“The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family.”
― Mother Teresa
Since I began working in the field of social work 10 years ago, I have encountered many children who have been abused and neglected. The common link between the parents that perpetrate the abuse is depression. Many of the parents who abuse or neglect their children are themselves victims of abuse. Ellen McGrath stated in Psychology Today (2003), “Both depression and abuse are legacy issues. They run together in families, passed down from generation to generation. The intergenerational transmission of abuse is invariably associated with the symptoms of depression. Abuse brings with it the vulnerability to depression.”
It tends to become a vicious cycle in families unless members start to get help. They must deal with the depression, anger, and underlying feelings that they have bottled up inside for years. They must learn how to use new skills and be different. When I meet with a new family I often map out a Geno-gram which enables us to explore how the parenting practices were passed down. It helps parents make connections and often they say that they want to parent differently than the way they were raised.
It is my opinion that most parents do not desire to become abusive. I haven’t met a parent yet that births a child because he or she wants someone to take out his or her frustrations on. Rather, these parents lack coping skills to deal with everyday life so when larger issues come about, they are lost and then revert to what they know. Abuse rarely begins with the heinous acts you hear about in the news. It usually starts with yelling and emotional abuse and grows into more. This is in no way saying that any abuse is acceptable, but I do challenge everyone to take a moment with that mom or dad that you see starting to struggle. Check in with him or her – “Hey there – parenting is rough! Is there anything I can help you with?” See if they want a referral for counseling. Getting the support that is needed early on can help prevent more abuse and keep families intact.
With PMTO (Parent Management Training Oregon-model) we strive to empower mothers and fathers so that they can parent in a healthy way. I have seen many families grow closer and have more fruitful relationships because the PMTO skills that the parents use focus on positive reinforcement and shining a light on the children’s good behaviors. Wedgwood also offers other effective programs that can help heal families such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Outpatient counseling, Substance Abuse counseling, and Wrap-Around services. Families need to know that help is available and that it is ok to seek that help. Reach out to families that you see struggling and let them know they are not alone. It could help save a life in more than one way.
McGrath, Ellen. "Child Abuse and Depression: Most Adults Depressives Have Experienced Child Abuse." Psychology Today, 7 May 2003. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.