A 7-Year Old I know Just Got Her First Cell Phone

A 7 year old I know just told me that she got her first cell phone. She’s proud and happy, but the reality of a 7 year old with a phone gives me pause. I find myself wondering what she will be doing on this phone. Who will she text or call? What games will she be playing? How much will this phone take her away from direct contact with her friends?

I walk with my dog around a pond in my town. Sometimes I see kids there. They used to be fishing in the pond, skipping rocks, or just walking around and talking with one another. Now, I see 3 boys, probably around 12, sitting on a bench. Each is looking at his phone. They are not talking. They are not skipping rocks. They are not even looking at the beautiful pond or noticing the blue heron standing in the shallows on the far end. My dog sees all these things, even the boys on their phone. But the boys are watching their screens. Continue reading “A 7-Year Old I know Just Got Her First Cell Phone”

Mindreading and Mindblindness

Mentalization is the uniquely human (or so we think) ability to know one’s own mind and also the minds of others. The ability to mentalize develops in early childhood, consolidating at around 5 to 7 years old. It is the faculty of mind that allows us to understand that we have intentions, wishes, desires, feelings, hopes, knowledge, and plans, that others do as well. Moreover, once we have achieved mentalization, we also know that minds are opaque; in other words, we can guess what’s in someone else’s mind, but we can’t know it for sure unless we ask. The theory of … Continue reading Mindreading and Mindblindness

Selma Fraiberg, born March 8, 1918

Selma Fraiberg, social worker and psychoanalyst, would have been 100 on March 8. I still give her book, The Magic Years, to new parents as it remains, even after nearly 60 years, a rich and thoughtful exploration of the inner lives of infants and young children. Based in a deep understanding of child development rooted in psychoanalytic theory, Fraiberg, always empathic with the experience of parents, uncovers the meaning of early childhood behavior and offers parents a framework for civilizing their children in healthy and nourishing ways. Fraiberg is also remembered for her seminal article, “Ghosts in the Nursery,” which has been … Continue reading Selma Fraiberg, born March 8, 1918

Thoughts on The Mother-Infant Interaction Picture Book

Beatrice Beebe has been observing mothers and infants for many years. She reveals much of what she has learned in language appropriate for parents, teachers, and clinicians alike in her 2016 book, The Mother-Infant Interaction Picture Book.  Beebe has analyzed hours of split screen video in which mothers interact with their 4 month old infants. One of the most astonishing findings from the microanalysis of these videos is: These parent-infant communication patterns predict infant attachment patterns at one year, a key milestone in the infant’s development…An infant’s attachment pattern at one year predicts many aspects of the child’s development, including school … Continue reading Thoughts on The Mother-Infant Interaction Picture Book

Is there such a thing as too much play? Part 2

In an earlier post, I wrote about the contradictions we in modern society have about play. On one hand, we trivialize play and see it as a waste of time, only appropriate for children, not for adults who should be attending to more serious matters. On the other, we express nostalgia for an era when there was more time for undirected play.

The work of psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe offers a framework for understanding this ambivalence and our split views about play. Continue reading “Is there such a thing as too much play? Part 2”

Is there such a thing as too much play?

The debate about how much play is enough  is one carried out in the popular press, where experts and non-experts alike weigh in. Writing for the New York Times Magazine, Melanie Thernstrom reflects on the question from a personal point of view when her daughter is invited to the home of a friend from preschool, whose father has made a project out of being a free range, non-helicopter parent. Continue reading “Is there such a thing as too much play?”

Mothers & Infants

mother-and-infant
Image by Bob Whitehead

This beautiful family photograph, posted on Flickr by photographer Bob Whitehead, offers an idealized look at the mother/infant relationship. Composed such that the mother and infant comprise the entire field, the image emphasizes the importance, in our culture, of motherly love. The emotional bond between this mother/daughter pair is emblematized in the “eskimo kiss,” noses touching and in the open mouth smiles of both members of the dyad. Continue reading “Mothers & Infants”

Play, Identity, & Mental Health

Can we become who we are without play or is play is essential for the formation and development of human identity?  I am particularly interested in how play opens up a space for creativity, a space in which we can potentially transform our identities.  If we create ourselves, and play nurtures creativity, how might our identities emerge from a self-directed engagement with play? Continue reading “Play, Identity, & Mental Health”