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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ode to joy: moments of parent-child connection

A friend and colleague recently asked if I thought joy was an emotion or a state. Without pause, I responded that it was a way of being fully present.

Early the next morning I was at Starbucks writing to another colleague about a case from my pediatrics practice for a book we are writing about parenting. I was describing a scene with a mother and 4-month-old son.  He had been a very challenging newborn who cried all the time, and she had struggled with postpartum depression. In my office they gazed adoringly at each other with huge smiles of delight.  I wrote, "There was pure joy in their relationship."

I glanced up from my writing to see yet another scene. A father was calmly telling his two-year-old daughter that she needed to hold his hand when they crossed the street. He was negotiating his coffee and her juice while she repeatedly wriggled away. "I can carry you or you can hold my hand, " he said. No go. She reached out to him for an instant, but again dodged his reaching hand. "Big girls hold hands crossing the street." It seemed this would work as she again reached out, but again changed her mind. Then somehow very gracefully he switched his beverages and offered his other hand. "Do you want to hold this one?" This was the magic needed. It seemed as if she had to have some say before she would temporarily relinquish her growing independence.  I watched this big tall daddy and his little girl walk across the street hand-in-hand. Another moment of joy, both for them and for me.

Interestingly, the day before another colleague had invited me to speak at a conference for early childhood professionals about the "magic of the moment" in our work supporting early parent-child relationships.

The dictionary definition of joy actually describes it as either an emotion or a state. But for me the word captures not only a state, but a state of connection, with another person, with nature, or, to quote a famous book title, "Life, the Universe and Everything."

All of these experiences served as a reminder to keep the focus, in my work with families and young children, and in my life in general, on striving for these moments of joy, of meaningful connection. These tiny moments all strung together lead to, borrowing two other words from the title of that upcoming conference, resilience and peace. 



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