First 2000 Days for Mom and Baby Nature versus Nurture part II
March 11, 2019
Ideally, we would like to shelter our mother-child dyad from all significant stressors during pregnancy and childhood until they are significantly older and their genes are well established and running full steam ahead. Clearly this is polyannish as life happens to us and often not by choice. That being said, we have the ability to make choices and to learn how to perceive events in a positive light.
How can we see any event in a positive light? How do we choose this route?
Are we born seeing the glass half empty or half full? I think not.
As with everything in life it first starts with education and with a choice to want to see the positive in any situation. Parents can choose to do this daily as they live the life of happiness where possible during stress. What this does to a child is project strength in the storm, positivity, and love of life regardless of situational events. This is the essence of Christian and Stoic philosophy.
Imagine a world where parents tell their children to expect hardship, but to see it as a learning and positive experience while shunning the victim mentality.
"I see you my child and I know that you are hurting. Come here and let me hug you. We can do anything together. Does that feel better? Now what did you learn from this event? How can we be better prepared next time? How can we always see the best in everyone and every situation?"
"Wow, that must hurt. That shouldn't have happened to you. That is not fair. I am so sorry. You did not deserve that. I hope that you never have to have that happen again. There is nothing you can do but deal with it. "
Framing the context of the situation is key to success in parenting. The latter sets the child up as the victim and the stressed. The former says to the child we can get through anything together and that you are strong.
I have no proof to support this claim, however, I hypothesize that the first parenting style will lead to epigenetic events on the stress receptors that positively enhances future stress responses.
Marcus Aurelius is attributed to saying that everything we hear is opinion, not a fact and everything we see is perspective, not the truth. This is the essence of contextualizing any scenario for your child. Our perceptions rule our mind and we must be careful to not overindulge in sadness and victimization of self based on an experience lest we teach our children to fear and be victims of the future.
What to do:
1) Be prepared to handle stress with kindness towards self and others. If you had a tough childhood and are stressed more often than not, consider psychological counseling to prepare you to have and raise a child in a less or ideally unstressed state
2) Expect stress to pop up at any time with an open mind for resolution where possible
3) Find ways and tools to ground yourself and your child when stress arises. Consider meditation, prayer, breath work, yoga and many other relaxing modalities to perform together. These activities are being studied in the context of the epigenome and telomere lengthening with preliminary results looking very positive. There is also a significant body of literature related to meditation and immune function that shows beneficial effects on immune cell function. Look at the emerging research of Dr. Leonard Calabrese at the Cleveland Clinic. Link
5) Talk with your children often about their perception of life and events. They have complete control over their perception of any event at any time and in any place. We rule our mind if we learn to think and live that way. Be mindful in general
6) Parent as if your child can overcome anything. Teach them to see every scenario for what it is, a learning experience. Neither good nor bad, just growth!
7) Keep your marriage strong by continuing date nights and happy relationship nourishing times together. A strong union is highly associated with healthier children and longer telomeres. (Blackburn 2017)
The Telomere Effect - Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel