The Significance of Parents Recognising How They Transmit the History of Preceding Generations to Their Children, Whether They Know It or Not

Object relations theory is a psychoanalytic approach that emphasises the importance of early relationships with caregivers in shaping a person’s psychological development. This theory suggests that a child’s early experiences with their primary caregivers, particularly their mother, shape their internalised sense of self and relationships with others.

In the context of parenting, object relations theory can help parents understand how their own early experiences with their caregivers may impact their parenting style and how they interact with their children. By reflecting on their own experiences and identifying patterns of behaviour that may have been learned from their parents, parents can become more aware of their own emotional responses to their children and how they may affect their children’s development.

For example, a parent who experienced neglect or rejection from their own parents may struggle with feelings of insecurity and low self-worth. This may make them overly critical of their child or have difficulty expressing affection and warmth. By recognising these patterns and understanding how their own experiences may be affecting their parenting, the parent can work towards developing a more positive and nurturing relationship with their child.

Object relations theory can also help parents understand the importance of providing a secure and supportive attachment relationship with their child. By responding consistently to their child’s needs and providing a safe and nurturing environment, parents can help their child develop a sense of trust and security that will serve as a foundation for future relationships.

Overall, object relations theory can be a valuable framework for parents to better understand their relationships with their children. By reflecting on their own experiences and working towards developing a positive and supportive parenting style, parents can help their children develop into healthy and well-adjusted individuals.

The following text is a translation of an article from the French newspaper Le Monde. While the primary issue pertains to the excessive prescription of psychotropic drugs to children, the more intriguing message highlights the significance of parents recognising how they transmit the history of preceding generations to their children, whether they know it or not.

Are too many psychotropic drugs prescribed to children? Psychoanalyst Claude Halmos answers.

https://www.lemonde.fr/m-perso/article/2023/04/29/prescrit-on-trop-de-psychotropes-aux-enfants-la-psychanalyste-claude-halmos-repond_6171471_4497916.html

“The couch of the world”. In this column, the psychoanalyst relies on your testimonies and questions to understand how the state of the world impacts our intimate lives.

A report from the High Council for Family, Childhood and Age (HCFEA), published on March 13, warns of increased consumption of psychotropic drugs among children and adolescents. This report has been heavily criticised, but it raises two inevitable questions: the number of children in increasing psychological distress and how they are treated. It, therefore, invites all those concerned about the fate of children to question the causes of this worsening of their suffering.

Why are so many children suffering today?

Psychological suffering is often discussed in a way that makes it seem so complicated and mysterious that it is not understandable to non-specialists. This can cause many parents to feel inadequate and powerless to help their children or to judge the treatment offered to them when faced with their children’s suffering (which is often very painful). This conviction is all the more regrettable because it can make them vulnerable to harmful practices for their children.

This dimension of mystery associated with psychological problems generally relies on the idea that, while there are rules and logic that everyone can refer to when it comes to the functioning of the body, the functioning of the psyche is the domain of the particular, the impossible to grasp, and even more difficult to explain. However, since every child is unique, the reasons why they suffer “in their head” are also unique. But they are not impossible to identify, any more than the reasons for their bodily suffering.

How can one identify the causes of a child’s psychological suffering?

It is important to remember that to grow, a child must travel a very long path from birth to adulthood, on which many mishaps are possible. These mishaps may be partly because, contrary to what was long believed, the child is not born with a pre-established “personality” as an adult in miniature. The child must gradually construct, through their experiences, their relationships with themselves, others, and the world. This construction is all the more difficult because the child can only do it with the help of his or her parents. In his or her learning process, the child may stumble at any time due to difficult encounters with situations, events, or people. And they need their parents’ help each time to avoid misunderstandings that would be painful and likely to give them a false idea of relationships themselves: “Your friend didn’t want to play with you, but it’s not because he doesn’t like you. It’s because the other children don’t necessarily want to play at the same time as you.”

And the role of parents is all the more critical for the child because they are both their models for growth and those who give them a first, obviously fundamental, vision of themselves and/or their surroundings. It is the place – valued or not – that he or she has for his or her parents that forms, for a child, the feeling of his or her worth. It is through what they tell them that they see the world, and based on what they teach them and the example they give, that he or she learns to behave in it.

However, parents are always dependent on what they have experienced (which may unknowingly condition their relationship with their child) to accompany their child. And they continuously unconsciously transmit to them the history of previous generations that they carry, whether consciously aware of it or not.

This dependence – inevitable – of the child on their parents’ issues increases the risks of mishaps, but it does not mean that parents are guilty of their children’s suffering. Parents who knowingly mistreat their children are undoubtedly guilty. But no parent is guilty of what is unknowingly transmitted from him or her to his or her child. And their collaboration is essential to healing their child.

Why is this collaboration essential?

Deciphering a child’s difficulties(behavioural, learning, relational) requires placing them in their context: understanding the conditions of their appearance, the form they take,  who the child is, their siblings, their parents (and their history), and their life. This investigative work allows the caregiver to identify problems, but it also allows the child and their parents to become aware of them and, from there, to remedy them. The causes of a child’s suffering do not lie in the past, as with adults; they are current and can be eliminated. The hypothesis of more serious dysfunctions that would require medication should only be made if this work could not eliminate these sufferings.

Medications are indeed problematic for children. Because of their possible long-term effects, but also because they make their problems shift from the realm of “difficulty in living” to that of illness and make them feel different from others, they weigh on them and their parents.

How to explain the increase in prescriptions?

Growing up in a time of climate and economic anxieties, social networks, accessible pornography, and living with parents battered by the world’s violence increases children’s psychological suffering, who need an education that helps them resist. However, they currently suffer from a “positive” education that presents all limits as violence, which binds their parents and deprives them of essential reference points.

Knowing that the world is governed by rules that their parents can maintain and protect them from others and their impulses (which can quickly overwhelm them) is an essential bulwark against anxiety for a child. Knowing that they cannot have everything or do everything (because no one can) avoids a feeling of dissatisfaction that could alter their desire to live and, above all, allows them to differentiate between the imaginary, where everything is possible, and reality, where not everything is possible; and to anchor themselves more firmly in it.

“Positive” education increases children’s difficulties at a time when treating them is difficult. Difficult because of the state of public child psychiatry, often rightly criticised, but also because of prevailing theories and especially the DSM (the American Classification of mental disorders), which only focuses on symptoms and neglects the singularity of individuals and, therefore, their construction, no longer allows for understanding the difference between a child and an adult.

Today, the same terminology can be used for children’s symptoms and those of adults (speaking of a child’s “depression”), “following” children without working with their parents or giving them medications previously reserved for adults. With the risk of returning to a child conceived as an “adult in miniature”. A step back that undoubtedly deserves collective reflection.

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