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Intergenerational Trauma

Very few of us get through life without suffering some trauma. We experience parents that are stressed about their financial situation. Upending moves ,from home to home, due to parents career demands, military service or job seeking. Financially stable homes may put pressure on their children to succeed. The real or perceived feelings that family members are not treated equally. Ilness, death, there are a myriad of traumas that can impact a child whether they come from an abusive upbringing or a “good enough one”. Intergenerational trauma adds to these traumas.Intergenerational trauma can span several generations or greatly impact the immediate family dynamic. Most families would have some intergenerational trauma but immigrant and indigenous families would have a great deal. Leaving one’s homeland, their friends, relatives neighbours, job and all of the attached financial, social and familial ties and landing in a strange  country with sometimes little more than suitcase in hand.Even emigrating from European countries, immigrants would find customs, accents, perhaps their new lower social status difficult. Those arriving with a language barrier would even find the change more daunting. Immigrants forced from their home due to persecution, war or starvation would be already traumatized.

The effect of intergenerational trauma can be as simple as overeating. Coming from an environment of food scarcity can result in culture of “eat up it’s good for you” or “don’t leave anything on your plate”, to a sense of family and culture being tied in with eating. Alcohol consumption can be another trauma based problem. Geographical displacement, whether indigenous or those faced by immigrants can be directly linked to alcoholism and drug addiction.

Fear of poverty can be an intergenerational trauma with parents working long hours and weekends “for their children” but sometimes neglecting their emotional needs. These are some of the more obvious intergenerational traumas but there are many others. Fear or hatred of authority, religious based trauma, war trauma, holocaust and racial based trauma. These intergenerational traumas can be apparent or may require special attention such as can be found in therapy. Perhaps then we can end these repetitive cycles so that they don’t influence our children or those around us.