I am freshly returned from the bi-annual meeting of the Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Conference. I always enjoy these meetings because many of the people who attend these meetings have been intimately involved in shaping my professional career, my adult identity, and my commitment to working with kids and families. These are the professors, friends from graduate school, and leaders in the field of evidence-based clinical child and adolescent psychology. I respect all of them and love some of them. They support me, challenge me, and a few of them love me in return.

My whole experience at the conference and a couple of the presentations raised a question for me and I would really like to hear your answers. Why did you show up to our program? What kept you away, if you did not? What are you looking for? What makes you think you will find it?

In the recent Report of Health Development: A Summit on Young Children’s Mental Health, the authors identified several main themes that hint at some of the reasons that parents seek more information and support in their effort to foster the development of their children. Do any of these themes for the future of children’s mental health apply to why you came to RSK or did not come?

Parents want to be effective, and effective parenting can mitigate the impact of some mental health conditions.

Promotion of child mental health and prevention should be family friendly. The way families are treated is too often part of the problem and can be part of the solution.

There are evidence-based strategies for parents and other caregivers that contribute to healthy development and reduce risk for mental disorders.

Supporting caregivers to be responsive and sensitive to young children improves children’s relationships, reduces their risk for mental health problems, and enhances their success in school.

Teaching social and emotional skills to children, and teaching parenting skills to parents, decreases the risk of problem behaviors and increases chances for success and achievement.

All of the themes above are important to me. I know that parents love their children and do the best that they can. I know that there are strategies and techniques that are so simple and effective because the techniques are the result of some really careful observations of children and parents. Clinical researchers have invested heart and soul into research programs that unveiled the real power of parents to mold the lives of their children.

For example, Betty Heart and Todd Risely poured over hundreds of hours of data to prove that when parents talk to their babies and respond to their babies’ sounds and expressions and keep on talking and talking and talking they raise some wicked smart kids.

Kim Shipman and her colleagues have shown in study after study that when mom or dad talks to a kid about that kid’s feelings and supports their child’s emotional expressions and tries to help the child to feel better, their children have fewer mental health problems even if the child has been the victim or witness of violence.

Shelia Eyeberg taught us how to teach parents to make kids feel like the center of the universe for five short minutes every day. Then, she proved that those five minutes will help kids behave better and to accept when parents practice a new discipline technique — even if the child has a behavior problem. 

In my day to day work with children and families I know that the parents and caregivers are the most powerful therapists in the room. We work together to come up with solutions that will work for the family first in an effort to make changes where their are problems. Together at Raising Safe Kids we support each other. Every time I come to a Raising Safe Kids workshop, I feel accepted. I learn something that makes me a better parent. I feel honored to be brought into your lives and your challenges that are so similar and so different from mine. When I see other people reaching out to and supporting each other, I know that we will make the world safer for children because we are working together. I know that I don’t know the sacrifices you make to do this program now. What lead you here? What keeps you away?