As many children do not hold memories before 2-3 years old and even then, memory is often pretty vague, parents tend to be more lenient about what they say in front of their child before that time period or even until primary school age. Much like how a toddler or young person develops preferences before the age of ‘stored memory’, children are also taking in events/feelings that they may not have a ‘memory’ of.
There are two primary types of memory: implicit and explicit memory. Explicit memories are when we are able to recall information such as past experiences and facts, what we generally think of as ‘memories’. Implicit memories are unconscious or automatic memories. This is why we remember how to ride a bike, where to find items in your home, singing a familiar song, but it is also where we develop our sense of self and our overall outlook on the world. “Early memories often align with individuals’ core values, fears, hopes, and dreams”.
So, what does this mean for our children? They might not remember the details of when they fell off a bike and scraped their knees, but they will internalize how caregivers responded in those moments. Did the parent hug them, gently clean the wound, and tell them they are brave, or did the parent get frustrated and yell at the child for not wearing knee pads? These two responses to the same incident can be taken in by the child very differently. A child who feels emotionally safe bringing accidents to their parents, feeling that their emotions are valid when hurt, will likely instill the belief that they can seek help when needed and that they are loved and supported. On the contrary, a child who feels dismissed or scolded when accidents happen tends to internalize that it is more important to be ‘perfect’ and that it is not safe to talk about their feelings or hurts.
Another example is if a child overhears their parent talking to a friend of family member about the stress of the week or about the child’s shortfalls, the child might take that information in, and in turn may feel less safe emotionally when sharing their concerns, bad grades, or failures with a parent – even without remembering why – and may create long-lasting effects. However, if parents are making an effort to praise their child’s successes and spend positive one-on-one time with the child, it often instills that they are important and builds self-worth.
If you find that your child could benefit from professional support in building a strong foundation of emotional well-being, consider reaching out to Summit Counseling Center. Our experienced team is here to provide the guidance and tools needed for healthy emotional development. Your child’s well-being is our priority – schedule an appointment today!