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Can trauma be passed down through parents to children?

Trauma is tricky to deal with and is never an easy topic. By now, we know that trauma is not selective and can happen to anyone, and occur in many different ways, but many people wonder if it’s possible that they have acquired trauma from their parents.

Intergenerational trauma is the theory or concept that is the transmission of traumatic effects of an experience or event. For example; a father is arrested, taken to prison and then thrown into solitary confinement. Learning to cope for him may be to “cut” off his emotions, and as a result, once he’s released, he may interact emotionally distant or have tumultuous relationships with his family and friends. This transition may begin to start affecting his children, grandchildren, etc. which can lead to generations of emotional distance, behaviors that are defensive when it comes to emotions, and even denial. When pain is not dealt with, or coped with, it gets passed on again and again and again.

Some ways that intergenerational trauma affects families are:

- [ ] Disconnection

- [ ] Denial

- [ ] Distance

- [ ] Detachment

- [ ] Estrangement

- [ ] Neglect

- [ ] Abuse

- [ ] Violence

Some ways that intergenerational trauma affects individuals are:

- [ ] Anxiety

- [ ] Depression

- [ ] substance use disorder

- [ ] Chronic diseases

- [ ] Shame

- [ ] Low self esteem

- [ ] Instructive thoughts

Healing from this looks a little different for everyone, and everyone’s journey is different. As with any form of healing, there’s no set path or definition.

Until we address and uncover triggering events/ trauma that a lot of family members hide and lived through silently, we can never really move forward with our lives and get rid of those feelings that have nothing to do with us. Acknowledging the validity of the trauma and its origin is an important step, and taking action in small steps over time while caring for yourself can help ensure that you pass on healing instead of trauma to the next generation.

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