Growing up WITH my Kids

by Kim Hemmert

Sarah’s childhood was tumultuous. She experienced her mother go through cycles of anger and express loving kindness. Once her mom would calm down and stop yelling, Sarah said, “It was over and there was no discussion about it.” But the pattern continued. There wasn’t space to feel emotions or process what happened. Difficult conversations were often avoided. Sarah didn’t understand puberty and menstruation and had to navigate that by herself. It was a lonely time for her. She wondered how her mother could say she loved Sarah, when her actions did not always align.

She realized that her grandmother never said ‘I love you’ to either Sarah or her mother. Sarah says, “My grandmother didn’t know how to show love.” Between her mom and grandma, Sarah didn’t have the best example of healthy relationships growing up. She understands how her own upbringing influenced her relationships and parenting. As an adult, Sarah escaped from an abusive relationship and became a single mom with two kids. “Abuse affected me as a person. I’ve picked up independence because I wanted something different for my kids,” Sarah said.

Sarah enrolled in the Positive Behavior Support at Home parenting course offered at Whitney Elementary School through Community Resilience Builders. “I took the course because it sounded amazing! I’ve always had a close relationship with (my kids), and wanted to enhance our communication,” Sarah said. The course focused on social and emotional learning, restorative practices that develop strengths and resilience, and nonviolent conflict resolution. “This class has taught me a lot about communication, emphasized patience, and how to have a safe and respectful home. We’ve implemented the use of a suggestion box and talk about each suggestion at the end of the day or week.” She developed family agreements of what behavior is expected and the consequences when expectations are not met. These practices have increased the trust between Sarah and her kids.

Her newfound communication skills have resulted in stronger relationships. She made healthy connections with other parents and children from the class. The advantage of learning these skills has benefitted Sarah at work too. “This class is building a stronger community between the school and parents, and parents and the community.”

Sarah has demonstrated resilience by breaking the cycle of abuse. She has worked on repairing her relationship with her mom, who was estranged from her for over three years. Sarah recognizes that learning is a lifelong process. “In some ways, I’m growing up with my kids,” she says. She has worked diligently to ensure that her communication and behaviors align, and that her kids know she loves them by her words and actions. Sarah also demonstrates what healthy relationships and boundaries look like.

Understanding emotions help improve self-image. Sarah says she’s done the complete opposite from her childhood experience. Instead of blowing up, sweeping things under the rug, and pretending everything is fine, like her mom did, Sarah says, “I want to sit down right away and have hard conversations with my kids, so they know this is a safe place. People have the right to feel and think what they want.” Sarah is teaching her kids how to recognize and identify their emotions, and talk about them in a constructive way.

Sarah offers some great advice to others, “Take all the resources you can get. It’s not going to hurt; it can only help you. And to those who are in abusive relationships, don’t be ashamed; it’s ok to be scared. Please reach out, someone will be there to help you.”

We at Idaho Children’s Trust Fund (ICTF) promote the five protective factors which are; parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children. These protective factors prevent child abuse and neglect and promote optimal child development so individuals and communities thrive! We are grateful for Sarah’s willingness to share her story of resilience and social and emotional competence, and to Jean and Becky at Community Resilience Builders for the work they do to increase protective factors. Together we can build strong, resilient individuals, families, and communities in Idaho.

If you would like more information on parenting and child development through Positive Behavior Support at Home, please contact Community Resilience Builders. If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, and wants to talk about it, or wants information on preventing child abuse, contact ICTF for more information and to connect you with resources near you.

-Community Resilience Builders is an ICTF annual grant recipient