Overcoming Child Abuse

Reflections on recovery.

Gifts That Can Help Parents Parent Their Children

Here are some of my favorite resources.

This morning, while wrapping Christmas presents and pondering topics for a blog, it dawned on me that perhaps the best way to share my opinions on overcoming child abuse might be through recommending some of my favorite childrearing resources. So here goes:

First of all, make no mistake, healthy attachment is critically important to a child’s development and impacts his or her adult life dramatically, so from the beginning, parents need to understand how to facilitate their baby's ability to become attached to them. In Louise Kaplan's book, Oneness and Separateness: From Infant to Individual, she explains that birth is the rupture of the state of biological oneness between mother and fetus, that mending the rupture psychologically is a major task of the first weeks of parenting, and that how a parent responds to baby - holding, rocking, feeding, responding to crying, talking, singing - is what creates a sense of security in her or his child. I've found that one of the best explanations of how the bonding cycle works (in a practical, easy-to-read-and-understand manner), is in Part Two of Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey's book, High Risk: Children Without a Conscience. They describe in detail what attachment is, how to develop it, and childhood warning signs that some sort of problem has interfered with the creation of a healthy attachment. They also describe attachment issues that may be specific to adoption - a good section for couples who are thinking about adopting a baby or a child.

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Bringing Baby Home (not a book, but an experience) is a great resource designed to assist the attachment process. Developed by Dr’s.John and Julie Gottman, Bringing Baby Home is a marriage and parenting workshop during which couples experiencing the transition to parenthood learn about the psychological needs of their infants. Available throughout the country, you can learn more about Bringing Baby Home and find an instructor near you, by logging on to their website at www.bbhonline.org. I love, and used to teach, this program, and I think that a gift certificate for a Bringing Baby Home workshop could be a great gift for any couple who is expecting a baby or has young children. The Gottmans also have a book out entitled And Baby Makes Three. And while I’m mentioning the Gottmans I’ll tell you that his Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, co-authored with Joan De Claire and Daniel Goleman is a book that I believe every parent should have and learn from.

Other favorites of mine are Gus Napier’s The Fragile Bond and Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel, MD and Mary Hartzell,M.Ed . Both books teach about how a deeper self-understanding can help parents rear children well. Napier’s is a beautiful book about marriage, with parenting wisdom embedded in it, while Siegel and Hartzell’s is more overtly educational with each chapter describing a "how to". Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Everyday Blessings: the Inner Work of Mindful Parenting is of a similar vein in that it, too, calls parents into self-reflection.

A book that has often been mentioned to me by parents of young children is Parenting by Heart: How to Be in Charge, Stay Connected, and Instill Your Values, when it Feels Like You’ve Got Only 15 Minutes a Day by Ron Taffel and Melinda Blau. Living Simply with Children by Marie Sherlock is another useful one for today’s much-too-busy and too-pressured parents. And a book I was introduced to last year - Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman - quickly became one I’ve recommended to many.

Last week I heard Andrew Solomon being interviewed by Terri Gross on NPR and became intrigued about his new book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. It sounded great, and he sounded very intelligent, articulate and caring. Afterwards I noticed that Anna Quindlen had posted a comment on facebook saying that Solomon's book was the most thought-provoking book she'd read in years. I look forward to reading it.

Now I must return to wrapping presents. And I hope you’ll get busy finding books or ordering gift certificates. Happy Holidays! And please remember to be kind to the children.

 

Catherine McCall is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the author of Never Tell: A True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood.

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