How Exactly Does Our Childhood Shape Us?

You might be thinking “I had a really great childhood. Nothing really terrible happened to me.” Most of us can relate to this experience, while some of us faced big stressors from a very young age. What most of us don’t realize is how impactful our childhood experiences are on who we are as a human, how we view the world, and how we relate to others. It doesn’t matter whether we had “negative” experiences growing up, or if our parents stayed married our whole life, or if we went through a traumatic event. Our childhood impacts us in many ways that most of us aren’t aware of yet.

We learn how to have relationships.

At a very early age, we learn how to trust others, get our needs met, and how to attach ourselves to parental figures. The way we attach with our caregivers usually dictates how we will attach with future partners, friends, and other people in our lives. We look to the adults and peers in our life to learn how to interact with each other. This helps us decide what’s “normal” and what isn’t. During childhood we learn how to communicate, express our feelings, set boundaries (or not), and ask for help. If any of those weren’t modeled for us, or were modeled in an unhealthy way, we do our best to figure things out on our own.

We learn what to do (or not do) with our emotions.

We feel intensely growing up because we haven’t quite figured out what emotions are and how to regulate them. If our parents acknowledge, validate, create a safe space, and talk about our feelings with us we are more likely to do this as an adult. We’ll gain an understanding of what emotions are, how to feel them, and how to move through them. On the other hand, if one or both of our caregivers struggled to regulate their emotions, we often learn to do the same thing. Sometimes one or both of our caregivers struggle with loss, depression, anxiety, etc. and may leave us feeling responsible for their emotions (i.e. guilt & shame). This might look like pushing your feelings or needs aside, in order to attend to your parent. What we see others do with their emotions during childhood is often our go-to as an adult.

So what do I do now?

There are many, if not most, of us that grew up in a home where expressing emotion, communicating, and having relationships were not perfectly modeled for us. Our parents or caregivers were doing the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. We forget that our parents or caregivers were once young children too, trying to learn the exact same things we are. Although you may struggle with one or some of these things, you can unlearn old habits and gain new ones to have healthier and more fulfilling relationships… with ourselves and others.

If you’re interested in learning new ways and unlearning the old, we’re here to help. As the leading counseling and therapy office in Tampa, we specialize in creating healthier patterns to live a more authentic peaceful life. Schedule your free phone consultation now to see how we can help.

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