The impact of childhood on parenting

Preparing for parenting begins long before the birth of the child, or even the pregnancy. Life experiences prepare us for the task. Parenting is strongly influenced by one’s own childhood, youth and adulthood experiences, as well as one’s thoughts, expectations and objectives with respect to parenting. Naturally also the ideas and expectations of others, e.g. those of relatives, as well as society’s values, have an impact on one’s parenting style.

An important aspect to remember is that parenting is also influenced by various other factors from both of the parents. Parenting should, thus, not be considered simply as the consequence or result of a single factor, not even a parent’s childhood. The impact of childhood on adulthood and parenting should, nonetheless, be acknowledged.

The manner and style in which the parent bonds with the child are often based on the parent’s own childhood experiences. The parent’s early, implicit memories may strongly affect the development of early interaction and the attachment relationship with his or her child. Children are equipped with an innate tendency to attach to their caregiver. Thus, for want of a better solution, children become attached to neglectful, distant and even hostile parents. In studies, early attachment relationships have been known to be passed down from parents to children during, at least, three generations. This way, the manner that parents behave in the company of their children is influenced by the ways in which their own parents interacted with their parents. In other words, one’s parenting also includes traces of one’s parents’ childhood.

One of the central tasks of being a parent is to give children a safe place to process the feelings of insecurity and tell them that it is possible to cope with disappointments and uncertainty. The lack of security experienced in childhood may hinder the ability to express comfort and compassion, which convey sense of security, towards another person. It is, however, possible to disentangle oneself from the adverse parenting styles familiar from one’s childhood and consciously start to behave in a different manner.

The process of change begins in becoming conscious of the effect of the past on the present. Even those who have experienced a difficult childhood can break the cross-generational cycle and raise their children in a different manner. Parenting is never a completely problem-free task, and all parents have to face feelings of inadequacy and guilt from time to time. You have not failed as a parent when these feelings arise. A comforting fact is that one does not need to be a perfect mother or father, but everyone can be a good enough parent for their child.

Help and support for parenting are available. If seeking help feels challenging, remember that your daily life forms your child’s childhood! Seeking help and support shows great strength because, by doing so, you can offer your child the best possible childhood and yourself a better, more enjoyable parenting experience.