Sharing Memories puts Children on the Way to Greater Health

According to University of Otago research, toddlers whose moms received extra coaching in talking about memories developed into teenagers who are happier. The study discovered that if their moms had been taught the new conversational strategies 14 years earlier, 15-year-olds told more cohesive accounts about pivotal moments in their lives. These teenagers also reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety when compared to adolescents in the study whose mothers had normal conversations with their toddlers.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Personality, is a follow-up to a remembering intervention in which 115 mothers of toddlers were randomly allocated to either a control group or elaborative reminiscing training for a year. Elaborative reminiscing entails open and receptive dialogues with young children about everyday old events, such as feeding ducks at the park.

There is compelling evidence that relating to and being respected by others is a fundamental human desire that adds to one’s ability to operate well in the world. It is obvious that social ties are crucial for improving well-being and acting as a buffer against mental illness in people of all ages.

According to project leader Professor Elaine Reese of the Department of Psychology, adolescents whose mothers had previously participated in the coaching sessions narrated difficult events in their lives, such as parental divorce or cyber-bullying, with greater insight into how the experience had shaped them as people.

Our findings imply that brief coaching sessions with parents early in children’s lives can have long-term advantages, both for how teenagers digest and talk about stressful life events and for their well-being.

Professor Elaine Reese

The study, which was first supported by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society Te Aprangi, is the first to demonstrate the long-term benefits of mother-child remembering for the development of teenagers. “Our findings imply that brief coaching sessions with parents early in children’s lives can have long-term advantages, both for how teenagers digest and talk about stressful life events and for their well-being,” says Professor Reese.

“We believe that elaborative reminiscing by parents helps children build more comprehensive, detailed, and accurate recollections of their experiences, resulting in a richer bank of memories to employ when forming their identities in adolescence. Elaborative reminiscing also teaches children how to have open dialogues about their sentiments from the past when they are no longer in the heat of the moment.”

Sharing memories sets children on path to better well-being

She hopes that parents and policymakers see the value of early childhood as the optimal time to begin having constructive dialogues with children and that they understand that these conversations may make a difference as children grow older.

“The ultimate goal is to inspire parents to have more sensitive and responsive talks with their children about events in their life.” According to lead author and clinical psychologist Dr. Claire Mitchell, a large body of research now suggests that well-being can plummet substantially during adolescence.

“For some young people, this dip signals the onset of more serious mental health problems that can be difficult to address.” As a result, it is critical to identify measures to avoid mental health problems as early in life as feasible.

“As a father of a toddler, I can attest that these elaborative recalling techniques are delightful and simple to master. Our research paves the door for future work with parents of young children to foster positive interactions from the start, which may have long-term advantages,” she says.

More than half of the world’s forcibly displaced population are youngsters, who appear to be particularly vulnerable to displacement. Many children will grow up away from home, sometimes separated from their family. Some children may have observed or been victims of violent events, putting them at risk of abuse, neglect, assault, exploitation, trafficking, or recruitment into armed groups while in exile. Children are exposed to various cumulative dangers to their physical, emotional, and social development as a result of their exposure to crisis in their countries of origin, followed by migration, and finally resettlement and adjustment to a new context.

They may also confront difficulties such as changed family relations, taking on the role of caretaker for younger siblings, or caring for psychologically and physically damaged parents. At the same time, they may have to deal with a new language, education system, and culture, all while dealing with severe economic and legal situations. The researchers want to continue the study, following up with individuals in their early twenties to see whether there are any long-term impacts of their moms’ elaborative remembering.