If you're a parent, you know talking to your kids isn't always easy, and when it comes to those "tough" talks it can be especially hard.
But a new study out of Notre Dame finds that moms who have been traumatized as children will avoid having emotional talks that young children need.
“You know young people really depend on their parents to teach them about feelings and how to deal with those feelings,” says Kristin Valentino, Ph.D., the asst. professor of psychology at Notre Dame.
When mom and dad struggle with their own traumatic past, that can leave children missing out.
Kristin Valentino, a Notre Dame assistant professor in psychology, is also a mother who knows how important it is for moms to interact with their kids.
“We know that mom's ability to do that in a way that's elaborative, detailed and supportive of children's feelings is really important for child developmental outcomes,” says Kristin.
So this particular study was focused on preschool aged children of mostly single moms. They looked at what makes moms good, or not so good, at having emotional discussions with their children.
“What we found was that moms who having trauma histories, particularly those who are experiences some trauma avoidance symptoms, currently had a difficult time involving their child in these emotional discussions,” explains Kristin.
Because moms don't want to relive a traumatic event they will avoid emotional conversations their children need for their own comfort.
And that has a negative effect on the cognitive and emotional development of a child. Knowing that, Valentino says the study shows how important it is that moms to get the help they need.
“Their own distress is important and it would be great for both herself and her child's development to really take the time to address those issues if they are bothering her now,” says Kristin.
Individual therapy is recommended and Valentino says there is help for people of all incomes, even those on Medicaid.
“So if you're struggling with your own emotions, even if you're not intending to do so, it can affect your ability to help your child cope with their feelings,” says Kristin. “It sets up children for having more difficulty coping with their feelings in the future.”
A future a parent can help shape once they're able to move past their own trauma, teaching their children coping skills that will last a lifetime.
The Notre Dame study involved 108 moms and their children from South Bend. They were from diverse backgrounds, but in the low income bracket. The goal is to help train moms to better interact with their children.
For more information visit:
Notre Dame Study on Traumatized moms
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