January 9, 2012 § 27 Comments
I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want the best for their children. I’m not referring to wealth or material acquisitions. I’m talking about the instilling of qualities that underlie the development of positive social behaviors from infancy on, such as an adaptable personality, the ability to formulate flexible strategies, and the capacity for resilience. In other words, you want to see your child grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult. How does someone begin to develop parenting strategies?
I suggest that if you are contemplating raising a family, that you begin by reflecting upon
your own childhood experience since it is often predictive of how you will parent your children. “Wait a minute,” you might say, “I would never do such and such to my children,” (referring to distasteful childhood experiences). True, most of us make conscious decisions not to repeat our parent’s hurtful behaviors, yet the truth is, we are the product of our experience. To illustrate, please consider the following questions which are put to you now, as an adult, but know that your answers may be rooted in your early life experience:
1. Is it easy for you to connect to others in a meaningful way?
2. Are you comfortable in social situations or would you prefer to be alone?
3. Do you welcome new experiences or do you tend to stick to familiar situations?
4. Is your response to a stressful challenge organized, chaotic, or numbing?
Researchers in the field of early childhood development have linked behaviors associated with the above questions to experience-dependent patterns of brain organization which offer clues to an individual’s capacity for adaptability, the development of effective strategies, and resilience. Parenting is one of the most important and challenging tasks that an individual can take on. While you can never be completely prepared, the more you understand your own childhood developmental history, the more present you can be as a parent.
If you are a parent, did you find yourself struggling to give your child a different kind of parenting experience then you had received?
January 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
This topic is rather personal for me and has been my chosen topic of research for many years. In some ways, it has been a search for meaning. Having been raised in a very scary environment fraught with intermittent bouts of rage, alcohol, and domestic violence, my sense of safety and security were fleeting at best. I really get it, why my father was so abusive and tormented or why my mother was unable to formulate a plan to protect us. I’ve come to understand that part of my experience as a piece of a puzzle in the all too common multi-generational transmission of interpersonal trauma. What I have struggled with is understanding my enduring response to adverse childhood experience and how it has impacted my sense of self, my beliefs, and my general health and well-being.
Last century, fundamental advances were made in medicine, both in studying the disease process and in developing methods and treatments to overcome disease which have led to the present model of the adult onset of disease and chronic illness. In this model, once you hit 50, all kinds of things start to go wrong in the body.
As a health care practitioner, I find this perspective somewhat limiting since more recent research is now exploring the link between adult health status and early childhood experience. In fact, in 1999, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) invited scientists and researchers specializing in early childhood experience to form the Early Experience, Stress Neurobiology & Prevention Science network. Their task has been to correlate data from animal studies of early life experience with data from human psychosocial research in the study of emotional and stress-related disorders. Their findings suggest that the effects of early life stress are cumulative and far-reaching, giving us insight into the role of early life experience in long-term health. This series will explore this fascinating and relevant topic in more detail so stay tuned!
Have your ever thought of stress as cumulative? Do you think that early childhood experience, positive or negative, can impact adult health?