At this time of year, we celebrate within 1 month of each other the roles of two family members pivotal to our entire society’s functioning; mom and dad. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days devoted to celebrating how these individuals in our lives influence us and support us. Unfortunately, as is the case with any family relationship, having such a myopic view of how mothers and fathers influence us eliminates all of the other types of feelings we may hold on holidays such as these. Influences on how we function as children and as adults vary dramatically from both genetic and environmental triggers, but one thing is for certain – we all owe a lot to who we are based on our parents.
There continues to be more and more research on how this is exactly so. This page shows how influential fathers can be, even long before they actually interact with their children. It describes how stressors affecting Dad dating back to his own adolescence and adulthood can influence stress reaction from his children during the process of conception. It made me consider something pretty amazing – we can carry the genetic keys to managing stress from our entire ancestry. As these influences are passed down from one generation to the next, it certainly carries with it how transgenerational stress can be apparent in mental health of each generation. But moreso, I wondered if the positive traits are passed down as well. If your father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on were able to build healthy modalities of managing stress in their lives, does that give you a leg up on others when faced with the same thing? If that’s the case, our future generations have a tremendous advantage.
The role of therapy in our culture is very different from how it was perceived only a generation ago. Mental health has long been a taboo topic, and for a great portion of human history those with mental health issues used to be removed from society and tortured in various ways, depending on the culture. However, today it is viewed in a different lens, where speaking to someone about developing healthy ways of coping with stress does not carry with it the same stigma it once did. And so, our roles as parents today can influence the future in many more ways given this article. We can help to shape the future with positive ways of managing all types of stressors.
I sincerely doubt that one celebratory days such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, there can be a better way of honoring and respecting all of the generations which preceded us by taking all of their genetic contributions and using the tools which today’s world offers to us to expand and improve upon them. So thank you, mothers and fathers of decades and centuries gone by, mothers and fathers of today, and the mothers and fathers of tomorrow. You help to shape our world in more ways than you know, and deserve every bit of celebratory acknowledgment we can muster.