Welcome to my blog, which speaks to parents, professionals who work with children, and policy makers. Through stories from my behavioral pediatrics practice (with details changed to protect privacy) I will show how contemporary research in child development can be applied to support parents in their efforts to facilitate their children’s healthy emotional development. I will address factors that converge to obstruct such support. These include limited access to quality mental health care, influences of a powerful health insurance industry and intensive marketing efforts by the pharmaceutical industry.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The New York Times Thinks About Parents

I felt that I was in very good company yesterday when my letter to New York Times was published in reference to last weeks op ed piece The Parent Trapped. In that piece, Katherine Ellison, responding to indictment of a mother in the murder of her two teenagers, describes her own journey from the brink in her relationship with her son. She describes feelings of barely controlled rage and her realization that she needed to get help.

While there was much that could be said about this piece, I picked up on the way in which Ms. Ellison, with the support of family, friends and professionals, took ownership of her role in the conflict. She wrote:
I spent much of the year learning about A.D.H.D., a condition I soon realized that I shared with my then 12-year-old son. Among its classic symptoms are conflict-seeking and hot-headedness. Humbling as it was, I ultimately heeded friends and professionals who encouraged me to shed my fantasy of being the victim of a raging, impossible child, and own up to the ways I was contributing to our fights.
In my response I wrote:
In the safety of my pediatric office, countless parents have revealed that they are startled by the intense rage they feel for a child whom they also have such powerful love. Katherine Ellison bravely and honestly addresses this issue in her article.

The fact is that intense opposing feelings are a normal part of any passionate relationship. But as she points out, when parents feel out of control, if they are unable to manage their own rage, it is essential to get help.

The beauty of her article is that it identifies the relational nature of the problem. All too often, a “behavior problem” is viewed as residing exclusively in the child. When parents feel recognized and understood, as Ms. Ellison seems to have felt, they are better able to be fully present with their child, in turn helping the child to manage his or her particular vulnerabilities.
Another letter identified the critical role of emotional regulation in development and the need for parents to "push the pause button" in the heat of the moment and reflect on whats going on. Yet another addressed the wrongness of corporal punishment and the need to find effective alternative measures. A third spoke of the need for friends, communities and professionals to be available to parents when they reach out for help.

What was most encouraging to me was that the majority of the letters in Saturday's paper were devoted to this subject. As the Times represents in some significant ways the cultural trends in this country, this fact gives me hope that we are seriously considering the essential role parents play, and our need as a society to support them in this very challenging yet highly rewarding task.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Claudia,
    I am so glad I found your blog and website!

    As a therapist myself, I am always on the hunt for quality resources for my clients (and me too).

    Your letter in the NYT was spot on. I've already forwarded your site to several clients and friends and am looking forward to receiving your updates.

    I'll be back for sure!-Stephanie

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