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Sunday, 28 Apr 2019

How to Overcome your Difficult Childhood

By Dr Becky Spelman
overcome a difficult childhood

In an ideal world, every child would grow up in a loving, secure environment with all they need, both materially and psychologically. In practice, of course, that doesn’t always happen.

People can experience a difficult childhood for all sorts of reasons. A family living with poverty may experience a range of difficulties, including material deprivation. It might be hard for them to pay for childcare, so children might end up spending a lot of time on their own. They are more likely to live in a rough area and to be exposed to problems such as drug abuse and violence on the street. However, children can have a difficult childhood in affluent families too. A parent with a mental illness or substance disorder, a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder, domestic violence in the home, and a wide range of other issues can all be significant obstacles to a child’s happiness and healthy psycho-social development, and the family’s socio-economic status makes no difference.

In the media and in popular art forms such as cinema the trope of the mistreated child growing up to become a dysfunctional adult is very common—and it is also profoundly unhelpful. While people who have had difficult childhoods do have more obstacles to overcome on their way to a happy and fulfilled adult life, many succeed in achieving happiness and breaking the cycle.

If you had a difficult childhood, for whatever reason, you may have found that it has impacted on your self-esteem, confidence, and ability to assess risk, among other things. It is important to recognise this as something that you have to deal with, because acknowledging the problem is the first step towards overcoming it. If your issue has led to you having difficulties with reacting appropriately in certain circumstances, or makes it hard for you to trust others, you can work with a therapist to develop more useful behavioural patterns that will help you to move on with your life in a healthier way.

Beyond therapy, it is particularly important for people who had difficult childhoods to create a supportive network around themselves as adults. They may no longer have contact with their family of origin, or they may have decided that is it necessary to maintain a degree of distance for the sake of their own mental well-being. A good friendship circle can provide just as much support as a family—and can be much more useful a support than a dysfunctional family environment. There are also support groups for people who grew up with a wide range of issues—the children of addicts, the families of narcissistic parents, and more. Engaging with a support group can put you in touch with people who are grappling with similar issues to you and help you to see that you are not alone.

If you had a difficult childhood, you do not have to let it define you. Accept that it happened, acknowledge the impact that it has had on your life, and find a way to move forward positively. When you give yourself the resources you need to be happy and fulfilled, you will find that your challenges are not nearly as unsurmountable as they once seemed.


For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.

  • Child Psychology
  • Family
  • General
  • Parenting
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