Psychology + Family = A Thing

Hey folks! We’re plowing through Psychology week here on ParentalGrit with a second entry on the importance of psychology in family life.  If you missed it yesterday, please check out the first part HERE. Savannah runs the gloriously helpful Millennial Mrs. & Mom (links below), where there is all sorts of fantastic content covering parenting and relationships!  Here is PART TWO of Savannah’s article…

The Importance of Psychology in Family Life

Part 1

Monkey See Monkey Do

Children repeat what they see. That is called Modeling Behavior in the psychology field. This is why I have stated that knowing your past and your childhood is essential for evaluating yourself and your own patterns.

Often times when a child is in an unstable environment (whether a parent is an alcoholic, neglectful, abusive, or an addict in general), either that child will vow to never become their parents (and are successful due to their own genetic & characteristic predispositions) or they end up repeating the patterns they grew up with and essentially become the unstable parent they witnessed growing up and falling into the same patterns (again, due to genetic or characteristic predispositions).

Fun fact: Genes can be essentially “turned on” or “turned off” by your environment (hence why I keep saying environment is important!). For example, if anyone knows the neuroscientist James Fallon, you will know he is a psychopath. Before you get scared, he is a non-violent psychopath. I wrote an extensive research paper on why some psychopaths end up being violent versus non-violent, and to make a long story short, James Fallon ended up in a very loving home. His parents wanted a child so bad and it took so many years for them to have him that by the time he arrived he was loved by every family member and supported. He has the genes of a psychopath, but his environment enabled the violent gene to stay turned off.

Think about your own life and the things you witnessed growing up. This goes back to thinking about your family of origin and the patterns you saw your parents in. For instance, if your father was an alcoholic that beat your mother and you, then you might go into the opposite direction and never have a drink in your life and never lay a hand on another, or you may end up an alcoholic yourself and find that violence is the way you have learned to solve issues because of what you saw growing up.

Let’s Talk About Feelings

Emotions are so important to acknowledge. Sadly, given our societal gender stereotypes, often times, parents fall into the trap of making their daughter express their emotions, engage in play with Barbie’s, where as they tell their son to “suck it up” and play with trucks. In my Child Development class, we addressed the gender stereotypes and that one of the reasons men may struggle with their inner world of emotions is because they were never taught to express and identify their emotions.

Parents, please, please, do talk to your children about emotions. Not just feelings of being afraid, being angry, being sad, and being happy, but the other emotions within those categories.

Happy

  • Pleased
  • Delight
  • Elated
  • Euphoric
  • Excited
  • Energetic
  • Confident
  • Courageous

Sad

  • Despair
  • Somber
  • Gloomy
  • Forlorn
  • Grief
  • Depressed
  • Lonely

Afraid

  • Terrified
  • Alarmed
  • Worried
  • Timid
  • Insecure
  • Hostile

Anger

  • Furious
  • Enraged
  • Irritated
  • Annoyed
  • Irate
  • Offended

These are just some examples of getting into the many different emotions one can feel. Often times men, adult men (and some women), only know they are angry, sad, happy, or frustrated. Emotions are integral to emotional connection. Emotional connection is integral to a successful and happy marriage. If there is no emotional connection and the couple lives in two separate worlds and lives, that is not a happy marriage. Children watch, and children copy.

Empathy and Validation

Children need to be validated and empathized with. Often times, parents are invalidating without even being aware that they are invalidating. When a child comes up and says they feel sick, some parents may say, “It’s not that bad, you can go to school, don’t worry about it.” A more empathetic and validating response would be, “That must feel really bad. Being sick is never fun. Let me take your temperature to make sure you don’t have a fever and let’s see what we can do to help you feel more comfortable.”

Even in adulthood, if we have been around invalidating people growing up, we tend to fall into that trap of, “move on,” “get over it,” “it’s not that bad,” or “you’ll get over it, don’t worry” as a response to another person’s pain and distress.

When in relationships and marriage, empathy and validation are crucial to feeling emotionally safe with your partner. If you are not the most empathetic or validating person, that is something you can easily work on with your partner, especially if that is something they are strong in.

Parents Hidden Influence on Your Marriage

I have talked a lot about your childhood and your parents, and there is a reason for that. It’s because your parents are crucial in romantic relationships. We’ve talked about how they can influence you, and it’s important to be aware of.

For example, my mother is very independent, career oriented, and artsy. My father is very logical, intellectual and intelligent, and responsible. I have found that I myself follow in their footsteps in regard to wanting to focus on my career, valuing intellectuality and intelligence over other characteristics, and I am a highly responsible person that tends to clash with others who are more, “go with the flow” types. I’ve also noticed that the way my parents interacted has impacted the way I interact with my husband. My mother used to leave the room if an argument got too much. I realize I do that in my own marriage because that is what I saw growing up. I’ve noticed that I expect romance from my husband because I saw my father be romantic with my mother (bringing her flowers home, writing her love letters, presents on Valentine’s Day, surprise dates and vacations, etc.).

Think about your own parents and how their behaviors might influence the way you are, act, and expect things to go in life. I’ll bet there are some things you’re going to think, “Crap, I’m my mom” or “crap, I’m my dad.” It’s not a bad thing, especially once it’s in your awareness. Once awareness occurs, improvements can be made, compromises can be agreed upon, and the correct changes can come to fruition.

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Savannah Esposito is the CEO and founder of Millennial Mrs. and Mom and writes about parenting, relationships and marriage, with a psychological twist to help teach her readers about ways to be aware and improve their lives. If you want a free relationship workbook, you can get that here.

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