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Psychiatrist to Parents: Don’t Gloom Up Your Kids!

Samantha Boardman is a psychiatrist, professor, mom, author of Everyday Vitality AND an executive board member at Let Grow. We brought her in because of posts like this, snatched from her blog, Positive Prescription (which I highly recommend!):

According to a recent paper published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, many parents assume incorrectly that teaching their children that the world is a bad place is best for them. In fact, 92% thought that seeing the world as safe to very safe will not prepare their children to navigate the world. Many parents expressed the belief that their children would benefit by being taught to see the world as declining, competitive, fragile, unjust, barren, not funny, and full of physical threats. The findings suggest otherwise. People with more negative beliefs about the world were found to be less healthy, suffered more frequent negative emotion states, were more likely depressed, were much less satisfied with their lives, and enjoyed dramatically less psychological flourishing. As the researchers concluded, parents might consider pausing any well-meaning efforts to inculcate such negative beliefs in their children.

Give your kids the gift of non-catastrophizing. Or (since I catastrophize about some things) not catastrophizing about the entire world and everyone in it! – L

One Response to Psychiatrist to Parents: Don’t Gloom Up Your Kids!

  1. Mark Headley November 16, 2022 at 10:32 pm #

    We don’t know from association which way(s) causation runs. Depression, poor moods/outlooks can stem from medical pathology. Lists of common Anaphylaxis symptoms typically include fear of impending doom. Most of my GFs had impaired mood monthly w/ menstruation or just before. One got practically suicidal if she forgot her morning thyroid hormone supplement — despite good health generally — and would normalize w/in an hour of recognizing, duly taking her medicine.

    I’d also expect people prone to emphasize dangers, negativity to their children are not robust Free Rangers. That these parents are prone to cling, discourage independence, freedoms, play. Isolating the decisive culprit here no simple matter.

    Rigidity, either/or decrees, strike me unhealthy regardless. I doubt most of us would expect unmitigated Pollyannaism to be healthy. The world, life, can be complex. My pets came to grasp much nuance. It was months, for example, before I realized the “Nola” name given my rescued, adopted kitty (“Nolita”– little Nola in my parlance) was a dangerously defective name. Esp. since her dear bro’ Marcello was rather dumb. The one word you need pets to grasp is “No!” — besides theirs names. Well, luckily for me, neither ever confused “Nolita!” for “NO!” They read my tone, whatever expression.

    Anyway, some fear can serve them, us well. IMO largely matching reality: that hopefulness typically is healthy, rational. E.g. that I would be returning from work within hours. At first — inevitably I imagine for abandoned kitties especially — they had heartbreaking looks of terror every morning when I left despite timely warm petting, cooing. Followed by giddiness on my return. They learned; happily calmed down. I would NOT have wanted to teach them they will never be alone, even for a weekend here and there. So much better that they learned there would be other adults visiting they could rely on for food, water, some petting. As GFs’ cats learned quickly to bond with me.

    Funny how much some could be as I expected only w/ doggies. Like hearing (smelling?) me in the hall, running out, sprawling on her back inside, soliciting me to scratch her tummy. I was very much her expected tummy scratcher. As I’d learned with my doggies.

    In contrast, I wouldn’t expect teaching overly sunny views of police, armed authority, to black male teens, any male teens, would serve kids well. Fortunately, my Dad taught me to be unmistakably submissive to such authority. The lecture we read again and again only black kids hear. Nope. Lucky for me, since police, security DID violently attack me several times. Had I NOT been lectured to give them ZERO reason to escalate . . . .

    Such warnings jibed with what I encountered. Even while I happily trusted most adults: expanding my activities, Enriching my upbringing as Lenore, FRK, Let Grow heroically teach.