“Ghosts in the Nursery”

Becoming a parent is one of the most significant transitions of a person’s life span. One of the things we often do not expect are the “ghosts” of our personal and family history that show up causing issues in our own relationship with our children. Whaaaat?

A clinical social worker and child psychoanalyst, Selma Fraiberg introduced this metaphor of “ghosts in the nursery” in 1975. The phrase describes the relationship that can exist between a parent’s negative or traumatic childhood experiences and their own parenting experience. These “ghosts” can appear with patterns of behavior from one generation to the next as some behaviors are repeated or considered “normal.”

Healing from personal trauma and resolving what “ghosts” may be causing distress in parenting are key elements to arriving at a healthier understanding of your own relationship with your child.

“I couldn’t believe the result of feeling unheard and left unsafe by my own mother would affect the bond with my own baby.”

*Layla, Better Beginnings Mother/Baby group participant

We find often that parents who have gone through traumatic childhood experiences have repressed or retreated from that experience and avoided all feelings from it- and most opportunities to revisit it- in order to protect themselves. When becoming a parent themselves, these “ghosts” of experiences often rise to the surface and can show up in different ways related to their own experience as a parent.

The good news? With the right process of identifying and resolving these “ghosts,” they can be given the eviction notice and free the parent to change the language of their experience as part of their history as opposed to the reality of the present.