Parents & early child development
May is the month that draws our focus to parents as well as children – first with Mother’s Day, and then National Child Protection Week at the end of the month.
We therefore thought it fitting to explore the role that mothers and fathers play in their children’s development. More specifically, we will be taking a closer look at the impact parents have on the mental well-being of their children. This influence comes from both the mother and father as a parental unit, but also as individuals.
Now we all know about the significance in the mother-child relationship. It’s a unique bond based on nurturing. And the mother’s personality – not genetics – is actually a good indicator of potential future mental health problems in their children. When a mother is angry, detached, and impulsive, her child is twice as likely to develop depression later in life.
At the same time, these same personality traits in fathers pose no risk to the mental health of their children. Why? Because a father’s influence in a child’s life is rooted in involvement and not really personality type. In fact, fathers who take an active role in the care and upbringing of their children put in place positive elements that have lasting effects through to adulthood.
The significance of influence
A mother’s role is critical when it comes to the physical and psychological development of her children. When children experience high levels of parental support in their early years, they grow up to have high self-esteem, a sense of control over their lives, and positive interpersonal relationships. But it doesn’t end there… Parental support is also known to decrease the likelihood of chronic health issues – like arthritis and hypertension – even into old age.
So where do we begin, as mothers, to be a positive influence on our children’s mindset? For starters, begin by taking care of your own mental health. It will create a healthy environment for your child to learn and grow. You should also build their self-esteem and foster a relationship of trust. In this way, they will know they always have a safe space with you.
On the other hand we have the father’s role, which has been proven to impact cognitive development in their children. Babies as young as 5 months old score higher in assessments of cognitive development when they have an involved father. What’s really interesting to note, is that this influence can be seen at every stage of the child’s development. This displays as higher cognitive function in babies, better problem-solving skills in toddlers, and higher IQs in older children.
Achieving Mental Wellness
Mothers can have a positive influence on their children’s mental health in a few ways. Firstly, develop empathy and consideration by being attentive to your child’s needs. Seeing the way you deal with them will teach them how to treat others. Then we come to what is likely the two most important things your child will learn from you – trust and emotional security. When you’re consistently honest with them, they will model your behaviour. And reminding them all the time of your love and support will help them feel secure in their relationship with you.
When it comes to dealing with everyday stresses, displaying personal control, and high levels of problem-solving, it’s the father’s turn to step in. When a bond is established early on, and fathers are consistently involved in play and care giving, a child’s emotional and social development is positively influenced. This translates to young children who are good at problem-solving, have more personal control, and are able to deal with frustration and everyday stress in healthy ways.
And it all begins with that bond – pay close attention, respond with compassion, physical closeness, and consistent engagement.
Ultimately, as parents we have to model the kind of behaviour we want to see in our children. This usually begins by doing the work on ourselves, where necessary, and then committing to follow through with kindness and love. See more ZwavelStream Clinic articles, here.