We all have memories from our childhood, like taking a trip to visit relatives or going to the park with our parents and siblings. But did you know that the things we experience as children, both positive and negative, can affect us as adults?
Recent research has shown that the more Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) a child has while growing up, the happier and healthier they are as an adult. A study in 2019 found that adults who reported more PCEs showed 72% lower levels of adult depression and/or poor mental health and were 3.5 times more likely to get the social and emotional support they need as an adult (Bethell, et al).
The 7 Types of Positive Childhood Experiences
There are many easy ways for parents to help their children have PCEs. But any adult - teachers, coaches, mentors, or friends - can play a part in positively influencing the children in their community. The seven main PCEs for children are:
- Being able to talk with their family about their feelings.
- Feeling that their family stood by them during difficult times.
- Enjoying participating in community traditions.
- Feeling a sense of belonging in high school.
- Feeling supported by friends.
- Having at least two non-parent adults who took a genuine interest in them.
- Feeling safe and protected by an adult in their home.
While parents play a big role in helping create PCEs for their children, anyone can help create positive childhoods for the children in their lives. We can help our children feel safe and loved by talking to them about their feelings, showing them our support and protection, and helping them feel involved with their peers and neighbors.
Tips for creating PCEs
As you can see above, many of the seven Positive Childhood Experiences have nothing to do with money or gifts. Here are five tips for helping the children in your life have PCEs.
- Don’t Assume, Ask: Many children and teens might find it hard to talk about their feelings, and some might just say “I’m fine” when you ask them. Try sharing your own feelings first by telling them about your day or saying why you feel stressed/excited/nervous. When you open up, it teaches children how to do it too.
- Listen and Be In the Moment: Our lives are busy, and that’s normal. But make sure that you take the time to interact with your children without the distraction of electronics. Try setting aside your phones and other screens and take a walk, play a game, or look through family photos and share stories.
- Keep Traditions Going: We all love being a part of something, and children are no exception. Keep your family or cultural traditions going as much as you can. Maybe this means setting the table every night for dinner or cooking a certain food for the holidays. Traditions can even be as small as having personal greetings or nicknames or making up a secret handshake.
- Play, Play, Play: Children learn a lot about the world through playing, and we can learn a lot about children through how they play. Kids can display their creativity through coloring or drawing and build their imagination through games and make-believe. But playing can also be a fun way for children to express their emotions and ask questions about the world. Make time to play with children, and let their questions guide you. You’ll find out what they’re thinking about by the questions, characters, and games they make up.
- Say It, and Say It Again: No matter how much you show your children you love them, make sure to say it, too. We can never tell children enough that they are loved and supported and that they belong. Tell children how proud you are of them, and let them know when they’ve done a good job.