Parenting can be one of the most challenging jobs anyone will ever face on this planet. It comes with little, if any, training, and many times we only have poor examples to follow. I am not saying anyone’s parents were not good parents. That is far from my place to say. Just like you, our parents did the best with what they had.
There are steps that we can take as parents to help our understanding of our children and help to give them better chances of success. This can be challenging and can require a change in mindset, willingness to let go of old beliefs, and putting new habits into place.
Creating a healthy environment
While our genetics play a large role in how we develop as children, the environment plays just as significant of a role. Psychology calls this genetic vs. environment role Nature vs. Nurture. Here is some information to consider in your child’s environment.
The developing brain:
In early childhood the brain is developing at a very fast pace. If you have had a toddler, you can remember that steady pace at which most healthy children seem to learn new tasks and words. During this time, the brain is also working on mechanisms to start controlling emotion.
The limbic system is a collection of three parts of the brain: the Amygdala, Hippocampus, and hypothalamus. The limbic system works in the regulation and expression of emotions.
When children become exposed to chronic stress, the hypothalamus produces excessive amount of stress hormones. These same hormones cause the fight or flight feelings when we are scared or stressed. In a child’s brain that is exposed to too much stress hormone, part of the hippocampus becomes destroyed, causing difficulty with emotional regulation as they go through life. (1)
A Second Look:
I encourage you to look at the environment that is surrounding your child. Often the same environment is surrounding you. Yes, many factors are often out of our control. However, there are also many factors that we can control.
Take a little time to write down a list of areas you can see in the immediate life of you and your child that you recognize as causing stress. Do not be judgmental of yourself if you find you are part of the stressors or for letting stressors happen. This is simply a chance to gain some perspective, and to make new choices with your new understanding.
Make a second list with things you would like to have to replace the stressors. Write down actions steps to take in eliminating the stressor, and then the actions to promote or create the positive replacement. Keep a copy of the positive replacements you have chosen in a place you can see it often along with the steps you have chosen.
If the steps you have chosen to take in promoting the positive changes don’t seem to be working for you, that is OK. Don’t give up. Reassess your goal and action steps. Make changes to the steps to make them work for you.
If you recognize there are changes to make and you are struggling with them, do not be afraid to ask for help. When we find ourselves in the middle of overwhelming and stressful situations, it can be very hard to recognize a way out. Having someone on your side to help you see new perspectives and to act as an accountability partner for making changes can be invaluable. People that can be helpful in those times can include, but are definitely not limited to, a councilor, therapist, clergy or pastor, or a personal or Life Coach.
(1). Berger, K. S. The Developing Person Through the Life Span. Worth Publishers, 2011.