Alright, so let’s grab our teacups and have our very first deep (hopefully) conversation about generational trauma that has gone unrecognized for so long.
I recently read “Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents” by Lindsay Gibson where she talks about establishing boundaries and reclaiming emotional autonomy.
I feel that this is something our communities are really suffering from right now and is the biggest reason our Muslim generations have lost track. We will start by talking about what humans need to grow into healthy and emotionally mature adults who are self-reliant and strong. I highlight emotionally mature because we focus so much on human capabilities, achievement, education, and career, but emotional intelligence does not get much spotlight.
Parents who are secure, confident, accepting, empathetic, present, and involved will have children who are independent, resilient, creative, empathetic, assertive, loving, and flexible. These children will have a positive self-image and a strong sense of identity.
In emotionally immature parenting, we will notice a lot of rejection, shame, guilt trips, avoidance, repetitive issues, passivity, and a lack of boundaries. The children, as a result, lose balance in the relationship. Sometimes children become the parents (as they must mature faster to deal with the emotional trauma) and parents become the children (as they look for emotional fulfillment through children).
See, we are not taught that children are not born to fulfill us. Healthy and mature adults already feel fulfilled and wish to share their love with another human being. They wish to share their happiness and joy with the children instead of waiting for children to come and make them happy. The cycle of immature parenting creates unrealistic expectations for children.
I always wonder about our past Muslim generations that were so vigorous, driven, passionate, intelligent, and confident. I am referring to the time when Muslims were excelling in almost every aspect of life. From science to thriving communities, they had it all going. Then, it started going downhill. Different traumas led our communities and societies to become passive, pessimistic, insecure, and emotionally immature. Now the foundations of our homes and relationships are so shaky and fragile. Children are being raised by parents who are not emotionally present, who then grow up to look for fulfillment through their own children. Then, those children get stuck between fulfilling their parents and their own needs.
Getting more specific, our generations have lost the sense and power of independence. Children are being raised with a strong belief in codependency. Emotional intelligence is neglected and not nurtured or encouraged. Parents and children are increasingly getting tangled up in emotional dilemmas. With parents’ expectations soaring high (far from Islam) and children struggling to juggle their own potential, it has become a mess that not many are recognizing.
South Asian as well as many other communities have a family system where everyone is enmeshed, and boundaries do not exist. If parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lived through emotionally immature parenting, it will continue until someone consciously sees and stops the damage it causes. So here is what I have been seeing and hearing. As children grow older, parents begin depending on them (and I am not talking old age, that’s different). I am speaking about mothers and fathers who are not able to detach from their children if they must move away for education, marriage etc.
A vicious cycle of parenting gets created where children feel they must oblige to parents or else they will be disobeying Allah (SWT). There are so many complexities in parenting that do not get addressed in our local mosques or anywhere else. There is no one to really guide us out of this cycle. You know when you hear yourself, a relative, or a friend saying their in-laws give them a hard time or their spouse is too busy meeting their needs. Their parents make them feel that what they do is not enough. You may hear of parents who focused on other relatives or their spouses so much that the emotional well-being of their children got compromised.
InshAllah, I will continue the rest in Part two. In the meantime, can you relate to any of these scenarios? Do you have a differing opinion? I would love to hear from you.