A recent study conducted by the University of Otago deduced that children could experience enhanced well-being if their mothers receive special training in talking about memories.

Published in ‘Journal of Personality’, a journal on behaviour dynamics, the study found that teenagers were more eloquent in telling stories about their lives if their mothers had studied conversational techniques years ago.

The study also found out that these adolescents had a lower rate of displaying symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to the adolescents whose mothers had talked to them in a usual way when they were infants. 

According to Elaine Reese, the lead researcher of the study and a professor at the Department of Psychology, adolescents whose mothers had engaged in earlier coaching sessions were able to narrate challenging events from their lives such as bullying or parental divorce with great insight. 

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“Our findings suggest that brief coaching sessions with parents early in children’s lives can have long-lasting benefits, both for the way adolescents process and talk about difficult life events and for their well-being,” Reese said.

“We believe parents’ elaborative reminiscing helps children develop more complete, specific, and accurate memories of their experiences, providing a richer store of memories to use when forming their identities in adolescence. Elaborative reminiscing also teaches children how to have open discussions about past feelings when they’re no longer in the heat of the moment,” she added.

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Reese hoped that policymakers and parents realize the importance of having healthy interactions and conversations with toddlers. 

“The ultimate goal is to encourage parents to have more sensitive and responsive conversations about events in their children’s lives,” she said.

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Dr. Claire Mitchel, a clinical psychologist and the lead author of the study said that research continues to prove that well-being levels can drop extensively during the stage of adolescence.

“For some young people, this dip is the beginning of more severe mental health issues that can be difficult to treat. Thus, it is important to find ways to prevent mental health difficulties earlier in life if possible,” Mitchell said.

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“As a parent of a toddler myself, I can confirm that these elaborative reminiscing techniques are enjoyable and easy to learn. Our study helps pave the way for future work with parents of young children to promote healthy interactions from the beginning that could have enduring benefits,” she concluded.