PD-proofing our children

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all4peace

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PD-proofing our children
« on: February 26, 2018, 10:43:20 PM »
One of my larger fears used to be my kids getting sucked into PD dynamics (especially my next-door ILs, who have almost "cults" for each gender within the family). My family lives farther away, but I still feared what harm could come to my kids via uNBPDm, who has "win everything" and will not be shown boundaries without a fight.

For approx 2 years my relationship with my parents has been on a downward spiral. I initiated at least 3 months of NC and am about halfway through that (and realizing that 3 months isn't nearly long enough!). My #1 fear was M trying to get to my kids, #2 fear was getting kicked out of the family.

Here's what I've come to see--my kids are really pretty safe regarding PD people. Despite substantial exposure (especially around ILs), they see BS when it happens, they see lies, they see nasty attitudes and gossip, they see "cliques" among family members. They seem to see all of it. They don't seem to care or react as strongly as I would, but they do seem to see it.

Here's what I've also seen--I set clear boundaries and let my kids know about them. My dear B and his wife didn't (they had many other battles to fight). uNBPDm has wormed her way into the niece and nephew's social lives and is "grooming" them quite a bit. She now has a steady flow of information about my DB's family, social activities, etc. Because my B and his wife didn't (somewhat understandably) set those boundaries when the kids were younger, their kids are far more vulnerable to M's manipulations. It's impacting DB's family life a fair amount.

Recently:
DS spent time with the family twice recently, then chose to stick with just the 4 of us for a milestone despite us offering friends/family/both be included.
DD only wishes to spend time with certain cousins (when asked) and doesn't wish to spend time with the rest of the family.
DD will totally call uNBPDm out on inappropriate behavior, including reporting her to me  :P It doesn't seem occur to her to protect the bad behavior of an adult.

I hope and pray I haven't passed on poisonous attitudes, and have worked really hard to keep it calm and steady, rational and fair. When we backed away from our PD parents, I worked hard to make sure we had regularly time with healthy, loving people instead. I think it's likely and possible that our kids really know (always knew?) the difference between healthy and toxic.

I wish I hadn't lost so much sleep 2-3 years ago, worrying about this. For those of you with younger kids/early teens, there's hope! Of course, my kids aren't adults yet and I don't yet know what their adult relationships with the PD parents/ILs will look like, but I do have hope that they will be kind/polite but not enmeshed or attached to the dysfunction.

What do you do to keep your kids safe, to teach them what healthy looks like?

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Shockwave

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2018, 11:31:07 PM »
I made a promise to my daughter the day she was born: I would be there for her and love her and raise her in the way I wasn't raised by my own parents. Some of their bad habits do seep in and through me, but my daughter, who was one of the people who helped me realize just how bad my own parents were to me, calls me out on my bad behaviors and habits. This makes me proud of her, not want to hurt her like my own parents did when I tried to call them out on it.

So I feel like although I slipped in some instances, I did it out of the love and the fact that I wanted to give her the parent I didn't have. Doing it out of love and wanting the best for your child will lead you down the right path as well as being cognizant of your own upbringing and not wanting to inflict that pain onto others.
"Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A Dark Knight."
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daughterofbpd

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2018, 03:56:16 PM »
Great topic, A4P. The issues your B is having is exactly what I don't want to happen. I think those of us who have come Out of the FOG while our children are young have an advantage because I think the enmeshment and grooming often starts long before people know what is happening. Although you may not have come Out of the FOG when your kids were young, I think raising them in a loving environment where they were allowed to be individuals and also surrounding them with healthy relationships has allowed them to grow into healthy individuals.

Some of their bad habits do seep in and through me, but my daughter, who was one of the people who helped me realize just how bad my own parents were to me, calls me out on my bad behaviors and habits. This makes me proud of her, not want to hurt her like my own parents did when I tried to call them out on it.
:yeahthat: I feel like the #1 way to break the cycle is being open to listening to our kids, even when it isn't what we want to hear. We're all going to make mistakes and hurt our kids without meaning to, but if they can come to us with those hurts, our kids will know that their feelings DO matter. That means really considering what your kid has to say, not blowing up at them or playing victim for them stating their feelings. You might have a difference of opinion, our kids might not always understand our decisions, but we can at least hear them out and apologize when an apology is due- even if its just "I'm sorry your feelings are hurt. I didn't mean for that." That would have made a huge difference to me.
“How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego”
~ Amanda Torroni

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Terichan

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2018, 09:52:35 PM »
I also love this topic a4p! It hits really close to home for me, because having broken the cycle of abuse with my own parents, I want to ensure that my children feel safe, loved, important, valued, wanted, cared for, all those good things I never, ever got from either of my PD parents.

Two things I do: one is to teach them that they are just as important as anyone else, their feelings matter just as much, their opinions are just as valuable as anyone else's -- and especially, that they matter MORE to me than anyone else does, and that their own inner lives should matter MORE than anyone else's -- to themselves! PDs can't break through that belief with their belittling, dismissive tactics, my kids can see the manipulation for what it is and don't doubt themselves just because some other person tries to tell them they don't matter.

It was such a horrible lesson my BPDm taught me, that everyone else mattered way more than I did, my feelings were irrelevant to the world, and that I should never bother anyone, including her, with my trivial, useless problems. It not only damaged me severely, but it also opened me up to accepting abuse from every PD or bully I ran across, because I never thought I was worth defending. That's not happening to my children, no way.

And the other thing I do for my kids is show them what love, REAL love, looks like. That love is an action verb, when we love someone we SHOW them that love in our actions. We pay attention to them. We're interested in their inner lives. We care what happens to them and how they feel. We make room for them in our hearts. We do things that make them FEEL loved. So they can tell when someone truly loves them and cares about them, vs someone who just wants to use them.

Along with that, I refuse to inform my children that someone else loves them, when the person shows no loving behavior toward them at all. Like my uPD stepmother -- she is totally uninterested in their lives. She has no inkling about what they do, what they like, what they care about, who their friends are. For example, my daughter has been playing a musical instrument for 4 years now. It recently arose in conversation that she had a concert coming up. My stepmother had no idea that my daughter played an instrument at all, let alone which one or what kind of concert this might be. My daughter was visibly irritated by her ignorance, she was shocked that grammy didn't know. She has been playing this instrument for FOUR YEARS and grammy had not a clue. That. is. not. showing. love. for. your. grandchildren. Not even close.

Yet my stepmother always says to me "Tell the kids I love them!" NO, I'm not going to tell them you love them. :no: If you love them, you've got to SHOW them that. If I tell my children that someone who clearly DOESN'T love them DOES love them, that's going to be very confusing, and also sets them up to be involved in loveless and/or abusive relationships, possibly with manipulative PDs, when they're older. I'm teaching them that if someone loves you, you can tell, you can feel it. Another lesson I never learned from my PD parents, that really messed me up.   

Great topic! I hope more people chime in!

 
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

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all4peace

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2018, 01:54:52 PM »
shockwave, it sounds like you've created a safe environment in which your DD can bring your behavior to your attention. Nicely done! My kids also have no trouble pointing on my flaws to me. I see it as a really good sign and try to teach them to be respectful about it.

daughterofbpd, I also believe that listening to our kids is vital. In our parental relationships, their inability to listen, absorb or empathize with what we have been trying to say to them has been an immovable obstacle. Even as adults, we were not allowed autonomy without losing our relationship with them. I also want my kids to know it is safe to talk to me and DH. Thank you for bringing up this point!

Terichan, I love your point about teaching our kids their inherent value, in all the ways we treat them and allow/don't allow others to treat them. I also grew up with the clearly taught value that I was of very little value. My views, needs, wishes were simply laughable or ignored, or hit out of me. It is a very hard lesson to unlearn.

I was listening to a podcast last night and the podcaster was saying that all humans have 3 basic human needs:
1. Safety.
2. Connection.
3. Value.

In our PD families, and/or those we married into, none of those is present. If we raise our kids with all 3, my hope is that when they're with people in which those are absent it will feel intensely uncomfortable and not a place they would want to stay. And, of course, I also hope that they will instinctively offer these to the people in their life who they love.

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blacksheep7

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2018, 10:54:14 AM »
Thanks for the great topic all4p. 
I'm late but have to chime in as this is such an important topic for me, my relationship with my children.   I had also promised myself that I wouldn't pass on the physical abuse, the belittling, name calling, to make it a safe and pleasant environment.  But I lacked emotional intelligence when I had them, in my early 20's, being deeply in the fog and ignorant on that matter.  I did the best I could with what I had at that time. When I came OOTF I  cried so much because I wasn't there entirely for them emotionally. My dd didn't open up to me, was distant which I understand today.  The only good thing, the bright side like they say was that I never gave her the guilt trip, like M who made sure to pass it on every time I called her, saying "no news is good news".  :jawdrop:
I'm sure that's saved our relationship.  I knew better not to repeat that.
When she had her children, it all changed for the better.  We bonded and she tells me everything now.   I still pinch myself and cry even writing this as I thought I had lost her for good, emotionally.  She pointed out some flaws that I had at the time to which I responded by telling her how sorry I was and explained the situation that was long overdue.   I let her live her busy life working with dh and 2 kids.   She knows I am available when she needs me.  I give her advice when she asks and I support her and show EMPATHY that M did not have and still doesn't.  I show her that she matters.   I also have a ds and our relationship is different but good.  He makes me laugh and opens up when he needs to.   

All4peace, omg I'm not worried about you. You are so grounded and always questioning yourself which is a very good sign.  :yes:

I read this quote which I have to pass on:
The problem with the world  is this that the intelligent people always question themselves,
while the stupid all full of certainties.

I may be the black sheep of the family, but some of the white sheep are not as white as they try to appear.

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all4peace

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2018, 01:07:30 PM »
Ugh, this happens so often. I post something with confidence and excitement, and then immediately face it and realize how far I have to come.

DS is an adult now, technically. After this post, I found out about mil and fil directly trying to reach him and get him to visit. And I did something I'm not proud of--checked DS's phone. Technically I have told him that we retain the right to do so, but our actual relationship is that I've only done this once in his presence and that we actually completely trust him. So in reality he is given a lot of trust and privacy and doesn't know I checked his phone. Both ILs are texting him, offering him "fresh treats" if he stops in to visit.

And he did. I was on a walk when I saw it happening, panicked, and asked DH to let me know as soon as DS got back home (ILs live next door) to have a sense of how long he was with them. All my confidence stated above, poof, gone.

This morning DH and I talked it through.
*We both agree I shouldn't be checking DS's phone, that our relationship of mutual trust would be jeopardized by that. I won't do it again unless I talk to DS first.
* DH says he will not be hurt if FIL tries to reach DS. FIL is not good to my DH at all. It has been very painful to watch. But if DH genuinely isn't hurt by FIL trying to reach DS, then I can let go of a lot of anger.
*DH and I both agree that DS has too much sense, and the ILs have too little emotional intelligence, to get sucked into the family system.
*DS is an adult now. I will simply have to keep working through these feelings in myself and try to focus on a positive relationship with DS.

It's a strange thing to see your son doing what you've literally taught him his entire life to do (being kind to all people) and desperately wish that just this one time he'd be a jerk instead and blow them off!

Anyway, i share this because it seems only fair to know that my confidence in the PD-proofness of my kids can apparently be easily shaken.

blacksheep7, your story is so beautiful! I can only imagine the relief and joy you would have felt when your DD opened her heart to you in adulthood. What a redemptive story! As a daughter, it seems obvious to me that your willingness to accept responsibility would have been a huge part in this, and your ability to wait for her, on her terms, her timing. I am sooooo happy for both of you!

And I love that quote :) I once read a parenting book that basically said "If you're the type of person to be seeking out a parenting book, you're probably the kind of person who is already a good-enough parent."

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blacksheep7

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Re: PD-proofing our children
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2018, 12:49:37 PM »
All4peace
Thank you for your kinds words!  :)
I may be the black sheep of the family, but some of the white sheep are not as white as they try to appear.