ParentingMenWellbeing

In all of my years in the field of birth to five mental health, I can confidently say that “but I turned out okay” is the most popular justification for continuing on with unhealthy generational practices of parenting. In fact, I even remember saying it myself when I was in my graduate program, and I also remember the look my professor gave me. It was almost as if he just knew I would be coming to a different conclusion with everything I was learning and what I would come to experience in the field of early childhood mental health.

I think the disconnect lies in what we consider to be “turning out okay”. Perhaps we are functioning adults in the sense that we have education, jobs, and relationships, but do those achievements necessarily equate to us being “okay”? There are many people with difficulties related to mental health that hold jobs, get married, have children, and achieve; those achievements are milestones that do not necessarily capture the sometimes rocky path of everyday life that we have to take to get there.

Our society has come to recognise that more people struggle with mental health than previously understood; this is due to our increased understanding and ability to assess for mental health issues (even though we still have a long way to go). Although there are a variety of factors that contribute to mental health disorders, there is an underlying cause and trigger that multiple mental health disorders have in common, which is stress. When we are exposed to unhealthy amounts of stress throughout our lives, and especially in early childhood, our bodies learn to adapt to keep us safe and surviving. Sometimes, these adaptions present as disordered behaviour. Stress is also known to trigger mental health disorders that a person may have a genetic predisposition for, that may have not otherwise been brought out in a more stable and safe environment.

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