Mind Matters — Parenting and Beyond

From the rearing of children to the effects of climate change on our psyches, there is no topic that hasn’t a psychological component. The recent issue of the American Psychological Association (APA) Monitor is full of reports that attest to this fact.

Recently, the Monitor notes, the APA publicly debunked the physical discipline of children citing the solid longitudinal research that finds that such discipline does not improve behavior and, in fact, exacerbates emotional, behavioral, and academic problems. “Hitting children doe not teach them right from wrong … Children do not need pain to learn … We don’t allow aggression among adults. It’s a sad double standard that we don’t give our children the same protection against violence” notes Elizabeth Gershoff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas.

There are many options for effective parenting without resorting to negative, or bordering on abusive, measures. Books on parenting by Daniel Siegel and John Gottman have been highlighted in past columns here. A recent book to help parents is Mindful Parenting by Kristen Race, Ph.D. She discusses ways to engage with children at all stages of development and gives clear “recipes” for how to get even a toddler to relax. (See her book for “animal breathing” as just one example!)

The research of psychologists stretches beyond the study of children and parents to environments worlds away from each other. Ashlee Consolo, Ph.D., and Neville Ellis, Ph.D. are studying communities in Labrador and Australia and are discovering an “ecological grief” that is common to both due to the effects of climate change. Life on their lands is being decimated. Consola says, “… in 2009, the Lancet [British Medical Journal] identified climate change as the biggest public health challenge of the twenty-first century … I think there’s an increasing recognition that mental health is a part of that.”

The more we understand about our own bodies and our developing brains and the more we learn about our world, the more we recognize how much mental health is affected by everything!

Further Reading: