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Breaking the Cycle

For many families, passing down generations of traditions and rituals is a wonderful way to continue your family’s legacy and enrich your children’s lives in positive life-encouraging ways. However, passing down toxicity—the impact of adverse childhood experiences and trauma—is a risk parents take when we don’t break the cycle and when we repeat the negative patterns of our family’s previous generations. 

“Changing our toxic or damaged routines and rituals is critical in breaking the cycle and ensuring that our children don’t end up having to repeat our mistakes, “To do this, we must become actively mindful of our choices and the behaviors we engage in when we interact with our children. One of the most powerful ways a parent influences their children is through modeling.”

Common sense, simple observation and psychological research show that these adages ring true when it comes to human development—that children often grow up to mimic the behavior, beliefs and attitudes of their parents.

You may not know it, but your day-to-day behavior, from the way you drive to the tone of your voice, is shaping the way your child will act for the rest of their life. Children are like sponges, they model everything a parent does and incorporate what they see into their own lives, which is why it’s important that parents set the right examples for their children.

There are, however, toxic and negative behaviors parents exhibit and can potentially pass down to their children. Things like not establishing boundaries, giving conditional love, and using manipulation as a way to make children behave a certain way can greatly impact a child and pave the way for behaviors they will have as adults.

Part of why qualities of parents are often repeated in their offspring is genetic, says Audrey Krisbergh, director of the Center for Parenting Education in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.

“This indicates the power of ‘nature,’ that is, heredity. But part of the explanation also lies in the impact of the environment in which a child is raised, which is referred to as ‘nurture.’ ”

The answer to the age-old question of why children often seem so much like their parents probably is that both nature and nurture play a role in how children develop. And, of course, both of these influences come from a child’s parents.

“The question isn’t whether your children will emulate you; they will. The question is which behaviors they will imitate,” Krisbergh says. “Through role modeling, you have the ability to influence your children’s development in positive ways and make it more likely that they become people you will admire when they mature. What kids see and believe, they become.”


To read more on this topic grab the “Breaking the Cycle Issue of MASK The Magazine 

Whether you have an elementary, junior high, high school or college student, MASK The Magazine “Breaking The Cycle” issue offers an age-appropriate guide on how to model positive, healthy ways of living and how to break the cycle of toxic behavior by changing what we pass down to our kids. Grab a copy today!


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