Co-parenting with a survivor of abuse

Psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman talks about the challenges of parenting with someone was was the victim of child abuse
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Co-parenting with a survivor of abuse

So sometimes the people that we marry have their own family histories that may impact their ability, not only to be good spouses, but also to be good parents. So, for example, if you're married to somebody who has been abused themselves as a child, that can come out in a few different ways. We know, for example, that children who were physically abused are a higher risk to physically abuse their own children but they may also make the other mistake. They may make the mistake of being so fearful of any limit that they don't have enough authority. So you have two basic tools if you're the spouse of somebody who was raised with abuse and that is, first, to be emphatic to them. Secondly, to know that they're carrying a lot of pain both into the marriage and into the parenting realm. Third, to know that parenting itself is going to trigger all kinds of painful memories, seeing a vulnerable child, if you lose your temper, they may get enraged at you. They may not have any kind of proportion to what's appropriate use of authority and what's an abusive use of authority, and that can go either way. They may feel like you are being irritated is abusive or you setting a firm limit is abusive. Or they may feel like they can scream at the children and say, "Well, I'm not hitting them the way my dad hit me. What’s your problem? They're fine." So it may require you to be a little more grounded that you might have to be with somebody who wasn't abused as a child. Our childhood histories are very much in the atmosphere of any marriage the way we were parented, so if we were abused, or mistreated, or criticized, or controlled, or rejected, or ashamed, all those things we bring into the unconscious lives of ourselves and they affect the marriage. They affect the atmosphere, kind of the air that we breathe. So it is triggered. So sometimes if we're trying to figure out why our spouse is reacting so crazily or so irrationally to something we look at something completely benign, it is often useful to look at their family history or your own family history as a potential trigger.

Psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman talks about the challenges of parenting with someone was was the victim of child abuse


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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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