APRIL 14, 2020

Parents are the ultimate role model for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.

-Bob Keeshan

Children learn a lot from their parents. It is often said that children don’t do what you say; they do what you do and this is quite true. The environment at home greatly affects a child’s mental health and well-being and can be the deciding force of the child’s future. The scalability of the effect of the environment at home on a child’s mental growth might seem insignificant, but their observations of actions and emotions will soon become a part of their personal and mental life as they start to become emotionally and mentally mature and start to understand these emotions and actions…

   Now the main question is – how does the environment at home affect the child? When children are growing, we feel that they are just staring at us randomly or that they don’t understand what we do or say because they are not that mature to learn and understand things yet. But, we are partially right and mostly wrong. Yes, the child is not able to understand, reason and reflect on what the adults do or what the environment around them is like, but children are very keen observers and they observe each and every small action that their parents take or the tone and emotion in their voice and the changes in their environment. They don’t judge or classify these things into good or bad, they just observe. And if they continuously and regularly see this kind of behaviour around them, what gets embedded into their minds as the right behaviour is whatever is happening around. 

   Now, this affects the mental health of children because as they grow up, they go around, see the world and start to reason and they might find that the environment at their home is encouraging and positive, or there is misunderstanding, insecurity and lack of communication in their home environment. If it is encouraging and positive, they feel that their home is the place where everybody acknowledges mistakes, makes improvements and grows and with everyone in support of that. This will eventually give the child a natural sense of supporting others, believing in those who are trustworthy and helping people naturally without hesitation. They will be able to talk to their parents and family members by accepting mistakes and acknowledging them. There will be no communication gap between the child and the family because children will be sure that their parents are there to support them and help them grow. But, if the environment is not very encouraging – where one is scolded and mocked for one’s mistake and the opportunity for growth is not supported – the child will observe all this and naturally feel scared of trying new things and talking about their mistakes because they are insecure and anxious about the result of their discussion with the family, because they will feel that they are not going to be listened to. This lack of communication affects the mental health of the child as they will feel misunderstood when parents or family members make conclusions without listening to them. They will not feel confident to talk or speak to anyone and will be hesitant because they are not given that courage and confidence to speak and discuss about opportunities of growth and improvement. They will certainly feel bad and lonely which will reflect in their actions, speech and facial expressions. This way they will not be able to understand the value of communication and may make the same mistake with the environment in their household during adulthood and affect their children.

   The first 7 years of a child’s life are very important because this is the time in which the child’s mind develops and the child’s ability to learn and observe is very keen and sharp. That is why it is always easier for a child to learn a completely different foreign language quickly than it is for an adult. The child’s mind is still getting wired while the adult’s mind is already wired in a certain way, and the child then has the ability to inculcate the language into his or her mind while it is difficult for adults to unwire and rewire their mind and inculcate the new language. The first 7 years are very important for the inculcation of a good value system. If children see kindness, compassion, love, equality, respect, growth and improvement in this period of their lives, these will be the virtues and feelings they will have which will help them be happy, content and kind in their odyssey of life… But if the child sees anger, discontentment, misunderstanding, communication gap, insecurities, anxiety etc. they will inculcate these ‘virtues’ and live with anxiety. If children or teenagers face social problems or communication problems at school or with their friends, the source is usually at home. The source is in the childhood and in the environment at home.

   This can also be changed because the present situation is also a very integral part in a child’s life. If there were misunderstandings and anxious moments during childhood, but now in their late childhood or teenage the environment is supportive and positive, their life and confidence can turn around. Although they will still have that anxiety they observed early in their life, they will have the choice to choose the part they want to act on. But if they had a positive and encouraging environment first and then the negative environment in their teenage years, they might be negatively affected but they again have the choice to choose the early years as an inspiration for supporting their happiness. 

   But what can one do if their childhood and teenage have been full of anxiety and misunderstanding at home? They have two choices, one is to continue living in that insecurity by blaming it on ones parents or family or any other person, or to acknowledge the observations and experiences one has had through that period and stop blaming and trying out a different approach to life.One of the greatest examples of this change is Oprah Winfrey – she struggled all through her childhood but she did not whine about it all through her life. She acknowledged it and decided to take control of the future and is now among the richest and successful businesswomen in the world. Our childhood does shape our thinking and affect us mentally, but we still have the choice to decide how it affects our future and our present by taking actions that support those feelings or taking actions that are different from those feelings.

   The only way to take control of your mental health is by analysing your emotions from the past and comparing and analysing them with your present emotions. This way you will acknowledge every emotion and you will be able to find out the blockages that were hindering your path to fulfilment and success. Always remember that you have the control of your life and your observations from your childhood, no matter positive and negative, can always serve as the guiding force that will help you visualise the end result and consequences of your actions because you have already seen what happens when one takes a certain action and its end result by observing in your childhood. Some of the greatest inspirations are always inside you. They can be your wonderful childhood experiences that you would want to enjoy or the pain you felt and suffered through that time and making life worth living that pain…