Black Belonging on the 4th of July

My 96-year-old father escaped Nazi Germany at the age of 16, leaving his parents behind in a concentration camp. He has always been relentlessly hopeful, never describing his experience as trauma. But the few moments of deep pain he has let escape from a well-hidden place relate to the experience of rejection by his home country. I thought of this perspective when I listened to Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” performed by his descendants. One of them, a 15-year-old wise beyond their years, concludes with words of their own. “Somebody once said that “Pessimism is a tool of White Oppression.’ I think that’s true and I think in many ways we are still slaves to the notion that it will never get better. But I think there is hope and I think it’s important that we celebrate Black joy and Black life and we remember that change is possible, change is probable, and that there’s hope.”

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Childcare at the Intersection of Prejudice and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fact that the health of our economy rests on the shoulders of our country’s childcare workers. The majority of the people tasked with caring for our nation’s youngest members are women of color and among the lowest paid and least valued members of our society. Children and their caregivers together bear the brunt of woefully inadequate and poorly thought out plans for reopening early education and care .

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A Necessary Mess: Making Sense of George Floyd’s Senseless Death

As a White person I feel uncomfortable speaking to something which I will never fully understand. Yet staying silent does not feel right either. Perhaps the discomfort is the point. I will make mistakes I am sure. But as our book describes, through the process of moving from misunderstanding to understanding, or from “mismatch” to “repair,” relationships grow. Empathy occurs across a vast space of not-knowing. We write, “When we aim to imagine our way into other people’s experiences while acknowledging we can’t really know, we can join them.”

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Preserving Emotional Health: Making Meaning in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott would understand why COVID-19 threatens to bring on what has been referred to as a “shadow pandemic” in the form of a mental health crisis. Winnicott used the lovely phrase “going on being” to describe the continuous sense of self that emerges in moment-to-moment interactions in our earliest relationships and continues to evolve in new relationships over time. He described the “unthinkable anxiety” that accompanies a loss of that sense of self.

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Community Trauma Prevention Starts with Parent-Infant Relationships

The COVID-19 pandemic has called on us to find creative ways to connect and learn. In rural western Massachusetts I had scheduled a training for 20 practitioners who work with parents and infants to meet together for two days of learning on April 15 and 16th. Instead I rapidly adapted the training to the online setting. I have had the pleasure of meeting weekly with an extraordinary group that includes peer recovery coaches on the front lines supporting moms with opioid use disorders, clinicians and administrators from Child Protective Services, physicians, occupational therapists, early intervention specialists, and early childhood educators to learn together for a course in “Community-Based Parent-Infant Relationship Support.

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Love in the Time of COVID-19

Safety and trust go hand-in-hand with a sense of belonging. The fact that those who stay home and spend their time watching funny YouTube videos are protecting the front line healthcare workers offers a striking demonstration of belonging. The virus itself shows us how interconnected we are.

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Pregnancy and COVID-19: Finding Hope Amidst Fear and Uncertainty

When it became clear that all our lives would all be upended for an indefinite period of time by the corona virus pandemic, as an infant-parent mental health specialist my first thought went to families due to deliver babies in the coming days, weeks, and months. Some degree of fear and uncertainty around the birth of a baby is typical. Expecting parents worry that the baby will be damaged, that the “real” baby will be different from the wished for baby. Now for pregnant women and their families these ordinary feelings are suddenly exponentially magnified.

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The Wisdom of the Ordinary Devoted Mother

In preparation for teaching a course on early childhood mental health, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with the profound wisdom of his writings. While Winnicott wrote extensively for both a general and a professional audience, I discovered, on careful re-reading of his essay for a general audience entitled “The Ordinary Devoted Mother” that it contains a vast wealth of ideas. In fact, if I had to assign only one paper for the entire course, this could be it.

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