Breaking cycles with Families UPward

“A child needs to feel from the very start that she or he is wanted and loved. They should grow up in the soil of affection and care. There is no replacement for that, it is the most important thing. If that isn’t right from the very beginning then everything that follows is playing catch up–trying to make better that which isn’t good.” -Michael Morpurgo.

Families UPward is a new prevention and early intervention program in the area including Houghton, Baraga, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon counties through U.P. Kids.

Intergenerational trauma was first officially researched in the 1960’s when the children of Holocaust survivors were showing consistent symptoms of distress and not only the children of the survivors but the grandchildren were all showing similar behavior patterns. On top of specific behaviors including the need for control and being overprotective, the generations after the Holocaust were exhibiting disorders including but not limited to anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

This was also seen in the Native American and Indigenous populations in Canada following the Indian Removal Act in the 1800s and the Indian Residential School System from the late 1800s through the early 1990s. Cultural oppression’s goal was to “kill the Indian,” by removing children from their families and housing them in religious systems and essentially–erase who they were. The African American population experienced similar circumstances through slavery and generations of abuse and neglect due to racism.

Current research has dug further into trauma and shows that generational trauma also includes toxic stress along with negative parenting strategies. These negative behaviors and disorders have a rippling effect in the family line through epigenetics. Toxic stress is the strong, frequent, and prolonged hardship present in someone’s life. This can include family violence, substance use, abuse, poverty, neglect, and more. This type of chronic stress has a negative impact on developing brains due to fear-inducing hormones on a continuous basis. Epigenetics is how certain lifestyle factors can change the way genes are “expressed,” and these can include diet, stress, and exercise. Physical health, mental health, and general well-being are effected through epigenetics.

Trauma indicators may include physical, mental, and behavioral characteristics. Some of these include emotional upset, rapid heartbeat and panic attacks, depression symptoms, self-regulation difficulties, problems with forming attachments, regression or a loss of previously acquired skills, attention and academic challenges, sleeping difficulties, and aches and pains. With these symptoms, trauma is commonly seen as ADHD, autism, bipolar, or similar disorders.

Intergenerational trauma exists but so does intergenerational healing. Families can break the cycles in their family by reaching out and making motivated changes not only for themselves as individuals but for their children, grandchildren, and every one following. Change is scary for anyone! Families UPward uses evidenced-based knowledge, an open heart, and understanding to help families begin finding those undesirable behavioral loops they are seeing on a daily basis. Behavioral loops are patterns that may make someone say, “Wow, that was something my mother did and I never wanted to do,” or, “I can’t believe I just did that again.” There is hope and working together, our community can re-circuit trauma pathways in adults, parents, and most importantly, our children.

Families UPward works with the whole family with children up to the age of eight, or third grade, which include their siblings. The individual family guides services depending on the need through goal setting and intentional steps. With a Family Support Case Manager and a Clinical Social Worker on board, services may include employment assistance, outreach, therapy, and most importantly, support. For more information, please contact Kristine Maki via e-mail: kristine@upkids.com.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” -Brené Brown, from The Gifts of Imperfection.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today