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Parenting from the Inside Out

One of the authors who has had a large impact on me is Dr. Dan Siegel with his books and continuing educational classes. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. An educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is the leading proponent of attachment theory in neuroscience. 

In one of his works he breaks down how we can foster a secure attachment with our children using the four "S's"

It is essential for our children to be/feel:

  • Seen — this is not just seeing with the eyes. It means perceiving them deeply and empathically — sensing the mind behind their behavior, with what Dr. Siegal calls "mindsight"

  • Safe — we avoid actions and responses that frighten or hurt them

  • Soothed — we help them deal with difficult emotions and situations

  • Secure — we help them develop an internalized sense of well-being

His book "Parenting from the Inside Out," which was published in 2003, remains #5 in the top 50 of all parenting books. This book delves into the intricate relationship between parent and child, exploring the impact of a parent's emotional experiences and past attachments on their parenting style. 

One of the strengths of the book lies in its emphasis on the importance of understanding one's own childhood experiences and how they shape parenting behaviors. Siegel and Hartzell argue that by examining our own past and making sense of our emotions, we can become more attuned to our children's needs and respond to them in a more empathetic and nurturing way. 

According to Dr. Siegel all parents, regardless of their childhood experiences, can have a secure attachment to their children. The key for us parents is developing a coherent narrative of our own childhood separating from our past and taking control of our relationships with our children. Telling our story is an important part of making sense of our past, bringing memories and feelings to the surface to understand how they inform the present. 

It is important to know that understanding alone is not enough to prevent disrupted connection with our children from occurring. The challenge is to embrace our humanity as we are biologically without chastising ourselves for our "errors" that keep us involved in our own emotional issues from the past. Follwoing the advice of the 4 "S's" above is certain to help. 

It goes with the concept of "mindfulness," that he writes about in "Parenting from the Inside Out," and his other books, encouraging parents to be present in the moment and cultivate a deeper awareness of their thoughts and emotions. This mindfulness not only enhances the parent-child relationship but also serves as a foundation for the child's emotional well-being.

The book is well-organized, with each chapter focusing on a specific aspect of parenting, such as attachment, discipline, and communication. 

Dr. Siegel easily integrates scientific research, real-life anecdotes, and practical exercises to help readers apply the principles discussed. I have used these very principles in my own sessions with parents and clients. 

"Parenting from the Inside Out" ultimately offers a holistic approach to parenting, addressing the emotional needs of both parents and children. By fostering self-awareness and emotional intelligence, the book empowers parents to create a nurturing and supportive environment for their children to thrive. It is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of the parent-child relationship and enhance their parenting skills.

Odell Terrell is a mental health counselor in Greensboro, NC. He graduated with a MS in Counseling from Divine Mercy University in Arlington, VA, and places emphasis on family systems theory and attachment theory working with families and children.

His education and training has qualified him to sit for and pass the state of North Carolina Licensing Examination Board. His training in family systems theory, attachment theory, personality disorders, psychological pathology, and complex trauma gives him the necessary qualifications to assess, diagnose and treat mental health disorders. He also has background and experience in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment pathology in the family courts. Odell is happily married for 18 years. He is the father of 9 children and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his family and child therapy practice.

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