Do our experiences from the past influence our kids even though they did not grow up in the same environment?

I have a 5 year old boy and a 2 ½ year old girl.  The older they get and the more they understand their world around them, the more I notice how they take on some of the fears that I grew up with. The strange thing about it is that some of these fears that I have were due to the harsh environment of the  country where I grew up, El Salvador. My kids don’t live in that environment. Am I unconsciously transmitting those fears? The worst part about it is that I consciously try not to transmit those fears to them. Am I failing big time!?

Let me tell you some of the things that went on when my sister and I were growing up in El Salvador.

When I was 6 years old, El Salvador had a very bad earthquake.  The epicenter of the earthquake was downtown El Salvador.  There was terrible infrastructure damage and hundreds of deaths. That day my sister and I were at our all girls Catholic School run by Nuns.  Luckily the school was in an antiseismic building (the columns have plates in the middle of them that allow them to slide back and forth in the event of an earthquake instead of creating tension and breaking). Even though the school was very big (pre-k through 12th grade), we were all ok. On a side note, I did not know what an earthquake was at the time; so I thought it was a big flying dinosaur (like from the Flintstones) who was taking the school-somewhere…I was so determined to see the dinosaur that I stayed in the classroom while everybody else was evacuated, looking at the windows so I could see his feet/claws! The windows started bursting and a flying glass scraped the skin of my neck. I thought it was the dinosaur claw that had scratch me and I MISSED IT!!!!! HAHAHA! You gotta laugh!! (that story is true thou)


Ever since then, I was terrified of any small tremor (we had hundreds, I believe since the earthquake until I left the country in 1999)

I grew up with a fear of big waves and exploding volcanos. San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador where we lived, is located at the base of San Salvador’s Volcano and people always said that it could explode at any moment. The big wave fear, not sure why! The pacific ocean is very, very strong with big waves (good for surfing!) and it always tumbled my sister and I (for that matter anybody).  I did have a near drowning experience but I was ok, not too traumatizing…

I grew up with a fear of getting Cholera and Dengue hemorrhagic fever. Cholera is a diarrheal illness caused by a bacteria found in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene. And Dengue hemorrhagic fever whose vector is a mosquito, may cause fever, vomiting, abdominal pain and internal bleeding. These two illnesses were quite prevalent when I was growing up. I was always fearful of eating something contaminated, so I did not eat very much. My sister, my mom and I had Dengue but it was not the hemorrhagic fever type and we were all ok!

I also grew up during El Salvador’s civil war (1979-1992). This was probably the toughest part. We went through so much. There was a lot of violence surrounding us. My sister was assaulted with handgun. We had so many material belongings stolen from us by either assaulting us or breaking into our home. We had a car bomb placed in front of the bookstore that my family used to own.  We had death threat phone calls. Most nights we had to sleep on the floor due to gun fights on our street. We were even thrown against the wall with my sister due to a nearby bomb. These are just a fraction of the things that we had to go through.

I realized as I am writing this that I don’t even know if I can write everything in this post. I want to, but it is hard to put on paper everything that went on in that country and in our family. I hope you have a little bit of an idea about what I am trying to portray. I really just wanted to create a snapshot of why I feel that this is affecting my kids even though they are not in El Salvador through a war or earthquakes. I know there are plenty of life threatening illnesses that surround us and that is always going to be a threat, but it seems that there are more resources readily available that can help more effectively in this country.

My son is terrified of the dark, even with two night lights he is terrified.  Even when he is next to me, he is still afraid. I used to be very afraid of the dark. I was very in tuned with whatever noise was going on.  I was afraid that some thief wanted to break into our home and wanted to hurt us. I have never talked about these things to my son, but somehow he behaves like I used to behave when I was little. I still don’t like to sleep by myself!

My son is very preoccupied with making sure that no one gets hurt. Don’t get me wrong, he is very playful and runs and jumps like there is no tomorrow! He plays with his friends like any other kid. But there are moments when he almost behaves like a conscious adult and can predict that something bad can happen when someone is doing a certain “dangerous” activity. In my mind, it feels that he over worries like I used to when I was little. The difference is that I had a lot of somewhat traumatic stuff that help me to become over worried, but not my son.

Has that happened to anybody? Can you unconsciously create an environment that promotes those feelings?

Anyhow, this is not a big revealing or aha moment for anybody, this is just my experiences with my family. Maybe you can shine some light!

Con amor,


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