Can adverse childhood experiences actually help with the well being of our children?
According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development, it actually is a predictor of sense of purpose during adulthood.
However, it’s not the only childhood experience that impacts purpose and well-being as an adult. In fact, UC Berkeley identified five experiences that can lead to a more purposeful life.
5 Childhood Experiences that Impact Teenagers Well Being
Adversity can have a major influence on a child’s sense of purpose in life. Though studies have found that adversity can hinder our development of purpose later in life, it also can create a sense of purpose.
Psychologist Patrick Hill explains, ‘“Some individuals may gain greater clarity on their life direction upon reflection on these adverse events.”
In other words, experiencing adversity in childhood can cause them to pursue certain callings later in life, like working with children.
Or it just motivated people to live their lives differently to never experience that type of adversity ever again.
This is certainly true of the 105 celebrities, politicians and historical figures we examined in a post we created about adverse childhood experiences.
A study, also completed by Patrick Hill, found that “Children who had more early conflict with their mothers—based on their own opinions, not their parents’—had a decreased sense of purpose in early adulthood regardless of how stressed and satisfied with life they were.”
That said, this is certainly a situation that parents can impact.
Doing your best to maintain a positive, calm environment for your children (and yourself!) will have a major impact on your child’s sense of well-being, both today and decades from now.
Attachment and Separation
UC Berkley reports, “Students who had a higher sense of purpose tended to have more secure attachments to their parents and fewer problems with the separation-individuation process. In turn, they also had a greater sense of mastery and control—they thought they were the authors of their own future.”
Attachment refers to the bond between child and parent. Interestingly enough, the closer the bond, the more confident and secure the child is on his or her own.
This can be improved by spending time with your child, one-on-one, and participating in the activities that you enjoy doing together. Also make sure that you’re engaging in meaningful conversation with your children regularly and being interested in what’s going on in their lives.
This one is an interesting one and, if you’re like me, unexpected.
However, as the UC Berkley article notes, researchers have “found that more purposeful students tended to have stronger memories of the beauty of nature during early childhood and early adolescence.”
While it’s not yet fully clear why nature impacts purpose and well-being, researchers believe that it’s because purpose goes hand-in-hand with humility. And when you’re surrounded by the beauty of nature, you often feel a diminished sense of self. In other words, you’re humbled by the beauty of the landscape you’re in.
Exposure to Diverse Activities
Adults who find a noble purpose in life often discovered that purpose by being exposed to it at a young age. Volunteering as a child is a good example of this.
However, any diverse activity can shape the impact of their future and discovering purpose in life.
As the article explains, “Young children may not immediately recognize that a certain activity is very important to them. Instead, their commitment may grow gradually over the course of participating in the activity, as they discover their strengths and the ways they can contribute to the world.”
Conclusion: How Common Childhood Experiences Impact Teens
As you can see, there are a multitude of early childhood experiences that can, and do, impact an adult’s ability to find purpose as an adult. While some negative experiences, like adversity, can have a negative impact on life purpose, it can also become a catalyst for wanting to create change.
The top 5 childhood experiences that can impact purpose and lifelong well-being are:
- Attachment and Separation – Individuation
- Exposure to diverse activities
What would you do, mom and dad, to expose your child to diverse activities? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation over in our Facebook group.