For many men and women, the true journey of life starts from the minute our children are born. The experiences we endure before the first time we hold our children are important, sure, but once we’ve taken on the role as a parent, there’s no greater feeling.
While we greatly anticipate the days that our children are born, or have already began the journey along the road of parenthood, we may ask ourselves: how can I ensure that I am the best parent I can possibly be?
Well, as it turns out, there’re some pretty deeply rooted psychological means to finding out what type of parent we will become. As Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., reports in an article for Psychology Today, “Findings from lead attachment researcher Dr. Mary Main and her colleagues have found that the biggest predictor of how we will be as parents isn’t what actually happened to us as children but, rather, how much we’ve made sense of and felt the full pain of those experiences from our past. In fact, creating a coherent narrative of our childhood matters more than the socioeconomic status, trauma, environment and culture of our family we grew up in. ”
In other words, the biggest indicator of what type of parent we eventually become isn’t the number of things that shaped us as individuals, but how we were able to cope with those factors. Therefore, if we want to create an ideal future for our children, first we have to make sense of our own past.
Dr. Main developed the “Adult Attachment Interview,” which helps determine a person’s ability to tell a coherent narrative about his or her early life. What she found is that having the ability to tell a coherent story predicted the attachment style a person’s own child would have to them with a 70 percent accuracy, even before the child was born. When we’re unable to reflect and make sense of our own childhood, we are more likely to experience an insecure attachment pattern with our kids. That is because unresolved traumas and implicit memories have a way of impacting us on an emotional level, triggering us in moments of stress that remind us of feelings or events in our past.
Parents often draw comparisons to their own parents as a point of reference. Often, that leads to the idea of thinking, “Hey, I’ may not be perfect, my kid may not be perfect…but I’ll do a better job raising my kids than my parents did!” But, as Dr. Firestone asserts, “By failing to actually look at what hurt us, we may unconsciously start acting out patterns and dynamics from our childhood that we weren’t even aware had affected us. When we fail to look at these events and their impact on us, we may act out in ways that don’t even feel like us.”
In a nutshell, Mom and Dad, if we are able to make sense of the of the things that shaped us, we will be more capable of raising emotionally stable and sound children. It’s not about the socioeconomic status, culture, good times/bad times, and family we grew up with; it’s about how we made sense of those things and responded to them. If we truly want to be better parents, we have to recognize the importance of coping and proper emotional response.
Want to learn more about Dr. Firestone’s conclusions? Click next to learn about her online course, “Making Sense of Your Life”
Firestone claims that, “The more we’re able to recall and resolve the big and small traumas that shaped us, the better able we are to recognize when we’re triggered and take healthier actions in the moment.”
We can move toward this goal by creating a coherent narrative of our lives, a process I explain along with Dr. Daniel Siegel in our online course, “Making Sense of Your Life.” This process of making sense of our story helps integrate our brains, making implicit memories explicit, so we can choose how to act rather than blindly reacting to old emotions of which we aren’t always aware.
We can be more present for our child rather than being thrown back into our past on an emotional level. We can form healthier attachments and resolve old traumas, big and small.
[H/T] Psychology Today
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