Given money’s powerful influence on every aspect of life, and its symbolic connections to emotions like comfort, security, and affection, it’s only natural that we are prone to misinterpreting money’s role in dysfunctional family systems. Money itself may not be the primary issue, but can very quickly become associated with family pain or problems.
Children form their view of the world from observing and modeling adults. They learn what they’re supposed to fear and avoid, and what they should want and pursue. The more stressed a parent is about money, the more likely the child will develop money anxiety also. Or, a child who grows up in a wealthy but painful family system, where money is used as a means of control, may erroneously equate wealth with distress and heartache and spend the rest of his or her life repelling it. Another possibility is that child could grow up equating the amount of money one spends with how much love is felt. Conversely, a child who grows up in a poor and painful family system may erroneously equate a lack of money with distress and heartache, resulting in a life spent pursuing enough wealth to bring happiness (which never materializes). Often that pursuit results in one of two extremes: workaholism or crime.
One other source of confusion for children about money is the silence around it. In many families, even though issues involving money are ever-present, they are rarely talked about or expressed. This silence can be just as traumatic as experiences like Ellen’s – if not more so, because the issues are swept under the rug and never dealt with. When money is never talked about in front of the children, common and predictable responses include the child growing up financially dependent, living in financial denial, or developing an avoidance of money (three common disorders we’ll discuss shortly). While it’s important to protect children from worries they’re too young to handle, it’s much healthier to include them in financial decisions appropriate to their age.
All families have histories. Traumatic events are often a part of that history. And when families experience stress or trauma, they respond like individuals do; they create unspoken scripts to try to reconcile that trauma with an acceptable, or at least minimally painful, version of reality. These scripts are compiled into family anthologies and these stories—not to mention the unhealthy habits and behaviors that go along with them—get passed down like heirlooms. And they can exert a powerful and profound effect on families for generations.
Treating Trauma at Milestones
At Milestones at Onsite, we want you to know that we stand behind you one hundred percent. We want to support you and walk with you into your recovery. We believe in unconditional love and provide a safe environment for you to do the work that has been needed for a long time. We are here to help and we’d be honored to have the opportunity to show up for you and help you discover joy in your life.