Great Kids, Great Parents

Infant/Child Development and the Importance of Children's Feelings

The Revolution in Infant and Child Development: Feelings

Using real-life stories to explore and understand feelings.

In our last newsletter, we began discussing The Revolution in Infant and Child Development. As we progress through 2013, we will explore the three major components of this revolution in depth: Feelings, Intelligence, and Language.

Happy Parenting! Dr. Paul

Using real-life stories to explore and understand feelings

Feelings

This month, and over the next several months, we’ll start our journey by looking at Feelings.
Our story starts with individual people – children and adults. That is, this is a clinical story (with names and information changed).

Youngsters

This is a story of children who are troubled, angry, overly-aggressive, or mute and inhibited – children whose lives and development are close to being seriously derailed.

Alex, 5 years old, rushed into my waiting room, tried to butt his mother with his head, then punched her and tried to bite her. His school behavior was no better, and the school was about to expel him.

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Sarah, 7 years old, was brought to see me in part because she was terrified of thunder storms, cowering in the bathtub whenever there was thunder and lightning. “I don’t know why I’m here,” she said, almost inaudibly, being nearly immobile, looking down, sad and depressed. Her mother said Sarah frequently went ballistic in the mornings before school, running up and down the street screaming and crying.

Adults

This is also a story about people who reach adulthood and do not know who they are or what they want to do.

Dan, a 53-year-old corporate accountant, sat in my office; slowly he put his face in his hands and began sobbing: “I’m embarrassed…I have to confess…I really do not know who I am.”

Shirley, a 46-year-old unmarried executive, said sadly: “I make enough money, but I feel stuck in my career and I don’t like what I’m doing…and I feel isolated – I want a relationship, and I cannot seem to have one.”

Tom, a 42-year-old lawyer, said: “Everything in my life just seems to be off-track somehow…my relationship with my wife, my work – neither seems to be me…things are just not right.”

Our Journey

This is the story of how we still do not see or understand or accurately label feelings. It is the story of how feelings motivate behavior, and how we still have not genuinely grasped that. It is about our struggle to understand the working of feelings in our close relationships and in general human interactions.

Yet, there is room for great optimism! The pioneering work of Darwin and Freud has been followed by dramatic advances in infant and child development and the neurosciences, and by Tomkins, Ekman, and others. We now have a much greater understanding than ever before about feelings and how they work.

And, perhaps most importantly, with these advances, we can now prevent or treat many of the problems as described above.

Quote of the Month “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela

Paul C. Holinger, M.D., M.P.H., is a psychiatrist and adult and child/adolescent psychoanalyst. He is author of What Babies Say Before They Can Talk.

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