Transitions are always hard, whether it be from child to teen or teen to adult. Being a parent is seen as a duty that every individual must fulfil in their lifetime, so the transition from adult to parent is as inevitable as any other phase for almost all people. The problem arises when this is done rather mechanically, as mentioned earlier, like a duty that has to be done. Individuals who don’t get the chance to retrospect on their past experiences and unresolved trauma often end up moving on to parenthood confused, carrying their baggage with them, passing it on to their kids through their parenting behaviour.
Thus, trauma becomes hereditary, not by genes but by the actions of parents seen and experienced by their children. Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that stress from parents passes on to their children causing behavioural health problems at a very young age.
Trauma can include separation or death of parents, emotional or physical abuse, witnessing violence at home, estrangement from a parent or parents suffering from mental illness. In a society like ours, mental health is yet to receive the attention it needs and the problems related to it are still brushed off as trivial. Children are taught, from a young age, to repress their emotions. As these emotions get bottled up, it creates a lot of problems in later stages of life. Unresolved trauma grows like a chain reaction, with each new experience getting affected by previous ones.
A study published in the Pediatrics journal showed that children of parents who had gone through adverse childhood experiences were most likely to develop behavioural health problems and are prone to mental illness. Their relationship with their parent becomes either toxic or insecure, making them feel less safe, fearful and stressed. “Previous research has looked at childhood trauma as a risk factor for later physical and mental health problems in adulthood, but this is the first research to show that the long-term behavioural health harms of childhood adversity extend across generations from parent to child” as said by Dr Adam Schickedanz, the lead author of the study.
The concern here is that most parents have not had a chance to get to know about mental health and so they don’t realise how their actions affect their children. For all they know, their problems got buried under the work and stress of adulthood so they assumed that they were free and this is life. This leads to them assuming that the stress they experience is a weakness that only they have and don’t realise the implications it has on their children.
This leads to another misconception that most of us have – that we will be nothing like our parents. On the contrary, parents can be taken as a ‘preview’ of how children will be as adults, as they are the people these kids interact with the most and so they tend to learn from them. This mainly applies to those who have had their parents around them and is like how people say they are a mix of their closest friends. If a close friend is able to influence a person’s behaviour, then you can imagine the extent to which a parent can. It’s called the family script, and it determines the actions and even thoughts that are acceptable for an individual.
Knowing what affects you and how is extremely important when it comes to being the support system for another lifeform. The present generation is quite lucky for they have better exposure to topics like mental health, and people are reaching out every day. But the change seen is too little to be considered enough, and many individuals are still unaware of the implications of unresolved trauma.
Clearing up unsolved mental conflicts that had been pushed aside for years is more than beneficial. Not just for raising a child, but having a clear conscience and a peaceful mind is something that will always give you an advantage in everything you do.