I love being a dad and although it has its moments of difficulties as every parent I am sure understands, being a father is the best thing that ever happened to me.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse however as my kids get older my fears and anxieties feel amplified and I guess this is natural.
We do not want our kids to know pain and I fear that I do not want my children to ever experience what I went through.
How can it?
I think to myself. Your always there Matt and do your best to protect them.
But then other thoughts come into my mind.
My Nan and Grandad did their best to protect me and the predator still found his way in, groomed me then sexually assaulted me over a period of six years and no one saw it.
I panic...what if I don't see it?
What if I miss something?
Then I enter a minefield of triggers from my own past traumas that begin to form new anxieties through the fear of history somehow repeating itself with those I love most.
As a parent I cannot bare the thought of anything happening to my child especially at the hands of another and as a survivor the horror is very real and not simply something unrelatable we hear on the news.
What I am finding is working best
As my kids grow older I found talking to them just as I would talk to them about the dangers of crossing the road or putting their finger in the plug socket.
We teach our kids about stranger danger and with the online presence we have in todays world we discuss the dangers that are present there.
As I discussed in my other recent blog - When a shark slips through the net
I talk to my kids about having healthy relationships and also boundaries.
Obviously I don't go into graphic details regarding what happened when I was younger and keep the conversations relative to what's age appropriate.
I tell my kids if something doesn't seem right, then it generally isn't and I encourage them to talk always and I try to keep the communication flowing with my kids so they know I will always listen without judgement.
What about me?
But what about My kids understand a little about my life but not the whole picture.
Within their mind they live in a safe space and although I want them to have an awareness it is important I remember that they are living a very different life to mine.
As my youngest son began approaching the age when I started being groomed which was around eight.
I found being open with my partner and expressing my fears helped me a great deal.
Especially in regards to dealing with my own triggers and anxieties that were arising.
Being a parent with a history of childhood trauma myself is not easy and only a parent who has had similar experiences to myself will understand this.
And if you are a parent and a survivor I just want to say you are incredibly brave and will be an amazing parent I am sure.
I focus on teaching my children about love, compassion and kindness.
But also boundaries and the importance of communication.
I never want my children to feel that they don't have a voice and this is a huge part of my parenting process.
To encourage my kids to use their voice, yes sometimes it back fires lol especially when they want V bucks!
But I would not have it any other way.
The Matt Penn Initiative works hard to raise awareness being a voice for survivors of childhood trauma and struggling addicts.
Planting the seed that recovery is possible lifting the barriers that stand in the way of help for so many