November 17, 2022
By Diana Hembree
Good morning, MindSite News readers. What’s in a name? Today we look at the difference between the “gentle parenting” and “responsive parenting.” The former has no clear definition, but, as a new book about responsive parenting points out, the latter is designed to help you set limits while responding with empathy when your children are in distress — a practice that will help them develop resilience.
Also in this issue: A MindSite News Original on a Housing First approach for unhoused parents with children in New York City, Dr. Greenberg on navigating rejection, and what you can do to support your struggling college students’ mental health.
In New York, ‘Housing First’ Approach Helps Unhoused Families Find Stability
After a childhood spent in foster homes and three years living in a New York City shelter with her son, Ronnie Hodge was thrilled to be able to move into her own apartment two years ago. The apartment is leased by a nonprofit, HousingPlus, that first helps parents with children get into housing – and then helps them tackle other problems such as mental illness or substance use.
The Housing First model began in New York and has since spread around the globe. In contrast to programs that require sobriety and treatment in order to advance from shelter and short-term housing to a permanent home, Housing First helps people stabilize by getting them settled, then offers services on a voluntary basis. Some critics deride the approach for subsidizing people’s housing without requiring them to address their addiction.
“It’s not housing only, but housing first,” said Margot Kushel, director of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California San Francisco. She views the housing-first approach as vital. “There’s nothing more unstable than being homeless,” she said. “For a critic to say, ‘You have to get better before we give you an apartment’ is structured to produce failure. And it does, time and again.”
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Responsive parenting, not “gentle parenting”
“Mona Delahooke doesn’t love the phrase ‘gentle parenting’ especially because her book is often lumped into the same category as gentle parenting literature.”
This shot across the bow, from Aditi Shrikant of CNBC, certainly caught our attention, especially because “gentle parenting” is indeed an annoying phrase, one that suggests a parent who is nebbishy and overly permissive.
Delahooke simply feels the phrase “gentle parenting” is too ill-defined. “The word ‘gentle’ is triggering,” she told CNBC. “That’s why I don’t use it. People think it means never saying ‘no,’ but this isn’t the case.” Her book, Brain-Body Parenting: How to Stop Managing Behavior and Start Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids, is about “responsible parenting” – that is, how to respond to your children when they are in distress and helping them learn how to manage their own emotions.
She cites the example of an embarrassing scenario familiar to millions of parents, including this one, in which a toddler has a meltdown in a store because they can’t have the treat they want. In this and other clashes, she encourages parents to respond with empathy rather than anger. The answer is still no, but your empathetic response will help soothe your young child and quiet their stress hormones. Instead of yelling or blaming them for being rude or ungrateful, you acknowledge their disappointment.
And it goes without saying that the response should never be a slap or spanking, which doesn’t help children learn to self-regulate but will teach them that might makes right – something that can bode ill for their future relationships.
Although young children don’t yet have the emotional tools to deal calmly with let-downs, your calm and empathetic response will give them the chance to flex those emotional muscles. In fact, if you give in to their demands and don’t let them struggle with some disappointment, they won’t develop resilience, Delahooke says. Stay tuned for a review of Brain-Body Parenting in the MindSite News Review of Books.
Ask Barbara: Advice from a Teen Psychologist
“My relatives have long had a tradition of an annual holiday get-together but this year they left out my family. What did we do wrong?” Dr. Barbara Greenberg responds and discusses different ways to deal with rejection.
If you have a question about parenting kids, teens or young adults, send them to Dr. Greenberg, co-author of Teenage as a Second Language, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It may be months until a college mental health center can see your child in crisis. What can you do now?
A couple on the West Coast who sent their daughter to school in the Midwest kept hearing assurances from her that she was fine – until she wasn’t. As described in an excellent piece in the Washington Post, the parents began fielding calls in the middle of the night. “It’s really, really hard to be … 2,000 miles away … and have your daughter calling at midnight — sobbing, crying and having a panic attack,” the mother said.
When some of us were in school, that might have meant that we got in touch with the school counseling center, which would then set up weekly appointments. But with demand for mental health services now five times greater than the rate of enrollment, weekly counseling sessions on campus have been replaced by short-term crisis support – if even that’s available.
The Post outlines a number of strategies for parents, including asking their kids if they could sign papers waiving confidentiality so the school could notify them if there’s a problem, setting up continuous care if needed before the student arrives on campus, and helping them sign them up for telehealth counseling if no counselors are available. Most of all, let your child know they can talk to you about anything – even if it’s that they are failing their classes or need to take time off from school.
And the West Coast daughter? She ended up withdrawing from college, getting diagnosed and treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder, and going back to the same Midwest school the next year – where, as her mother reports, “she still struggles from time to time, but she also absolutely loves it.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.
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