Your Past, Your Parenting
Does the stress you experienced as a child affect your parenting? It certainly can, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.
More than 20 years of studies found that early stressors — known as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences — are linked to challenges later in life. Those challenges include higher risk for issues including depression, struggles with alcohol and other substances, experiencing violence and having difficulty with trusting relationships later — all of which can impact parenting. People who were stressed at an early age are also more likely to develop a wide range of physical illnesses as adults.
ACEs are traumatic — and common, with more than 60% of adults surveyed reporting one or more stressful experiences as young children. ACEs include experiencing or witnessing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and/or neglect; having a family member who is depressed or addicted to alcohol or other substances; and losing a parent to separation, divorce, or another reason.
Understanding your own past can help you become more conscious about parenting. According to a recent ZERO TO THREE National Parent Survey, 90% of parents report that the way they were raised influences their own parenting. And about half say that they are more positive and present with their own children, using less harsh discipline.
How do you want your child’s experiences to be different from your own? While ACEs can impact generations, parents who once experienced ACEs can change their own response to stress through self-care. Despite the past, you can become healthier and less stressed through exercising, eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, having positive relationships with others, getting support and help when needed, and parenting the way you always wanted to.
Talking with someone. Experiencing ACEs as a child makes the difficult job of parenting even more stressful. And it can feel isolating: About half of parents say they don’t get the support they need when they feel stressed, according to the ZERO TO THREE survey. But counseling can help. If you had a tough time as a child, speaking to a professional to process your experiences is a big step in feeling less stressed — and becoming a great parent.
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