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.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Supporting A Parent's Natural Intuition

Yesterday I had my first radio interview about my new book Keeping Your Child in Mind, which will be released this coming Tuesday. I welcome the opportunity to talk about my book, not only because it helps spread the work about ideas important to the future of our children, but because these discussions offer the opportunity for new thinking. In the interview yesterday, I was asked the question: "Do parents need to read books to be able to understand their child?" A particularly interesting question to ask a person who has just written a book for parents! I began my response by saying that I was not in general a fan of parenting books. They run the risk of trying to apply a one size fits all approach when in fact each family situation is unique. But perhaps more importantly they can undermine a parent's natural authority.

Rising to the challenge of thinking while I'm talking, I then said that the problem is that things get in the way of a parent's natural intuition, and that my book in a sense supports parents in recognizing and addressing these obstacles. I had actually never thought of it this way before. "What can get in the way," I went on to say, "includes such things as depression and marital conflict." And just stress in general," my wise interviewer added. "Yes," I agreed. "when parents are free from external stress, they have a natural intuition and understanding about their child." As I say in my book, in reference to the work of D.W. Winnicott, pediatrician turned psychoanalyst: "A mother knows what her baby feels through her intense identification with him. He is part of her."

My interviewer was particularly drawn to the title of the second chapter: "Strengthening the Secure Base: Listening to Parents." I had an image as we were talking of clearing the brush, made up of the multitude of stresses of life, to be able to gain a clear view of your child. Obviously there is more to this task than reading a book, but my hope is that parents will recognize themselves in the stories in my book, feel understood themselves and in turn be better able to access their own natural understanding of their child. Then they won't need to read any parenting books!

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