Sunday, March 21, 2010

Parents' Development from Dr. Harry Ireton

I would like to take a few weeks to discuss “Parents’ Development.” This is what my friend and mentor, Dr. Harry Ireton calls “The Other Half of the Story.” In these past five years of the column I have focused on how children develop and how we---the parents---meet their needs. But what about us? As our children grow and learn, do we also grow and learn to be parents?

To answer this question, Dr. Ireton uses Ellen Galinski’s way of looking at stages of parent development, focusing on four of her six stages. I will try my best to explain how they look at these stages of parent development.

It is always good to start at the very beginning and I will touch on this only briefly. Before the baby is born, the parents are in the imaging making stage. They are thinking about what their baby will be like and what it will be like to be a parent. This is the stuff dreams are made from.

The next stage is called “Parent as Nurturer.” This stage is from birth through the time that the child starts to say, “No.” In the nurturing stage, the parent develops beyond the idealism in the images they created before the baby was born. Another writer calls this the “All Yes” stage. Everything we do, we do for our baby. The goal is to meet the needs of the infant. In this stage parents are totally responsible and ever-vigilant. As parents grow in this stage they may need to form a new identity for themselves, letting go of past identities as they focus so totally on their child. The challenge of this stage is to be attentive, sensitive, and responsible. The question lurking in the background is, “What about me?”

Some of us are truly great at this stage, we blossom and seem to become what we were meant to be. However, children’s development does not stand still and if you are great at nurturing, that’s wonderful; but hold on to your hat, there is more to come! Next week we will uncover the secrets of the “Yes and No” stage.

While you are waiting for next week’s column, try to go outside with your kids, your camera, and a trash bag. Take a photo of your child picking up trash and bring it to the Ladysmith News in exchange for a musical toad.

Toad House Publishing

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