefit?
- How can you do this safely?
If the answers are more about you than them, I don’t believe you are ready to share this. You actually run the risk of causing anxiety in them, so give it more time and revisit in six months.
If, your answers reflect the time is now: here’s some things to consider:
Reflect on Your Readiness and stage of healing: Before discussing your childhood trauma with your children, make sure you have processed your own emotions and have a support system in place. It’s important to be emotionally prepared to handle their reactions and provide the necessary support.
Choose an Appropriate Time and Place: Find a quiet and comfortable environment where you can have privacy and uninterrupted time for the conversation. Ensure the children feel safe and secure before discussing such a sensitive topic.
Consider Their Age and Developmental Level: Tailor the information based on their age and ability to understand complex emotions and experiences. It’s really important here to understand that under 16’s will struggle to process any of it, so rather than inform them of anything involving detail, I would advise not disclosing anything about your abuse to them. (Once they are older you are safer to do so), Instead, I would provide them with statements like: ‘I don’t really get on with my mother/father/brother etc, that is why we don’t see them’. Then answer questions as generically as possible, don’t traumatise them with lengthy rants about your family, that is not good for either you or them.
Use Age-Appropriate Language: Explain the situation using language that is appropriate for their age and comprehension level. For adult children you can be more direct, but still avoid overwhelming them with graphic or disturbing details. Use simple and clear language to convey the essence of your experience.
Share Selective Information: You don’t have to disclose every detail of your childhood trauma. Share information that will help them to understand your experiences. Be cautious not to burden them with excessive information that may be too much for them to handle.
Emphasise It’s Not Their Fault: This may seem unusual to point out, but as we know, children assume it is somehow their fault! Assure them that your childhood trauma was not caused by anything they did or didn’t do. Help them understand that traumatic experiences are unrelated to their actions or behaviours.
Validate Their Feelings: Give your children space to express their emotions, reactions, and concerns. Accept any and all feelings they share, and let them know it’s normal to have various emotional responses to difficult topics.
Provide Reassurance and Support: Reassure your children that they are loved, safe, and that you are committed to their well-being. Offer support and let them know they can always come to you with any questions or concerns.
Seek Professional Help if Needed: Depending on the severity of your trauma and the specific needs of your children, it may be beneficial to involve a professional, such as a therapist or counsellor. They can provide guidance, support, and help facilitate the conversation if necessary.
Please keep in mind
- that your children will most likely go into some trauma response themselves.
- This is their lovely Mum or Dad they are hearing about, not some random person on the news.
- This is the first time they are hearing of this, so will naturally go into shock.
- Think of it this way: You have had years to absorb this, they have had minutes.
- Act Accordingly.
Finally try to remember, this is a sensitive and potentially challenging topic. Be patient with your children’s reactions and provide ongoing support as they process the information.
It is important to prioritise their wellbeing throughout the process.
Regardless of their age and stage in life: they are your children after all.