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Washington Post: 4 Ways to Break the Cycle of Intergenerational Trauma


Unresolved trauma from one generation affects the well-being of future generations. While there are many ways intergenerational trauma is passed down, it is often transmitted through the parent-child relationship.

In an ideal relationship, the parent is consistently loving, attentive and responsive to the child’s needs, which helps the child feel safe and secure, knowing the parent is someone they can rely on. This leads to a secure attachment style, characterized by a positive view of the self, better emotion regulation skills and an ability to maintain relationships based on trust and healthy boundaries.

Unresolved trauma, however, can leave parents emotionally unavailable or even unsafe, and their children may experience chronic and repeated abuse or neglect. This is sometimes referred to as complex trauma, which can result in a wide range of impairments, including emotional problems, substance use disorders or low self-worth characterized by shame and guilt.

As a trauma-informed therapist, I often see the same, recurring issues in some of my clients who are dealing with intergenerational trauma. While there is no substitute for working with a trauma-informed therapist experienced in trauma-specific therapies, I hope my insights can be of help to anyone trying to end the legacy of trauma in their families.

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Photo Credit: Celia Jacobs for The Washington Post

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