Created for the 50th Super Bowl, Toyota has tapped the touchy-feely market by pairing pro football players with their children in a series of commercials about being a father.
Numerous studies show the relationship between early childhood trauma, attachment, abuse, as well as in utero treatment of the unborn fetus and the mental and physical health of adults.
There’s no question that how a child is parented makes an enormous difference in child development.
Debated are the effects of divorce, step-parenting, blended families, and single parenting on children. In my view, the emotional health of the family unit casts more influence on the growing child than what the family looks like.
How a child turns out is affected by biopsychosocial factors:
- Biological each child’s hard wiring and physical health (affected pre- and post-natally);
- Psychological to include attachment, presence of abuse or indulgence, boundaries, rules, roles, exposure to trauma, etc., and;
- Social factors found not only in the child’s experiences with the wider community and culture — religion, education, social environment, access to goods and services, technology — but also to support networks including family, extended family and peers.
More children can turn out well-adjusted and happy when dads (and moms) provide positive parenting — even if they haven’t been parented well, or at all, themselves.
No argument is being made that all children can turn out wonderfully; there is too little control over the multitude and combination of factors that inspire dysfunction. It’s not foregone that those of us who experienced a less-than-healthy family environment will be less-than-healthy ourselves. There’s truth to the saying, “I’m like this because my parents stayed together, so you just never know.”
Worrisome is the unawareness or reluctance many people bring to recognizing and creating a healthier family environment than they themselves had. Parents don’t have to be robotic models of their own parents, though too many are.
Just as bad are parents who ride the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum, thereby encouraging lack of self-discipline and responsibility, materialism, boredom, entitlement, low frustration tolerance, and self-centeredness. And there’s no proof that socioeconomic status predicts a positive parenting or family outcome. Nasty custody battles seem to follow the money.
Summarized by a client who honestly believed that marriage meant there weren’t supposed to be any problems (and was angry and confused when there were) parenting is much the same. Love does mean having to say you’re sorry: a recognition you’ve erred, selecting out learned behaviors from reactive ones to conscious ones, along with changed behavior, are quantifiable and observable equivalents to saying “sorry”.
Despite all the self-help books, hugs, and positive modeling, parenting will never be a walk in the park. But hugs, encouragement, and consistent positive modeling can ensure that moms and dads don’t have to walk in the dark.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in couples work, especially with relationships affected by disability. She and husband David attempt to parent their two children, hooligan kitties Petey and Lucy. Kathe and David present Couples Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs. Read about it and register at www.BeingHeardNow.com.
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