Parents who have a fear of math should not try to teach the subject to their kids. At least that’s what some researchers are saying.
“We found that when parents are more math anxious, their children learn significantly less math over the school year and have more math anxiety by the school year’s end,” reports Erin Maloney et al. in a study published in Psychological Science, “but only if math-anxious parents report providing frequent help with math homework.”
An easy fix, perhaps. You either stop helping your kid, hire a tutor, or like one mom living in Florida did, you ask your child’s math teacher for manuals, videos and lesson plans and self-teach your way out of the anxiety.
A more difficult fix confronts those who are at increased risk of experiencing stress disorders if their Jewish parents had either been detained in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or had to hide out during the second world war.
“[This is] the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called ‘epigenetic inheritance,’” reports The Guardian’s Helen Thompson, “the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.”
Does this mean that fear is hereditary? And if so, what’s the fix?
“The transmission of disease or of certain idiosyncrasies of mortal mind would be impossible if this great fact of being were learned, – namely, that nothing inharmonious can enter being, for Life is God,” suggests Mary Baker Eddy in her seminal work on health and healing. “Heredity is a prolific subject for mortal belief to pin theories upon; but if we learn that nothing is real but the right, we shall have no dangerous inheritances, and fleshly ills will disappear.”
A challenging proposition, to be sure, but one rooted not in wishful thinking, but in Eddy’s own healing work as well as a decades-long study of the Bible.
She gained particular insight and inspiration from the many accounts of healing in the New Testament. “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” asked Jesus’ disciples when they came across a man who “was blind from this birth.”
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” replied Jesus, “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” After asking the man to wash himself in a nearby pool, his sight was restored.
The implication is twofold. First, that the man’s predicament had nothing to do with genetics. Second, that a clearer understanding of one’s relation to God – whom Eddy describes as the all-loving “Father and Mother” of us all – can make all the difference in breaking the cycle of heredity.
The problem is, even our views of God tend to be “inherited,” or at least acquired – from our friends and family members, the news media, society as a whole. How do we go about fixing that?
Perhaps we can take our cue from the woman in Florida, whose transformation began with little more than a willingness to challenge her long-held beliefs about math and, by association, their debilitating effects. “I didn’t mind putting in that time,” she says in a New York Times article, “because I needed to feel confident.”
We all could use a little more confidence, especially when it comes to our health. Even if exploring a new perspective on God isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it may at least be worth considering. Not only might we see improvement in our own lives, but the lives of untold generations to come.