Thursday, July 22, 2010

trying new things even though you’re scared

Working as a school social worker in an elementary school in South L.A., five years post-masters (that is, not a total beginner and not-quite seasoned but had seen a lot), I was approached by a mother, from my parenting group, requesting a referral for a psychological assessment. Her immigration lawyer advised that she get one done for her upcoming court deportation proceeding. Her husband and she were in the process of being deported to their respective countries of origin – Guatemala and Mexico. Their two school-age children and baby-on-the-way were U.S. born.

I wanted to help her get an assessment that would ultimately allow her and her husband to stay in this country with their children, but I didn’t know of any psychologists specialized to do this. I referred her to a local community mental health center, but they turned her away because they needed longer than the one month before her court date to complete the assessment. I called a colleague, who is a psychologist, for a referral but he was not aware of any such specialty service and in the meantime, the clock was ticking…

So I called my supervisor and who do you think she suggested do it? … me! She thought that it would be appropriate for me to do this!!! Me, who had never ever conducted a psychological evaluation for court. I had not done many in my practice up to that point, much less for court. With so much riding on the outcome, I realized -- I am doing this – at this point, given the time frame - I am the only person who can do it for this mom – I immediately asked for help.

Who on a school campus completes evaluations regularly? School psychologists! And it just so happened that our school psychologist was a good friend of mine and an MSW. So even though she had a list of students that needed to be tested – she agreed to help me. Also, I asked mom for a sample psychological evaluation from her lawyer – one that had been used successfully in a previous deportation proceeding.

Armed with a sample and my conspiring friend, we met with the 4th grader to do an evaluation. We used Robert’s Apperception tests and standard biopsychosocial assessment questions to complete the evaluation. I remember sitting next to my friend and waiting for the document to print after-school, right before mother came to get it for the appointment with her lawyer. I remember nervously handing it to her just in time.

She went to court and reported to me later that the judge accepted the letter and let parents stay in the country - but - the judge scheduled another court hearing - to be held in one year - and requested that I attend to testify in court about what I had written in the evaluation!!!

The school psychologist left our school district at the end of that school year and I left that school the following year so by the time the next court date rolled around, I was at a high school in the Valley. The Parent Representative at my previous school had to track me down to tell me I was being summoned to court.

On the cold and quiet early morning of January 2nd, 2003, I showed up to court. I was on Winter break and bereavement leave. My mother had died on December 11th, just a few weeks before. I was emotionally exhausted, sleepy and scared. In mourning, grieving trumped all other feelings. I prayed silently in the hallway before I was called in to testify and sworn in. The lawyer for INS tried to discredit me as an expert witness, but surprisingly, I felt nothing. I was mildly annoyed because she was a Latina, like me, and all I could think was, does your mother know where you are and what you are doing? The judge asked me some questions about Berkeley (where I went to grad school) and the INS lawyer asked me if I was being paid to testify (no) and whether or not I was qualified to diagnose (yes).

The judge asked me a lot of questions about what I thought the children’s reactions would be if their parents were deported. I talked about the family's unity and how their attachment bonds, demonstrated in the way that these family members spoke about and interacted with each other, were mitigating the stress of the deportation proceedings while also causing worry and stress about the potential loss of those bonds. In our interviews and tests with the 4th grader, it was evident he could not stop thinking about court as he would sometimes repeat the same sentence over and over when asked about the trial. I said kids are resilient, but how would they bounce back after losing the very people that helped them weather the storms? Then I went into overdrive. I threw in something about our values - as codified in child welfare and immigration laws – that families belong together. And how our laws value family stability and reunification. And since I was mourning my mother, a life-long advocate and tireless supporter of immigrants her entire life, I talked about how profound the loss of a parent can be. If a 35-year-old woman can become completely undone by the loss of her mother, then I can only imagine what kind of impact that would have on a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old.

I took a risk, a big risk, used my voice, challenged my skills, asked for help. The next day I got a call saying that the judge had ordered that parents could stay. The so-called Latina lawyer from INS filed an appeal.

That experience changed me a little. I had always been persistent, but now I had greater confidence that no matter what challenge I was faced with, it was truly possible to figure things out. Nothing can prepare you for everything that may come up in the line of duty. What fuels my confidence now is the hope that I can figure it out, with enough help, I can figure it out.

Last month, this mother found me on Facebook. She was working at the elementary school where this all started. The kids are doing well - now 16, 13 and 7 - the oldest is in high school. All I can say is, Thank You, Yesus. This one is dedicated to Irene Acuña - the best advocate and role model a girl could ever have. Amen.

Self-Care or In it for the Long Haul

Summer always gives me time to pause and reflect on self-care, otherwise known as how to stay in it for the long haul - tenemos que durar.

One of my first assignments as a school social worker was at an elementary school in South L.A. In the first couple of months I hospitalized a student for suicidal ideation and behaviors (I was on campus until 9pm on a Valentine's Day Friday!) and advocated for services for a 5th grader with conduct disorder. The challenges and drain of day-to-day work drove me to a chiropractor where I met one of the most gifted healers in the form of a massage therapist. When she asked, "What brings you in?" I said, "It feels like I am wearing a leather outfit that is two sizes too small." She prescribed weekly massages to get me back into shape. I went dutifully every Friday after work and it was the most wonderful way to end the week and begin the weekend ($40 a week very well spent, in my opinion). I heard someone say that for real results, you need to do all three - chiropractor, massage and accupuncture - and I tend to agree. I would add that supplements are helpful, too - Omega-3s and all the B vitamins - they have done wonders for my mood and energy-level. Dr. Carl Bell*, an African-American psychiatrist who writes about how protective factors can promote resiliency and mediate the effects of trauma, advocates looking at the nutrition of children exposed to trauma, particularly those in foster and group home care. He recommends Omega-3s for brain development and mood regulation. Improved mood regulation equals improved foster placement stability.

*(These lecture notes courtesy of my friend, Jon Pettigrew, MSW)

This makes total sense because, we are not at our best when stressed. And yet, isn't this when it matters most, that is, how we choose to behave in our darkest hours? It follows that we need more good stuff in those moments for balance - good stuff like good nutrition, exercise, resources, protective factors, support, in order to equalize the demands and capacity equation.

In the Winter Quarter of 1998, I also enrolled in an art class taught by the L.A. Latino artist, Roberto Gutierrez, at Plaza de la Raza. It was, and still is, the best $50 I ever spent on nine weeks of art instruction and nurturing support. After work, every Monday, I showed up and worked on a charcoal drawing of my self-portrait. I have taken other classes from Roberto - watercolors, acrylics, assemblage, contour drawing, ink drawing, crayon resist, etc. My daughter attends with me now too. Roberto calls her a serious artist. Roberto is now my mentor and dear friend. His conversations and discussions in class were always so funny, positive, motivating and nurturing of his students, so I asked him one day, "How do you manage to be so positive and nurturing?" He told me about how he used public transportation and listened to positive visualization tapes during the trips. It was clear he was feeding himself good stuff because he was sharing good stuff with us. Good stuff in - good stuff out.

Self-care also includes taking care of ourselves financially. I have been saving for retirement, on and off, since I was 21 years old. In this line of work, or any for that matter, I suspect that after turning 55, it will be nice to have options rather than feel forced to continue working due to financial pressures. I think about what our bodies will have absorbed and stored by then - layered over the years in our line of work.

I guess my assertion is that every helping professional deserves a body healer, a creative outlet that puts you in a state of flow and retirement savings. Good nutrition and exercise are the foundation. Any tips, referrals and stories about what works for you?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Actions and Reflections

Summer can mean so much. After a whirlwind year - an intense rollercoaster ride - it means slowing down, taking breaks whenever I can make them happen, rejuvenating, starting projects that seem impossible when the year is in full swing (for instance, an attachment-themed book club), and taking care of all the business that got left behind.

To that end, I...
...am spending more time with my girl and my man
...met with a financial planner
...enrolled in a couples communication class
...went to the dentist
...log meals and exercise on an iPhone app
...take a tennis class
...signed up for a nutrition and cleansing program
...took my daughter for a physical
...walk 3 miles at a time almost everyday (!) for social and recreational purposes
...finally got rid of the grey, which made me consider letting the grey grow out (hmmm)
...am having lots of dates and fun with friends and family

It is amazing all that it takes to make my life stay in balance with the introduction of a major stressor/incredible opportunity (the ying and yang of going back to school). I am grateful for all the personal and social resilience factors in my life - trying to get my bounce back this summer. ;)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Protective Effects of Good Parenting on Adolescents

Straight from the Abstract...sometimes all you need in order to stay current with the latest and greatest in research is one paragraph...

Recent findings
There have been significant recent advances in the study of the relationship between parenting and adolescent development. Several recent intervention studies with a parenting component demonstrated immediate and long-term protective effects on adolescent risk behavior. Parent—child connectedness and authoritative parenting style are protective for teens. Parental monitoring has a protective effect on many adolescent risk behaviors in both middle-class populations and poor urban environments and has been shown both to moderate the effect of peer influence and to persist into late adolescence. Whereas unsupervised time, exposure to sexual possibility situations, and out-of-home care increase sexual behavior, improved parent—child communication reduces sexual risk behaviors.

Summary
Recent scholarship demonstrates the significant, enduring, and protective influence of positive parenting practices on adolescent development. In particular, parental monitoring, open parent—child communication, supervision, and high quality of the parent—child relationship deter involvement in high-risk behavior. Authoritative parenting generally leads to the best outcomes for teens. Clinicians should find opportunities to discuss evidence-based parenting practices with families. Future research should focus on the development and long-term evaluation of effective parenting interventions.

From: The protective effects of good parenting on adolescents, Elise R. DeVore and Kenneth R. Ginsburg

Universal Family Interventions

"Well-controlled intervention studies have demonstrated that family interventions can have important effects on adolescent outcomes, including substance use, juvenile offenses, and conduct disorder. Recent evidence suggests universal school-based targeting of education programs for parents of adolescents can improve protective factors such as parent-adolescent bonding and communication. Positive adolescent behavioral changes have been documented 2 years after educational intervention with parents of early adolescents."

From: Impact of an empowerment-based parent education program on the reduction of youth suicide risk factors, John W. Toumbourou and M. Elizabeth Gregg.

More Nuggets from Dr. Koob

From Dr. Koob's (Professor of Social Work at Cal State Long Beach) dissertation:

Describing the significance of the therapist-supervisor relationship in developing competent therapists:


"The importance of this dyadic relationship between a supervisor and a therapist cannot be overstated. Research shows that therapist burnout, and career changes--even after several years of being a therapist--can be traced back to ineffective supervision. These researchers contend that traditional supervision models have not been effective in developing a sense of high perceived self-efficacy in the developing therapist. They further contend that developing high perceived self-efficacy in the therapist is essential to producing a competent therapist, and promoting career stability."

Describing assumptions from traditional supervision:

"These traditional dynamics of dual relationships, parallel processes, developmental processes, and interpersonal issues have lead to the following three assumptions regarding traditional supervision:

1. Focus on 'mistakes' the therapist makes, not successes
2. Focus on what the client did , not what the therapist did (client focused, not therapist focused)
3. There is one right way to conduct therapy"

"If the development of high perceived self-efficacy is a necessary condition in the development of a competent therapist, as researchers contend, and further, if traditional supervision does not lead to high perceived self-efficacy in the therapist, then supervisors who prescribe to the preceding three assumptions regarding traditional supervision are less likely to produce competent therapists."

Changing assumptions using solution-focused clinical supervision:

"Solution-Focused Supervision leads to the opposite assumptions of Traditional Supervision:

1. Focus on successes the therapist makes, not 'mistakes'
2. Focus on what the therapist did, not what the client did
3. There is more than one right way to conduct therapy
"

Describing SFBT techniques:

"One of Milton Erickson’s use of hypnosis was to have people imagine what their life would be like if they did not have their presenting problems. Jim Wilkes would tell his clients stories of people who were able to overcome problems similar to the client’s, and then how their life changed. Among other techniques, de Shazer asks what he calls a miracle question--'When you wake up tomorrow, and if you discover that a miracle happened, and your problem no longer existed, how would your life be different?' "

"Once you have discovered the client’s solution to their life, de Shazer (1985) explains that you then must assist them in constructing that solution, and then guide them toward that solution. As an illustration, if a woman says she would like to be an architect--you have discovered her solution-- you then define the steps she must take or bricks that build that solution, and then you help her build her castle."

Reading Dissertations: Solution Focused Clinical Supervision

Since Social Learning Theory contends that modeling is an important aspect of learning, I have been reading dissertations lately. The first I want to highlight is from Dr. Koob. He is a professor at CSULB’s Department of Social Work and teaches a semester-long course on Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). He has conducted numerous SFBT trainings for us at LAUSD and I have sat through many hours of individual and group SFBT consultation with him. I always learn something new when I see him, so it is not surprising that his dissertation was such a great read.

Here is a nugget…
“Bandura described perceived self-efficacy as “judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations” (p. 122). Bandura proposes that a dynamic interplay between cognitions, emotions, and behavior regulate what we will do, and how well we will do it. However, it is the person’s perception of their efficacy that is actually more predictive of their behavior and its concomitant outcome than the person’s actual abilities. Persons who judge themselves as efficacious will have more favorable outcomes than those who judge themselves as inefficacious despite equal abilities. Bandura asserts, ‘Self-efficacy is enhanced more by how people perceive success than by actual successful performance’ (1986).”

Do you give up before you try? Do your ideas about how well (or badly) you will do stop you dead in your tracks?


Some students walk around thinking, "I am not good at math." It turns out that what makes us “good at math” is mostly dependent on the amount of time we are willing to “hang in there” when faced with a difficult math problem. It is more about confidence in one’s ability to figure it out than “natural ability.”

An excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s,
Outliers, describes this process:
“But Renee persists. She experiments. She goes back over the same issues time and again. She thinks out loud. She keeps going and going. She simply won’t give up…We sometimes think of being good at mathematics as an innate ability. You either have ‘it’ or you don’t. But to Shoenfeld (Berkeley professor), it’s not so much ability as
attitude. You master mathematics if you are willing to try…Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.”

In fact, “countries where students are willing to concentrate and sit still long enough and focus on answering every single question in an endless questionnaire are the same countries whose students do the best job of solving math problems.” The questionnaire rankings and math rankings are exactly the same. Effort and hard work make a difference.
Valuing effort and hard work is therefore important.

Low expectations of students prevent them from being successful. Success and achievement reap benefits like pride, self-efficacy, empowerment, agency, competence, and mastery – comfort that if I try, I can figure it out and confidence that if I persist, I will succeed.

Public Speaking

If you google "fear of public speaking statistics," you'll learn that most people are more afraid of public speaking (glossophobia) than death (necrophobia). Yikes! Like most fears, fear of public speaking can limit us in the areas of career and success if nothing is done about it.

I attended a series of communications workshops sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the following notes are from a session with Eda Roth. She is a trained actor and coaches others to speak more confidently in the workplace - learning to use our voice takes work.

Five essential components that make presentations work:
  1. Life
  2. Truth
  3. Clarity
  4. Language
  5. Caring/Connection
Framework for communications

*Who are you talking to?
*What time of day is this?
*What do you want to accomplish?
*What is their attitude toward you and your issue?
*What is your strategy? You become more yourself strategically.
*What are the obstacles?
*Are you invested in the issue and the outcome?
* It’s not about you – it’s about the passion for the people or issues that you are representing. To emphasize this point, she told a story about how mother love, which helped her to lift a car to save her 12 year old child, was greater than her fears.

The introduction engages the audience
* Get their attention
* Give background and context
* Establish credibility – not resume/CV but few key points
* Give them a reason to listen – create the "need to know" – what are you gonna talk about and benefits – the "so what?" of listening
* Preview – what you’re going to cover

Ways to begin
• Story
• Validate people as a connector to topic
• 7 seconds for people to make an impression
• Fact or social math (social math is putting the number in a context that really makes it stick)
• Thesis statement – the headliner of what you’re talking about
• Background or context
• Picture with Quote that is relevant
• Reference to occasion or previous speaker on a panel
• Guided visualization
• Humor is an attitude towards life

Think about a presentation that you will give and construct an opening – the introduction engages the audience

• Why listen to me?
• Get their attention
• Give background and context
• Establish credibility
• Give them a reason to listen
• Preview

Being believable in a given set of circumstances
Move the audience to see more
Hearing the words and feeling the importance of it – investing ourselves and being strategic – varied capabilities of our own expression
Awaken something in other people – she’s got something that’s gonna help me not feeling dumped on
Feel cared about
Embody authenticity – it is costly to step out and be daring, real, caring, present with people instead of being protected by professionalism
Theoretical vs. lived experience

Elements of the voice
Pitch
Volume - Fill the space with your voice
Inflection
Rate – pause as the white space, don’t talk faster so that people get more in
Diction
Non-words
Pauses
Words are music

The body says a lot
Posture and positioning – open and balanced
Gestures – using your hands
Eye contact – the vectors of relationship, focus lands your point, make the connections
Facial expressions – life comes through your face
Purposeful vs. nervous

How to deal with performance anxiety
Sigh of relief – breathe (even though it is counterintuitive)
Connect to the audience and message – higher purpose overcomes the fear
Know that you are adding value
Communicate conversationally
Try to enjoy yourself (take what you're doing seriously but not yourself – when focused on self not focused on what you are doing)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Social Work Process


"Developing an understanding and awareness of the social work process is one of the prerequisites for becoming a ‘reflective’ practitioner. Reflection is a skill and in this context, it is referring to the ability to work in a thoughtful and systematic way. Practitioners need to be aware (and inform service users) of why they are engaged in particular tasks and to be able to justify their methods of working. Interventions should be meaningful and fit within an overall plan or strategy. Awareness of the different stages of the social work process can assist social workers to prepare for, carry out and evaluate their interventions in order to both be accountable for and reflect upon their actions."

From http://socialwork.fife.gov.uk/fds/mod/resource/view.php?id=148

Article Abstract: Selective Mutism

"Selective mutism is a childhood disorder of interpersonal communication where a child fails to speak in specific situations where speaking is expected. The overwhelming anxiety these children experience in certain settings can be countervailed by the creation of a safe therapeutic milieu. Children speak volumes through their silence. Children can be silent for many reasons. Hardy (2005) explained the sharp distinction between children choosing to remain quiet versus being silenced.

Some young children remain quiet because they are timid and shy or anxious which in extreme cases can lead to selective mutism. These children can be helped to find their
voice with gentle encouragement and by creating a relaxed natural context for them to speak.

Some children may speak loudly but feel silenced because no one is listening anymore. Angry children believe they have to be louder and louder because they don't feel they are being heard. With these children, creating a safe place and time within the family for them to speak and more importantly to
be heard can dramatically decrease their anger and acting-out behavior.

Other children are silenced because it is not safe for them to speak. Silencing of victims is a core dynamic of oppression of all forms. Sheer terror can literally shut down the neurobiological mechanisms in the brain that underpin speech. Children of terror may not be able to express such events orally. They can, however, be helped to find a different 'voice.'

Finally, children can be silenced by the shame and stigma of their traumatization that renders them voiceless. This chapter explores these forms of silencing of children and ways to help them find their voice."

If sitting up straight can change your attitude or mood and if your good mood can put a spring in your step, does it matter which comes first? Does temporal order matter in this cause and effect relationship? If terror shuts down speech centers of the brain, then what does speaking out do for the brain and its healing? Gabor Mate references a study that shows that married women live longer if they speak up in their marriage (I'll track down the specifics of the study for you later). Using our voice vs. remaining oppressed, the difference is literally a matter of life and death. How's that for hyperbole?

From: A spectrum of dynamic forces that silence children, Crenshaw, David A. and Lee, Jennifer in Crenshaw, David A. (2008), Reprinted 2010 Child and adolescent psychotherapy: Wounded spirits and healing paths. (pp. 107-121). Lanham, MD, US: Jason Aronson. ix, 167 pp. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Digging into Resilience & The Equation of Balance

Emmy Werner followed, from the prenatal period to adulthood, 505 babies born in Kaui in 1955.

In particular, she was interested to see what would happen to high risk children - those born to poverty, perinatal stress and a disorganized caretaking environment.

One out of every three of the high risk children, 10% of the total cohort, had developed into a competent, confident, and caring young adult by age 18.

Young men and women in this study who were able to elicit primarily positive responses from their environments were found to be stress-resistent, even when living in chronic poverty or in disorganized homes with disturbed parents.

(Is there a connection to the 3 to 1 positivity ratio foreshadowed here?)

Those that provoked negative responses from their environments were found to be vulnerable, even in the absence of biological stress or financial constraints.

As disadvantages and the cumulative number of stressful life events increased, more protective factors in the children and their caregiving environment were needed to counterbalance the negative factors and to ensure positive developmental outcomes.

From Overcoming the Odds: High Risk Children from Birth to Adulthood, Emmy E. Werner and Ruth S. Smith.

Excessive stress occurs when the demands made on an organism exceed that organism's reasonable capacities to fulfill them.

From When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, Gabor Mate, MD

Stress: Demands > Capacity

This explains why we all have a breaking point. Stack enough stressors and we are all vulnerable. Possible combinations of “what is demanding” and “our capacity” are infinite and unique, but the process is not. I just got through reading an autobiography of Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You, and her breaks from reality seem to have come long after the traditional late adolescence onset and more likely related to chronic exhaustion and a life extremely out of balance. There is also a question about the connection between creativity and madness which Jung described as: "Schizophrenics drown in the same waters as mystics delight in" or something like that, but that's another post.

Is there a balancing human equation? When demands are greater than capacity, what resources (human, personal, environmental, tangible, metaphysical, etc.) can be drawn upon to sustain us?

Adaptation: Capacity (+ + + + + + + + + + + +) = Demands

If you had to list them, what are your + + + + ?

Do we know when to call on our resources?

Do we feel entitled to fight to survive, adapt or succeed?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Plans

Aside from Gabor Mate's, When the Body Says No, I want to read, A Secure Base, by John Bowlby and Hold on to Your Kids, by Gabor Mate. All these books are directly or indirectly about attachment. I can't help but see everything through this lens now. If you are interested in any of these books let me know. If you are in the Los Angeles area, then consider joining our real-life book club. If you are not, then we can do this virtually.

I'm also interested in more family therapy training. I wish there was a family therapy institute in Los Angeles for training, I may have to create one someday. I feel I have gone as far as I can grow on my own.

My goal for the end of the summer is to complete a literature review for a couple of intervention research studies on a parenting program for article submission.

Any tips, leads, interest, comments are welcome.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Loose Associations

Oprah magazine contributor (yay for summer reading!), Donna Brazile, relates a story that happened to Gloria Steinem (this is like the game telephone or oral history): On a field trip in college, Gloria "rescued" a big turtle from the side of the road by wrestling it back down to the water below. Upon learning of this heroic feat, a professor told her that she had just set the turtle back a month - she'd crawled up to lay her eggs in the mud. That experience taught Gloria the important political lesson - always ask the turtle.

My Epistemology Professor, Zeke, when reviewing Feminist Standpoint (or was it Postmodernism?), described how the response to domestic violence by professionals is often counter to what women say they want, when asked. Our focus tends to be on restraining orders and separation or divorce, while women say, in a qualitative study, that they want help with staying together and help for their partners. We dismiss the attachment and bonds, but they don't. I admit to figuratively rolling my eyes when women refused to call the police after a domestic violence incident because they didn't want their children to witness dad being arrested. Now I get that everyone has a point. Integrating ideas, solutions, interests and perspectives is the best way forward. Everything is political in this way.

Twenty years ago, I used to teach birth control methods to young women and I would sometimes ask about their plans for the future. This is when I learned that they were actually trying to get pregnant and not interested in birth control methods at all. It would have saved me an hour if I'd asked this question first. Most of the time, trying to have a baby meant trying to create a bond to someone that would love them back unconditionally. They were more interested in attachment and bonds in the here and now than any other future plans.

Jumping into treatment or intervention may be fool-hardy and ineffective. Taking the time to ask, assess, observe, and listen is invaluable. A comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment often makes what to do readily apparent.

Kevin Cameron, a Canadian therapist and expert on threat assessment trains crisis responders in threat assessment internationally. During break time at a training, I asked him if he would get to what to do with students that make threats because he was spending lots of time on the assessment stage. He said that most people don't spend nearly enough time on this and often make decisions based on unidimensional assessments - which are not only limited and incomplete, but may be dangerously wrong.

My mother often told me how important it was as a parent to observe, study and understand your child. Then, what to do as a parent - how to respond appropriately, effectively and in an attuned way - would be clearer. Every child is unique and what works for one may not work for another. What your parents did to raise you, may or may not work for your own kids. Individualized parenting, with some universal or standard principles, makes some sense. Research supports some common elements in effective parenting.

Summer seems to provide a great opportunity to slow down and reflect, observe and study - ourselves, first and then our kids, just like the instructions during airplane take-off. Parent, know thyself. Your child is a mirror - a reflection of your best parts and the unresolved stuff. The beauty is, there is always hope for the unresolved to find closure. Acknowledgement takes confidence and courage, seeking assistance and telling the truth does too. The rewards for all this heroism is good - for us and our kids.