Do your children watch television?
What kind of toys do they play with?
How do the adults in their life behave?
What are they exposed to if they go to playgroup/mothers group or daycare/preschool/school?
Do you censor their world, or are you protecting them?
Does it really matter what they are experiencing?
I think it does matter. A lot.
In the (roughly) first 5 years of life, the brain rapidly develops, connections are made that will shape the life of that individual. By 7 years old, a child will have developed a stereotypical understanding of their world. For example, if a child has experienced primarily breastfeeding, they will see this as normal and are more likely to support and accept breastfeeding as not only a biological norm, but a cultural one. Likewise, if a child experiences trauma and an unloving environment, it will be harder for them to experience loving peaceful environments as adults.
As parents we are the first influence, and the people in the child’s immediate circle also have great influence. The next most powerful influence is the media, in particular visual media. This media comes into the home, becomes part of the immediate influence.
What your children see, does matter.
The picture books they read will help them shape a ‘normal’ view of the world. Encouraging imagination and fantasy is good, but there are some areas where within this imaginary world, biological norms should be represented. The image of a baby being given a bottle might not seem too much of an issue, but if a child receives a constant message that babies are fed with bottles, put in cots and expected to cry, then another generation moves away from the biological norm. This matters because the health risks associated with artificial feeding, lack of affection and crying it out are life-long.
Moving beyond early childhood, into the terribly delicate “tween” stage, the potential damage that these media influences can have are enormous. Sexualisation of children, desensitisation to violence and the horrid effect of consummerism.
These are topics that are not unfamiliar with most parents.
As parents we have to find our personal balance. There is a spectrum of parenting, no one size fits all, as the parent of your child, you know them best.
Seek help when you feel the need, find the support you need to enjoy your journey. Because ultimately, you are your child’s greatest influence.