Parental Awareness Tools that Reduce Childhood Trauma
Since we are living in a time of extremely high statistical occurrences of childhood anxiety, depression and even suicide (which is happening at even younger ages), we need to look at the causes that are behind these difficult challenges that children, teens and young adults are facing today. Whether it be parental influences, interactions with abusive outsiders, school bullying, or something else, mental illnesses are growing at a rampant rate.
When mental illness is not alleviated, it can create C-PTSD (compound or complex PTSD), so it’s critical to reverse it early. What sometimes keeps the underlying factors of mental illness from accurately being addressed is that parents may not see the feelings of anxiety or depression as transient emotions that need to be processed, but instead create fixed labels. A child shouldn’t be labeled as “anxious child so-and-so” or “depressed teen so-and-so” but instead one should look behind the symptom at why they are feeling this way. You wouldn’t label a child a physical state such as “child with a fever and flu disorder”; you would help them heal from having a fever and flu. How ludicrous to call children the symptom of a passing disease they are suffering from instead of finding ways to remove it. Anxiety and depression are symptoms of outside stress. Fever, headaches, coughing are symptoms of outside bacteria and viruses.
Although there are many factors that contribute to child, teen and young adult mental health, very few people, according to the APA (American Psychological Association), are born with mental illnesses. Epigenetic inter-generational trauma is sometimes passed down, but even that can be reversed if the child has a healthy environment. Most mental illnesses are formed by experiences and interactions the child has with others. The important thing is that the more aware a parent is, the better chance a child has of not incurring signs of mental illness. Parental self-awareness in itself creates the healthy trajectory the child needs to avoid mental illnesses.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, showcases the minimum requirements for creating a healthy functioning adult. His work depicts the prioritization of human resources utilized in parenting and teaching children, from the importance of sheltering a child to their self-actualization. In addition, psychologists have found that executive function isn’t often realized until the age of 25, so parenting with awareness through the young adult years is critical for their healthy development.
As we know from the studies of children who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), a child can develop mental illness and subsequent trauma when the adult who is overseeing them fails to create safety, hasn’t created secure attachment with the child, isn’t co-regulating with them to process emotions, and a myriad of other negative parental traits. If a parent is wanting to grow a human being into adulthood, they will need to have awareness, by examining themselves, their motives and their behaviors so their children avoid developing mental illness. The charts below are helpful.
The 5 Parental Tenants for Pediatric Growth
- See and hear your child by being present and actively listening.
- Give your child emotional and physical safety.
- Build trust between you and your child by not exhibiting any Parental Trauma Factors. (see below)
- Allow your child their autonomy.
- Teach your child curiosity and life skills.
This chart is useful in identifying hidden behaviors in adults that may be hindering the child’s mental health:
Parental Trauma Factors (PTF’s)
- Not able to see (being present for) your child.
- Not listening actively to your child.
- Not building trust.
- Dismissing the thoughts of a child as silly.
- Lacking physical or emotional attachment.
- Childhood emotional neglect (CEN).
- Codependence or enmeshment.
- Authoritarian power dynamic.
- Parent living out their desires through a child instead of finding out the child’s personality.
- Not building their autonomy.
- Undermining a child.
- Belittling or mocking a child.
- Creating food wars by controlling instead of offering choices.
- Trying to shock a child with inappropriate content.
- Permissive parenting
- Deflecting blame onto a child for issues you created.
- Having a detached parenting style.
- Escaping into addictions such as alcoholism and not available for the child.
- Not participating in the child’s school meetings and events.
- Not creating physical or emotional safety for your child.
- Not addressing your own mental illnesses and being in active recovery.
The more a parent exhibits the 5 PTFPG’s and the less a parent exhibits PTF’s, the greater chance that the child has of not developing mental illnesses. All parents have blindsides and may have learned certain patterns from their family of origin, yet these behaviors can be corrected.
Remember that mental illness, like physical illness, is caused by an outside incident. It is not made up inside the person. It’s illogical and dehumanizing to label a child a mental illness without examining parental or other outside influences that are causing anxiety, depression or any co-occurring disorder. More awareness in examining the self in parenting will reduce these symptoms.
Bogdanos, M. (2020). Parental Awareness Tools that Reduce Childhood Trauma. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/parental-awareness-tools-that-reduce-childhood-trauma/