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Regret parenting: "You ruined my life"

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DEFAULT: A good two years ago, the Israeli sociologist Orna Donath sparked a big debate with her study "Regretting motherhood" about whether a woman can say that she regrets having become a mother. Are parents allowed to speak to their children about such feelings?

How to: Yes. In some cases it even makes sense to do so. Because for the children, the feeling of being rejected by their mother or father is always an extremely stressful experience. Often they are also not sure whether their feeling is really right, so they talk it out again and push it away. If a child grows up with such emotional roller coaster, it will have difficulties developing a stable personality. When parents talk to their children about it, at least they learn that their perception is correct. Such a conversation can therefore also be a relief.

DEFAULT: But how do I teach my child that I don't love them the way they deserve to be?

How to: It is actually very difficult. I know examples where mothers and fathers were extremely destructive. They said, for example, "You have ruined my life" or "Everything is going wrong with me because of you". Of course, this has long-term consequences.

DEFAULT: Which for example?

How to: The children often develop fears of being attached well into adulthood - and / or they choose relationships in which they are again rejected. Many also internalize the rejection of their parents and then turn it against themselves. The result is self-harming behavior and a high risk of suicide. In addition, there is the constant fear of rejection - not a good starting point for a child.

DEFAULT: As a mother or father, how can I speak constructively with my children about the topic?

How to: It is important that I recognize my feelings and forgive me. Only then can I make it clear to my child that these negative feelings have nothing to do with him or her, but solely with me and my personal story. For example, one of my clients had her child during World War II. At that time she felt under extreme stress. She later told her son how shocked she was when she noticed it was growing in her stomach - but then also emphasized how happy she is today to have him. It is of course more difficult if this feeling of happiness does not occur after the birth.

DEFAULT: Do you have an example of this?

How to: In one of my courses I met a mother who had three children. She had a good and loving relationship with the first two, but not only was the last born a stranger to her, she actually didn't like it. The more the mother realized this, the more guilty she felt. She hated herself for it.

DEFAULT: What happened next?

How to: She learned to allow herself to have negative feelings. That took the pressure off her and helped her rediscover aspects of her child that she liked. She then explained to her daughter: "You have long since noticed my mixed feelings towards you." And admitted: "There is a part of me that cannot be quite as loving to you as it is to your siblings." She also emphasized that these feelings have nothing to do with her, the daughter, but with herself, that she is unhappy about it and that both of them have to learn to deal with them. I advise people to get professional help in such a situation.

DEFAULT: Why is it that some parents cannot adopt their child even though they actually want to?

How to: That is different. If mother and father had a safe and sheltered childhood, it is easier for them to pass this feeling on to their children. If, on the other hand, they have not experienced enough basic security themselves, it will be more difficult for them to bring this to their children. Sometimes there is also trauma from childhood behind it. An ambivalent relationship with the partner can also be carried over to the child. Then there are the circumstances under which the child was conceived. Such negative reactions are obvious when conceiving through rape.

DEFAULT: Susanna Tamaro had a very destructive mother. Today she is a famous writer. Can a child grow from this kind of "argument"?

How to: If children can classify what is happening, then they can also grow through such a conflict. But it is a long and painful process. It is important that the child does not relate the rejection to himself, but understands that the parents are in trouble with themselves - perhaps they are mentally ill, as was the mother of Susanna Tamaro. But we mustn't fool ourselves here: No matter how sensitively parents bring such feelings close to their child, the experience that the child is not loved unconditionally remains bitter. Ultimately, however, it comes down to the overall situation.

DEFAULT: What do you mean by "overall situation"?

How to: There are children who are born more stable than others, who are more optimistic from the outset and are more mentally resilient. Others are more prone to emotional harm. Then there is the social environment in which they grow up. A trusting relationship with grandparents, a neighbor and good friends can also strengthen children. In addition, it is seldom the case that father and mother reject the child equally - usually one parent can compensate for the other's deficits, protect the child and explain connections to him.

DEFAULT: Is there a right time to talk to the child about such feelings?

How to: No. What I said at the beginning is important: that the parents admit and allow their feelings to one another. And they should realize that their child cannot help it. Then they can also find appropriate words. (Stella Hombach, 7.4.2018)