Single Parenting after a Toxic Relationship

There can be nothing more damaging to a child than the ending of a toxic relationship between the parents,  especially if one of the parents does not have the child's best interest at heart, such as with narcissists or sociopaths.  Given that it can take years to finally pluck up the courage to leave a toxic relationship, when you finally make it to freedom, it can be a tough pill to swallow to find that not only will you never be truly free, your beautiful and wondrous child, who you most probably left to protect, will now be used to manipulate, control and hurt you further.  In fact many there are many mothers who stay in the relationship way longer than they should, simply to avoid having to send their children to the man that may well have systematically abused them and potentially their children for many years.  After years of gaslighting and emotional abuse, breaking free and reclaiming yourself and your mental health must be a priority,  if you want to raise a mentally and emotionally healthy child.  You see, our children swim in our subconscious like fish swim in the sea and when the parent is trapped in their heads with racing thoughts, anxiety or depression, their ability to respond to the their child can be severely impaired.  PTSD or anxiety can make people reactive or hypersensitive to loud noises. and add in a child who may well be finding it difficult to regulate their own emotions, or with hyperactivity or behavioural issues and it can mean things are twice as difficult.  It also means that we must try harder than most parents to reclaim our souls, as the early years of parenting are so crucial to how a child views themselves.  Before age 7 is the imprinting stage and this is when children are forming their beliefs, or stories about who they are, whether they are valuable, worthy, liked or enough and so the way we respond to our children during this time is critical for their self image.  Even more so when we understand that the beliefs we form in early childhood are what we use to run the rest of our lives on a 95% unconscious basis, for the rest of our lives!

The quickest way out, is to work on your own self connection and then your connection to each other.  A secure attachment is crucial for helping a child overcome emotional difficulties and sometimes just the simple act of having fun and dancing, tuning into sensations in their bodies, watching their breathing or even just helping children understand their feelings, can bring huge improvements in self esteem and self regulation, but we have to fit our own gas mask first. A single parent has to learn to prioritising giving love and care to themselves, as well as the child.  Nobody can pour from an empty cup and young children can take everything we have to give.  Nourishing ourselves with good sleep, healthy activities such as yoga, or dancing, combined with and laughter with good friends and nutritious food is just as important for us as is it is for our children. Self love is often bandied about as a term, but self love is a behaviour and not a feeling.  So this can sometimes mean letting go of things that no longer serve us, whether it be food, activities or even people who drain us.  Once we are meeting our own needs, a time of grieving is expected.  We come to accept that the person we fell in love with, doesn't actually exist and validating our own feelings, where they have previously been ignored, is essential.  Redirecting our perspective to one of gratitude, or a learning experience can help both us and our children to open up what we are truly capable of. 

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