For Parents: Intergenerational Trauma and Lineage Work

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by Jo delAmor

Recorded by the author

Trauma is a wound. How I think about it is that if I wounded you, if I cut your flesh, the healing would involve scar tissue forming. If the wound was great enough, you’d get a big scar, and it would be without nerve endings so you wouldn’t feel, and it would be much less flexible than your normal tissue. Trauma is when there is a loss of feeling and there is a reduced flexibility in responding to the world. Trauma is a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. ~ Dr. Gabor Maté

We are all living with trauma. Being born into a society that is based on power, domination and disconnection has embedded trauma deeply into each of us. Whenever our basic human needs of safety, belonging and meaning are interrupted, either through violence or negligence, we are wounded and carry that wound into our lives as trauma. There’s a wide variety of types and degrees of intensity of the trauma we carry and the effects it has on us and our parenting.

There is trauma in all of our lineages. The brutal history of conquest and colonization that has created the conditions we find ourselves in today has affected all of our families and ancestors in various different ways. The violence of the Power Over Paradigm is so acutely at odds with our natural human needs that both those who perpetrate the violence and those who are the victims of it suffer deep wounding and internalize trauma. That trauma is then passed down from generation to generation and exacerbated as wounded people raise children whose needs are, in turn, neglected or violated.

This trauma cycle is the root cause of many (if not all) of the harmful and abusive behaviors that traumatize children. As they say, “hurt people hurt people.” Likewise, hurt parents hurt kids.

As they say, “hurt people hurt people.” Likewise, hurt parents hurt kids.

Whether we are carrying high intensity personal trauma or the more general trauma of being raised in our wounded society, we can actively work to interrupt the passage of trauma along our lineage through the way we raise our kids.  If we seek to minimize the trauma our children take on through their childhoods, our first step is to recognize that we are the link between generations and substantial healing of these deep wounds can happen in our own lives if we bring our attention to it.

As you raise your children, your personal and intergenerational traumas will be triggered again and again. Each stage or threshold they pass through will bring you right back to the parallel moment in your own life. If you can steady yourself in the awareness that each of these moments is an opportunity for healing, you can transcend the fear and panic of the trigger and respond instead of react. Depending on the severity of the trauma you may want to seek out professional support to guide you through deep healing work as you traverse these thresholds. In each of these moments you are given the opportunity to relive your own experience and tend to the unmet needs of your inner child, both by doing your own personal healing work and also by taking care of your children in the ways that you weren’t cared for. 

If you’re paying attention, raising kids will bring everything into the light for you.

Your children will be a mirror for you as they grow. Their behavior or attitudes will reflect things to you that you may have long since relegated to the shadows and blind spots of your psyche.  If you’re paying attention, raising kids will bring everything into the light for you. If you are truly committed to healing trauma within your lineage, try to see what they show you. Notice and accept and do the work of learning how to respond in the most loving and healing way that you can. 

We have all inherited trauma and experienced personal wounding and we are all passing it down to our kids. We can’t completely prevent this. No matter how “perfectly” we parent there will be some passing down of trauma. This healing work is not about perfection or purity. It’s about awareness and the willingness to do our best to take responsibility for our own healing work and give our children as much support and resourcing as possible to tend to theirs. It is lineage work and legacy work that extends well beyond our own lifetimes. 

This healing work involves shaking ourselves awake right in the midst of the nightmare of disconnection that the Power Over Paradigm perpetuates, and trying our best to see clearly. It is about reclaiming our personal will and sovereignty, starting to live our lives with dignity and self-love and behaving like the holy beings we are. Our children will benefit greatly from every little bit we can possibly move in this direction. 

This healing work won’t erase what is. It won’t absolve or remove the long history of harm from which we descend. This healing work is not about bypassing the harm that has been done and putting a pretty spin on it all by pretending that it’s “all good” now.
The healing work I’m talking about is metabolizing the grief, pain, confusion and fear that’s been handed to us. Transmuting it. Composting it and planting seeds of new possibilities in the soil it makes to nourish our children and their children.

The more of this type of work we do before and during our children’s lives, the more space and possibility they will have in their lives.

The more of this type of work we do before and during our children’s lives, the more space and possibility they will have in their lives. The less time they’ll have to spend battling the same old battles that have been passed on from generation to generation. They’ll be emancipated from whatever part of the work you’ve been able to do and they’ll have that much more strength to do the part of the work that will be left for them to do. 

Through this process they’ll also learn from your example. They’ll come to understand that life is about learning and healing, taking good care of Life, working hard to keep Life living and making things better and more beautiful for the ones yet to be. Having learned from your example, they’ll be able to journey even deeper into the healing process for your lineage. 

All the healing work that each of us does permeates all the way through our lineage, back through generations of ancestors and down through generations of future beings.  Rooted in Deep Time, we are radically interconnected and interdependent with all those who came before and all those who will come after.  And since time isn’t actually linear, we’re really all here together facing these wounds and these opportunities to heal. 

As the one who is alive at this time and actively parenting, you are the one in your lineage who has the greatest access and agency to engage in that healing work on behalf of your entire family. 


Dr Gabor Maté, interview on Human Window on Childhood Trauma, The Real Cause of Anxiety and Our ‘Insane’ Culture.


Recorded by author

Jo delAmor is a mother to two young adults. Over the last 20 years she has also cared for hundreds of children of all ages in a variety of situations from a co-parenting community to public schools and in-home nannying.

Jo has been facilitating the Work That Reconnects since 2013 with a focus on dismantling oppression, transforming our cultural paradigm and supporting parents through these unprecedented and challenging times. She has woven the insights and practical tools she’s gathered through these experiences into her practice of New Paradigm Parenting and her forthcoming book “Raising Children in the Midst of Global Crisis: A Compassionate Guidebook for Parenting in Turbulent Times

3 thoughts on “For Parents: Intergenerational Trauma and Lineage Work

  1. I can hardly comprehend the enormity of awareness that is beginning to awaken within me… I am 75yrs of age and fighting with the fear that it’s too late to really go deeply into this journey of healing. But I must; “buckle down” and work, and practice and practice and practice … For the sake of my two adult children, both in their 40’s, both with mental anguishing lives. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this today.

    • After reading this article, i’ve seen your encouraging comment. As many people say ; the only time is now and you’re on your way now. I think our age means nothing in a dateless universe. (Sorry if i disturb you with my comment. I’ve just wanted to share my feeling when read your comment. My english is poor. Best wishes. )

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