Given that as many as one in five children might be in need of therapy to develop healthily, there are some basics every parent should know. Child psychology is complicated and while children are flexible and bounce back easily, some things can impact them more than others. It’s hard to imagine what experiences stick and which ones are forgettable.
Here are five things that every parent needs to know.
1. Stress Hits Everyone
While you might not think that your kids see and feel the things that the adults around them do and say, stress hits everyone. When you’re a stressed-out adult, you don’t have the kind of patience and attention for children that they need to thrive. When raised in a stressful environment, the stress impacting the family or the caregiving environment impacts them.
Early childhood experiences or disruptions to the environment cause impacts later on in the brain. If children are forced into sudden or surprise “fight or flight” mode early on in life, they’ll struggle to feel settled. They might approach every new situation as something that they need to be defensive against, impairing their social skills and their ability to be happy.
The biological changes that happen following disruptions in the brain can impact kids for their entire lives. These experiences impact organ systems simultaneously. They increase the risk of impairments in learning but also the way they behave. When under constant stress, where they don’t want to make permanent memories, there’s no way that it’ll be easy for kids to inscribe important information.
2. It’s Nature and Nurture
Development is a process that’s interactive. There’s no definitive way of determining how anyone will develop based on genetic factors. Environment, especially the environment they grow in during those first couple of years, will determine how kids express themselves.
The elements that exist genetically can be easily counteracted or encouraged based on those first seminal years of upbringing. The genetic elements that that influence development and “chemical imbalances” can either be encouraged or discouraged based on the environment.
Children that are born with a strong capacity to learn need to be encouraged as much as children without that capacity. Those who aren’t encouraged are more likely to fail, and with genetics working against them, they’ll suffer greatly. But during the first year of life, the experiences they get and the encouragement they get change the way they develop life skills.
3. Children Need a Village
While the connection that children make to their parents is absolutely vital, kids need further attachments. They need to connect with people outside their family, with responsive caregivers, and even other kids to grow up with a balanced relationship with others.
The closer their relationship is with multiple available and nurturing adults, the better they’ll be at trusting others. While some parents fear that it could impact the child’s relationships with their parents, it turns out that multiple caregivers are healthy. They develop social and emotional skills based on how much interaction they have with other adults.
While they do need some stability and a steady environment, having multiple caregivers means that they’ll work well with changes. Beware of frequent disruptions in the caregiving environment that they’re in. They need high-quality interactions with low staff turnover so that they have secure expectations about what kind of attention they’ll receive.
When kids know their needs will be met, they’ll trust the people around them more.
4. Violence is Not a Virus
While there’s some belief that violence and adversity that children face at a young age impacts them forever, it’s not the way that many people think. Children who see violence aren’t necessarily going to turn out to be violent adults. While they may incur trauma along the way, they may be more empathetic and less prone to stress disorders than we previously thought.
Children who have negative experiences are certainly at greater risk for impacts on their brain development. They may even have a problem with aggression as young adults but that doesn’t mean they’re doomed for a dark path.
If the response to those violent environments and negative stimulants is a nurturing relationship with supportive caregivers, problems can be avoided. As soon as possible, children should be shown positive examples of healthy relationships and interactions to avoid a permanent impact on them.
5. Dangerous Situations Require Treatment
While dangerous situations and negative environments can’t be prevented in all cases, removing children from them needs to the top priority. However, the removal of a child from a bad environment won’t reverse the negative impacts. It only stops the exacerbation of those problems.
You need to then take serious efforts to help treat the child after they’re removed from a bad situation. Any child suffering any kind fo serious neglect needs responsive caregiving. While they can bounce back, it’s challenging for them to do so without attentive care.
Children are sensitive to their feelings of safety and security. Once that’s been violated, the impacts last for a lifetime. They need a certain level of predictability and therapeutic and supportive care to facilitate their recovery.
When children feel in control, they’re more willing to open up and to develop at their maximum potential. When they feel threatened, they’re going to be less open and less willing to take the risks that help them to develop into empowered adults.
If you’re asking “can I find a child psychologist near me“, there are likely many to help out.
Child Psychology is Complicated
When trying to understand child psychology, it’s best to imagine that just about everything is going to influence your child. The more care you take to help them express themselves openly and experience positive interactions with may people, the better off you’ll be.
To give your child more chances for self-expression, check out our site for more information on how to get them started in performing.