Becoming a parent can be a challenging time for anyone, and men who were subjected to sexual abuse as children commonly face some added pressures.
Key times that can trigger difficult thoughts and feelings can include finding out about the pregnancy, the birth of the child, and when then child approaches the age that you were when the abuse was happening. Difficulties might be related to memories of the abuse itself, about your abilities as a parent, or both. It might also be fears about your child’s vulnerability to abuse.
Some men worry they will hurt or abuse their children and limit their involvement, especially with tasks that require close physical contact such as bathing and nappy changing. Sadly this can lead to men missing out on important parts of their child’s development and life.
Remember that parenting is a challenging and sometimes overwhelming experience for most people. Despite the challenges, many men, including men who have experienced sexual abuse, find ways to be caring, protective, and nurturing parents and grandparents.
Take time to work out your own thoughts about the kind of parent you want to be. We are not born with parenting skills; there is information available to support you in becoming a parent (Link to support).
When worries about parenting become overwhelming, they can feed into a general feeling of inadequacy or incompetence as a parent.
To help get a handle on these worries, be specific and write down what are the current concerns you have about your parenting abilities.
Are there specific skills you feel you need to learn (e.g. changing a nappy, soothing a crying child, discipline?).
Once you identify these, you can take steps to find someone that can help you learn them, just like you learn any other skill.
It can be helpful to consider where your own ideas about parenting and how to do it have come from. Parents that have grown up within an abusive environment often have a clear picture of how they don’t want to be as a parent.
What kind of relationship do you want to have with your children?
Spend time thinking about the values and qualities that are important to you as a parent.
Some people find it helpful to think about people they know and admire, to take time to observe and learn from their ways of parenting and to use this as a guide to put into practice themselves.