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Listening to a Young Family’s Suffering

In in my role as faculty of the University of Massachusetts Boston Infant-Parent Mental Health program. I recently listened to a presentation by Dr. Barbara Stroud in which she placed caring for young children and their families in the context of systemic racism. Describing "voices that have been silenced" she cautioned us to "stop talking, teaching, and intervening long enough to listen." When a month later Dr. David Willis spoke for the same program about Early Relational Health, he put my struggle with both "screening" and "assessment" into a new and interesting frame. Alluding to their judgmental nature, he looked at these constructs as "white dominant cultural products." He spoke of the need to attend to power dynamics in supporting relational health with a model of promotion and prevention. His language resonating for me with the idea of protecting space to listen from a place of not knowing; to take time to imagine our way into another persons's experience.

The Opioid Crisis: A Vicious Cycle of the Quick Fix

When a pill is the primary treatment without attention to the full relational and social context of individual suffering, people remain stuck in patterns of disconnection and harm. We see a downward spiral of intergenerational trauma and loss tearing apart the fabric of our society. One can argue that this is true of both physical and emotional pain.

Cultural Humility as Listening: The Power of Not Knowing

As a physician in training, I learned the concept “cultural competence.” The term suggested that by acquiring knowledge and information we could become experts in people different from ourselves. The current term “cultural humility” reflects a kind of humbleness of not knowing; a necessary time when we feel awkward and uneasy.

Autism Prevention in Infancy: A Broad Interpretation

Especially in the time of COVID parents are raising children in a highly stressful, unpredictable, and often overwhelming environments. Now more than ever, deliberate efforts to protect space and time to listen both to parents and infants using a simple, low-cost intervention, as described in Green's research, might go a long way in mitigating the negative impact of these difficult and uncertain times.

Sleepless New Parents: Navigating Uncertainty and Loss

Sleep itself represents among the earliest forms of separation. While sleep disruption inevitably accompanies new parenthood, when families suffer to the point that they find their way to my office, usually they are grappling with a deep sense of loss. A search for certainty becomes an obstacle to exploring the source(s) of that pain. Time and a safe space for listening offers families opportunity to move through grief to reclaim joy.

Celebrating Pediatricians’ Embrace of Early Relational Health

The Frameworks Institute (that also developed the term "toxic stress") wrote in a recent report: "Early relational health, although a new term, does not designate a new field nor a series of new discoveries. In fact, early relational health builds upon decades of research from the fields of child development, infant mental health and neurodevelopment that has established the centrality of relationships between caregivers and very young children for future health, development and social-emotional wellbeing."