At an early point in my professional career, I used to work with people who were newly assigned to a job that required them to be responsible for the safety of a large number of people. The job was also physically and emotionally challenging, and included a complicated set of managerial tasks. Not surprisingly, many of them had difficulties adjusting to this job. My role in this scenario was to diagnose and prevent burn-outs. All of those professionals mentioned that, by far, it was the most difficult job they had ever done - “besides parenting”, pointed out those of them who were also parents. Why would those pilots and crew captains of intercontinental flights make such a comparison? As a parent myself and as someone who works closely with parents, I can tell you that the question is purely rhetorical. Parents are just like pilots in so many ways. Parents have to know their destination and how to get there, and they have to adjust quickly and effectively to ever-changing circumstances. They have to maintain the spirit of their crew while keeping an eye on the dashboard (a.k.a. the family budget), and they, not the teachers or physicians, are ultimately responsible for the lives and well-being of their children.
This is because, at the end of the day, every decision weighs on their shoulders. How do they survive? Some of them don’t. Of course, I am exaggerating- but only slightly. After all, one of the frequent complaints I hear from the most sophisticated and self-reflective parents is about loss of their sense of identity; a loss of themselves. “I know that I am supposed to become enriched by my [parenting] experience, but I feel like I am losing myself. I can hardly recognize that yelling, ill-tempered guy I’ve become...Where is my sense of humor? …I am able to keep my cool at work… I become somebody else when I am at home with them,” a father of two teenagers once told me. Parenting is incredibly challenging; it brings out the absolutely best and worst in people, and once you have started, you are never done. That is why I offer parental counseling in my office, and do it in many forms: individual and group counseling, ongoing and crisis counseling, and not to mention occasional tune-ups for parents who may not need continuing support but could definitely use it when they feel they are facing an issue that could potentially bring on a significant problem.
One of the forms of parental counseling is conducted by me at a child’s home. As we all know, many problems start when children are very young. However, when you bring a baby or a toddler to a doctor’s office, the parent-child interaction will be artificial and not very informative diagnostically. That is why I do home visits when there is a need to access specific dimensions of the delicate relationship between a very young child and a parent. This way, my recommendations concerning the cornerstones of future development – the routines, the details of environment, and the quality of the bond between the child and the caregiver - will be very specific and family-tailored.