Tag Archives: parenting

The Trauma of Parenthood

0629GRAY-superJumboThe Trauma of Parenthood

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. A therapist and mother reports.

The Atlantic has a fascinating article on the current trend of parents doing far too much for their children, and doing severe damage to their kids as a result. It looks at the value of letting kids feel frustrated, scared, devastated, lonely, bored, a sense of failure…and then letting them see that they can survive these normal feelings that are part of life. When we let our kids develop coping skills, they have a better chance of becoming functional, and content, adults.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Dan Kindlon, a child psychologist and lecturer at Harvard, warns against what he calls our “discomfort with discomfort” in his book Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age. If kids can’t experience painful feelings, Kindlon told me when I called him not long ago, they won’t develop “psychological immunity.”

“It’s like the way our body’s immune system develops,” he explained. “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle. I know parents who call up the school to complain if their kid doesn’t get to be in the school play or make the cut for the baseball team. I know of one kid who said that he didn’t like another kid in the carpool, so instead of having their child learn to tolerate the other kid, they offered to drive him to school themselves. By the time they’re teenagers, they have no experience with hardship. Civilization is about adapting to less-than-perfect situations, yet parents often have this instantaneous reaction to unpleasantness, which is ‘I can fix this.’”

Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who, after the publication of her book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee a decade ago, became an adviser to schools all over the country. When I talked to her this spring, she said that over the past few years, college deans have reported receiving growing numbers of incoming freshmen they’ve dubbed “teacups” because they’re so fragile that they break down anytime things don’t go their way. “Well-intentioned parents have been metabolizing their anxiety for them their entire childhoods,” Mogel said of these kids, “so they don’t know how to deal with it when they grow up.”

Which might be how people like my patient Lizzie end up in therapy. “You can have the best parenting in the world and you’ll still go through periods where you’re not happy,” Jeff Blume, a family psychologist with a busy practice in Los Angeles, told me when I spoke to him recently. “A kid needs to feel normal anxiety to be resilient. If we want our kids to grow up and be more independent, then we should prepare our kids to leave us every day.”

But that’s a big if. Blume believes that many of us today don’t really want our kids to leave, because we rely on them in various ways to fill the emotional holes in our own lives. Kindlon and Mogel both told me the same thing. Yes, we devote inordinate amounts of time, energy, and resources to our children, but for whose benefit?

“We’re confusing our own needs with our kids’ needs and calling it good parenting,” Blume said, letting out a sigh. I asked him why he sighed. (This is what happens when two therapists have a conversation.) “It’s sad to watch,” he explained. “I can’t tell you how often I have to say to parents that they’re putting too much emphasis on their kids’ feelings because of their own issues. If a therapist is telling you to pay less attention to your kid’s feelings, you know something has gotten way of out of whack.”

See the full article here: http://goo.gl/k7SzK

The Challenges of Modern Parenting

The NY Times has a book review today of an interesting new book that explores how radically parenting has changed in the last 70 years. Kids are no longer seen as property, or workers for the farm, but rather precious little beings that rule the household like royalty. This creates a huge shift in how we interact as families, and the expectations the next generation of adults will have about how the world should regard them. Interesting food for thought.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Children alter the adult relationships into which they obtrude. Indeed, Senior says, they provoke a couple’s most frequent arguments — “more than money, more than work, more than in-laws, more than annoying personal habits, communication styles, leisure activities, commitment issues, bothersome friends, sex.” Mothers are frequently overwhelmed by their attempts to excel both at their paid jobs and at child care. In 1965, when most American women didn’t work outside the home, mothers nonetheless spent almost four fewer hours a week than today’s mothers do providing child care. Fathers, on the other hand, spend three times as many hours with their children now as they did then, but do better at keeping some downtime reserved for themselves; they do not judge themselves the way mothers do, and experience few of the pressures that make women feel so guilty about being away from home during the workday.

Taking care of — and indeed loving — one’s children changes as they reach adolescence. Senior notes that parents often do homework with their children; “homework,” she writes aphoristically, “is the new family dinner.” It is the locus around which affection is played out. Parents struggle through their children’s teenage years both because of their changed relationship with their children and because of their changed relationship to themselves. It is not easy to have much of your purpose shattered by your child’s independence. This loss can throw parents back on their own inner lives, and self-examination can be painful. “The mere presence of adolescents in the house, still brimming with potential, their futures still an unclaimed colony . . . sets off a fantastical reverie of what-ifs,” Senior writes.”

Read the full story here: http://goo.gl/opyyYI

ALL JOY AND NO FUN
The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
By Jennifer Senior
308 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $26.99