Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm currently reading The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding our Families by Mary Pipher, Ph.D. Pipher is a therapist, and I was deeply influenced by her book Reviving Ophelia, about the struggles of adolescent girls. It made a big impact on my calling to work with at-risk youth. Now, as a parent, I am realizing that all kids are at-risk these days. There is so much brokeness in our world, and so much that can be damaging to children. I worry so much about their futures, but also their present (are we spending enough quality time with them? How well are we doing at sharing our faith with them and teaching them our values? What happens when they go to school and are influenced by others?)

Because of the population I serve and because my husband is a therapist, we know of the dangers that surround us. Parents are often to blame for the troubles that befall youth, but we also know of examples where parents have truly done their best, and yet the kids (and families) struggle. I sometimes half-jokingly ask John to guess how we have screwed up our kids so far and wonder for what reasons our kids will have to undergo therapy. I am a supporter of therapy, and have being in care in the past. But I was struck with Pipher's pronoucement:

"Therapy has helped many families, but it has hurt many others. Because we are trained to look for pathology within the family, we spot failure quickly. For the last hundred years, many experts have focused on the negative role that families play in the development of individuals...Our focus has scared people, especially mothers, who tend to bear the brunt of the criticism."

She goes on to assess the culture's impact on today's (well, the book was written in the 90s) family.

As a minister, I want my family to be grounded and centered in God's love, not just as our gift, but a gift that we share with others. As a pastoral counselor, I want my kids to feel secure and know that they can come and talk to me about anything, and that we will work it out together. As a mom, I want them to grow, safe and secure, knowing that they are loved no matter what. I want them to reach their full God-given potential. As a wife, I want my husband to feel supported and loved, and that he is a priority to me and our family. As a daughter, I know the power of family to both nurture and (unintentionally) harm.

As an adult, I often feel scared and powerless to make all this happen.

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