Martin Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, suggested that up to 50% of our emotions is actually genetically inherited.
That's an interesting starting point. How much does the parent's anxiousness and depression affect a child? Well, our genes might be passing down some of these anxiousness, depression, and according to Martin Seligman, maybe 50% that we get to play with. The rest of it, we inherit.
I really like Dan Siegel's work and he said something interesting. He said as we as parents work through our stuff, we also pass down what we learn to our children through our emotions, through our own regulation of difficult things. As parents, we can learn to model how to deal with different, difficult emotions. Even if we've been modeling what may be anxious or depressed, we can actually model how to work through depression. How to deal with our own anxieties. As I've talked with parents who asked similar questions, "like I think my child's picking up on my emotions", I said, "great, let's learn how to do that together. Let's sit down and let's do a mindfulness exercise and listen to a guided meditation."
I personally have children who have anxiety and it's not uncommon for me to be with my child who's feeling anxious. I literally will put my head up against her head and I will rock with her and we will hum together and I will do a breathing exercise with her. Literally, just modeling with her how to be with an anxious experience or anxious feeling or a thought that's gone astray or that's overwhelming her. As we do that, it's interesting because now she's seen a model. But she's getting really important things here, touch and connection.
If we are concerned about our emotions, just remember that we can implement healthy tools and teach them or model for them. So nothing's fixed here. We have the opportunity to create change.
I love what you're describing is really co-regulation with our children. There is such a powerful gift that we, as parents, offer to our children. First, as you say Dr. Skinner in the modeling, but also we have these beautiful things called mirror neurons in the brain that allow us to help our children co-regulate.
As we do our work with our own depression and anxiety and we come to our calmer, more centered place, we provide that secure attachment for our children. We model for them and then we use our mirror neurons to help soothe and co-regulate their nervous systems. In terms of the development of the nervous system, children learn how to co-regulate initially as an infant from the primary caregivers own nervous system.
This is such a beautiful thing.