Childhood Lessons: How Much Do They Impact Adult Life?

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Learning From Lessons Of The Past

BY LY HART-SMITH

Childhood is an important time – it’s where we learn many lessons about our place in the world –including how to behave, what to expect from other people, and what to expect of life in general. Children quickly learn what to do to avoid criticism and how to elicit praise and attention in their experiences with family, at school, and with other significant adults and children in their lives. A child with a violent parent for example, may learn that keeping quiet, agreeing, and avoiding confrontation is important. A child who is given positive attention only when they achieve may learn that they must always strive to succeed in order to be valued. And a child who is protected from engaging in activities that might trigger negative emotions may learn that the world is a dangerous place and that any activities that involve risk must be avoided.

Childhood lessons stay with us through life

The lessons we learn in childhood almost always make sense when we consider the environment in which they were learnt. But problems can arise when we continue to see these lessons as unquestionably true in our adult lives when our environment is different, and where these same lessons may no longer be relevant or helpful.

In fact, lessons from our childhood can, without us even being aware, become significant obstacles in our adult life. Being quiet, agreeable, and avoiding confrontation might be an effective means of coping with a violent parent, but as an adult it may result in you not being able to deal with conflict, and missing out on getting what you want. Likewise, putting all your resources into continually striving to succeed may mean you’re not able to enjoy your achievements, and avoiding taking risks may contribute to significant anxiety and missing out on potentially rewarding experiences.

We’re all shaped by our experiences, but identifying patterns of behaviour that were helpful in childhood, but which no longer serve us can be an important lesson for our adult lives. Because lessons learnt in childhood often have a powerful hold on us, developing behaviours and beliefs that are appropriate for our current circumstances can take time, repeated practice, and support, but it can also help us to live happier more fulfilling lives.

Ly is a genuine and compassionate psychologist who is dedicated to providing adults and adolescents with a supportive, safe, and structured environment in which to make sense of their difficulties and take charge of their lives. She is committed to tailoring evidence-based treatments to each individual, and enjoys working collaboratively to help clients develop skills and self-knowledge to bring about meaningful and lasting change.


 

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