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Generational Trauma and How It Is Passed Down

generational trauma

This blog was written to be a quick read on this topic.  If you are interested in learning going more in-depth with me on this topic - Here is a free 60-minute video training I did <3


Today I want to share with you about trauma. My background as a special education teacher + being a foster parent has led me to be pretty trauma-informed.  Additionally, trauma and its lasting effects are just something I find really interesting. I have learned a lot from Mark Wolynn’s book, “It Didn’t Start With You." I am going to share some of the findings here in order to highlight generational trauma and how it is passed down.

generational trauma

Generational trauma

Trauma and its effects can last three to four generations. You are connected to the trauma of your GREAT grandparents. The trauma you experience today will be connected to your great-grandchildren. Traumatic memories are actually transmitted through chemical changes in DNA. 

Wolynn highlights this generational trauma in a couple of different examples. He shares a story of a woman who had this paralyzing fear that her child would die, only to discover that her grandparents lost two children before immigrating to the United States. Another example involves the Rwandan genocide from 1993. Children born after 1994 showed markers of PTSD and lower cortisol even when they had never firsthand experienced the genocide.

An interesting realization comes when we notice the fact that mothers who are pregnant with girls are also carrying their grandchildren. So any stress the pregnant mom experiences not only changes her daughter's DNA chemically but also that of her grandchildren. Different trauma markers are turned on and off for different children. This explains why children can be in the same house, with similar upbringings, but experience different struggles. 

Lasting generational trauma and impact are also seen in the bible:

“...punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” -Deuteronomy 5:9

Entanglements: How different children experience generational trauma

As I mentioned previously, trauma among siblings can manifest and show up in different ways. The term “entanglements” has been used to explain some common ways this happens. The firstborn son is likely to carry what remains unresolved in the father. Similarly, with the firstborn daughter, she is likely to carry what remains unresolved in the mother. Additional children born later on tend to carry different aspects of their parents’ traumas or aspects of their grandparents’ traumas.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Laura Froyen on episode 28 of the Legacy Through Motherhood podcast all about Conscious Parenting after Generational Trauma. This episode is a must-listen for diving deeper into this topic of generational trauma.

Breaking the cycle

“Our kids will have their own work to do. We are only responsible for our work.”

First, we must identify trauma. This can look like having conversations with your parents and/or grandparents. When this isn’t possible, sometimes therapy can really help to identify trauma. Secondly, visualization and inner child work can be very powerful. I recommend searching the hashtag #innerchild on Instagram to learn more about that exact technique. And lastly, new experiences will help to create new neuropathways. Things like coaching and therapy can support you in this step.

“There is nothing you, as a mother, can say or do that is going to be as healing to our children as a healed mother is.”

Trauma can affect so many areas of our lives, from marriage to parenting to finances. I encourage you to begin working on identifying and healing your trauma and the trauma that was passed to you. Connect with me on Instagram and shoot me a DM! I’d love to chat with you, connect deeper with you on this topic of generational trauma, and support you on your journey!

About the author, Stephanie

My name is Stephanie and I am a mom of 4 boys (ages 8, 6, 5, 2 + one on the way). My husband, Justin, and I met when I was 16 years old and have been together for 16 years now. We are also foster parents so we welcome the chaos! I have been a Special Education teacher for 7 years and still love to teach but I have chosen to pivot and focus on raising my boys and pouring my heart into this business now!

I'm so honored you are here and I promise to serve you by being prepared and present during this process together of learning to leave the legacy we want to leave through our motherhood.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9

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