Dear Ignacio, my parenting partner and I are both survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). He wants to monitor and spy on our daughter's social media and personal accounts to 'protect' her. I want to have open conversations about predators and risks in these spaces. Our child is 13 and I want her to make her own decisions and start to build faith in her #intuition while knowing I'm here. How do we resolve this?
Thank you for bringing up an issue that frequently comes up for parents, even when they are not both #survivors. It is normal to feel all the feelings like fear, but what you do with that fear makes a huge difference—especially to your daughter.
As two survivors in a parenting partnership, your traumas are bound to bump-up against each other. Further, carrying, birthing, and parenting a child as a survivor has its unique challenges, including being triggered, having to deal with activated PTSD symptoms, and cross-triggering a partner with an overlapping #trauma.
I encourage you two to strengthen your own connection and #communication. Clearly stating your personal ethics and approaches to child-rearing, the underlying values and philosophies you each hold, and the feelings that come up for each of you when considering your own and the other person’s approach can help you understand the problem before attempting to solve it.
Some of the key issues that may come up in these conversations are: #privacy, #trust, and #power. How is privacy understood and protected in your household? How do you gain and maintain trust among each other? How do you relate to the power you both hold as the parents of your daughter? Please consider how your approaches to privacy and power impact the trust between you two, and with your daughter.
Next, I encourage you to take note of your relationship with your daughter: the way you two interact with her, show her respect, listen to her, and give her the chance to make choices, including mistakes. Your daughter will be making mistakes, and those mistakes will impact her life. Coming to terms with this reality and planning a response that aligns with your values is what matters.
The #surveillance of your child can fuel more fear in your parenting partner, as well as erode trust with your daughter. If your daughter discovers that her activities are being closely monitored, she can feel angry, embarrassed, hurt, violated, and unfortunately, end up losing trust in one or both of you. This kind of damage to trust can take a long time to repair.
Balancing the desire to instill #agency into our children with the urge to protect them from harm is a difficult parenting task. Instead of focusing on snooping, your parenting partner may be better off spending his time building stronger relationships with your daughter, with you, and frankly with himself.
Please remember that if your daughter already suspects that she is being monitored, she may not show her true self and begin to hide things. Think about the long-term consequences of this. How can your daughter learn about autonomy, safety, and agency if she doesn’t get the opportunity to make her own decisions knowing her parents are there to catch her if she falls?
Once more of your reasoning and feelings around the issue are out in the open, you may also be able to reach a compromise. One that allows for your daughter to build confidence, autonomy, and good judgement and also grant her parents access to unobtrusive information. It’s amazing how honest conversations can lead us to find a middle ground.
If you haven’t done so already, I suggest both of you seek help for your individual trauma. I recommend parent coaching, or a mediator to discuss and (re)negotiate how to address such issues. For more resources on over-parenting, here are some articles: