I have learned a lot on this journey (an much more to learn) through therapy and continuously reading and researching. And if there is a positive in this nightmare, it's that I am becoming the best I can be - a better person as we continue this difficult path.
One thing I have learned is that grief is not something you only experience from the loss of a physical being. Grief can be experienced in many situations including the loss of an expectation that will never be. We are grieving. We are grieving that normal life we anticipated. Our reality will never be what we expected nor will it be like any others. Our lives, and us as individuals have been shaped and grown in many ways from our experience. But for this we must also grieve.
In time we have to reach acceptance that our lives are different, our fears are different and our children are different.
In thinking about this, I also thought about our role as parents. We have an abnormal situation, children who have suffered beyond their ability to cope and yet we have tried to parent them as if they were kids who have never experienced trauma. Why... denial because we have yet to complete the cycle of grief.
It is a struggle to accept, but we are learning how to best support our family and what kind of parents we want to be.
The first step is to throw out the strategies we are accustomed to from our own childhoods. They do not work nor are they "our" family's approach. WE must develop a new parenting style: The Mark and Carla way of parenting Mackenzie and Xavier. It is essential to our healing and specific to our needs.
My promise as a parent:
1. The Inside Out Strategy
I will address my child's emotional needs before their outward behaviour (unless their safety is in immediate danger). I will focus not on what the behaviour is but first the why. The what can be addressed after the situation has been diffused and we are calm and ready to listen. The emotional state is not an excuse for bad behaviour, but it cannot be adequately addressed (long-term) without connecting with the emotional cause. Heal the inside and then the out.
2. Nature vs Nurture
I will nurture my child's heart and be attuned to and validate each and every one of their feelings; good bad or ugly. I will tell them it's ok to feel whatever they are feeling.
3. Guiding Principle
I will empower my child to make the right choice by encouraging them to think independently. I will guide them with praise and model appropriate behaviour. I will NOT be authoritative or manipulative to achieve compliance.
4. In all Respect
I will respect my child and respond to their needs without judgement. I will appreciate that I am the adult in the relationship and any expectations I may have as to how a 6 yr old or 7 yr old etc. ought to act, are irrelevant.
(Our kids may be 6 in age, but their emotional maturity has been stunted by the trauma.)
It's not an easy road, especially when your own emotional state is still healing from past scars. And we will slip up. But together our family will become stronger than ever!