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6 Ways Unresolved Parent Trauma Affects Teen Emotional Health

teen emotional health and trauma

Shocking Ways Parents Contribute to Their Teen's Trauma

Teens today struggle with a wide range of emotional burdens, ranging from depression and anxiety to severe emotional disturbances. There are many factors leading to the increase in mental health needs in today’s teenagers, but many parents are shocked to learn that their own unresolved trauma is often a catalyst for problems their teens face. The key to helping your teenager with their own trauma and emotional concerns is to deal with your own trauma. Here is a closer look at how parents can identify their own trauma and what they can do to heal, so they can help their teens heal.

Signs You Have Untreated Trauma

Before you can understand the impact of untreated trauma in parents on the teens in their lives, you must first be able to identify if you have trauma. Unresolved trauma is trauma that happened in someone’s past that they never dealt with and healed from, and it can cause ongoing problems much later than the traumatic event. Trauma can have a physical effect on the brain, changing it and impacting the way you interact with the world. That trauma response can heal, but only if you are proactive to heal it.

So how can you know if you have trauma?

These are some signs:

  •         You struggle to trust people
  •         You feel on alert or on edge all of the time
  •         Subtle things remind you of the trauma and make you feel uncomfortable
  •         You feel depressed or irritable
  •         You avoid crowds
  •         You struggle with addiction
  •         You have frequent nightmares about the trauma


If you are noticing these symptoms, then you likely have unresolved trauma. If you have teenagers, it is affecting their emotional health.

Examples of Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma - Emotional Health

Unresolved trauma is trauma that happened in someone’s past that they never dealt with and healed from, and it can cause ongoing problems much later than the traumatic event.


Unresolved Trauma Leads to Over Sheltering

One way that unresolved trauma in parents affects teenagers is because of over-sheltering. Trauma gives you a strong desire to keep your kid safe, but this can lead to protecting them in even safe situations or preventing them from taking small, healthy risks. 

This leads to children who are anxious and avoidant themselves. Long-term anxiety has a significant emotional effect on teenagers


Unresolved Trauma Makes Decision Making Difficult

An adult who is struggling with unresolved trauma may find it difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions. The trauma’s influence on the brain hurts its decision-making capabilities, yet parents need to make daily decisions for their children. 

When you cannot think clearly or make decisions, your children’s stability suffers. This can make it difficult for the children to learn to make decisions as teenagers and, later, as adults.


Unresolved Trauma Leads to Control Issues

Parents struggling with trauma may become controlling. Trauma feels like a loss of control, and that loss feels unsafe. Parents will compensate by controlling every aspect of their children’s lives, without teaching them to manage their own emotions and fears. This can lead to rebelliousness in teens or over dependency on the parents, both of which are potentially damaging.


Unresolved Trauma Causes Irritability

People who are suffering from trauma often do not manage their anger well. This irritability can make them intense disciplinarians, especially when their children are small.

The result of constant irritability and anger from the caregiver is confusion and anxiety in the child. As teenagers, these kids may end up acting out of rebellion.


Unresolved Trauma Makes Dealing with Emotions Difficult

People who have trauma they haven’t dealt with will struggle to tolerate emotions. Parenting is a highly emotional experience, and they will often turn to emotional numbing, isolation, or substance abuse to hide those feelings.

Parents with trauma may also struggle to be emotionally present for their children, and this lack of vulnerability can be passed down to their children. When children feel invalidated and unseen, they, in turn, struggle to regulate their emotions.

This can lead to the parentification of the child. The child starts to care for the parent’s emotional needs, instead of the other way around, and this is a level of responsibility that can lead to problems for teenagers later on.


Unresolved Trauma Hurts the Family Dynamic

Lack of trust and lack of emotional regulation leads to problems with the overall family dynamic. Instead of providing a loving, supportive environment for your children to grow and develop, you create an emotionally challenging environment where children can’t learn how to manage their emotions.

This, in turn, leads to teens that struggle with emotional struggles as they pick up their own emotional trauma from parents who are unregulated.

How to Heal Your Own Trauma and Help Your Teen

Healing Trauma

This vicious cycle creates generation after generation of trauma, but there is hope. Parents are becoming more informed about trauma and how harmful family dynamics hurt their children. They can take measures to heal their own trauma while helping their teens address their emotional needs.

If unresolved emotional trauma from parents has created serious issues for your teen, you may need professional intervention. A residential treatment facility can provide intensive therapy to address these problems and provide the teen with the resilience and emotional stability they need to move forward. Parents can benefit from getting their own therapy to heal their trauma and improve the overall dynamic of the home, so everyone can move forward in an emotionally healthy way.

Unresolved trauma impacts everyone, and it can make your teenager’s trauma worse. Take the time to heal your own trauma, and then you can focus on your child, too. Together, you can learn to build a healthier family dynamic, so your teen can grow into a stable, healthy, and trauma-free adult. 

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