How We Think and How We Work
Creating and raising a family today usually looks quite different than it did a generation ago. Over our combined three decades of experience in this field, we have rarely met families that fit into the standard model that our parents’ generation referenced. These days, it’s common for both parents to work, for dads to choose to stay home, for parents to start families later in life, for families to be headed by a single parent, for families to involve a web of parents and step-parents, for nannies to become adjunct family members, and for bi-racial or same-sex parents to find themselves balancing the tasks of parenthood with the de-facto status of social activist.
In this evolving culture of familyhood many parents find themselves both empowered and confused. No longer comfortable relying on the guidance of old adages, they struggle to weed through a myriad of current theories, many of them conflicting, about what makes healthy, happy children. And so, they find themselves facing the most important task of their lives with an approach that they themselves must develop and refine as they move through the process. This is a stressful endeavor for many parents, and can lead to some bumpy times for families during phases when the current approach does not seem to be working.
These are the families that come to us for help. We support parents by educating them on approaches that we believe are effective methods of dealing with key issues for infants, toddlers and young children. We believe that understanding is the most important tool any parent can have. As such, our approach to every issue is focused on helping parents to build a more detailed picture of their child’s psychological and emotional world in each stage of development.
We also help parents to explore other areas of life that may affect, and be affected by, the work of parenting such as personal aspirations beyond parenthood, the impact of parenting on the parents’ partnership, relationships with the extended family, and social issues such as racism, socio-economic status and homophobia.
Although we are both trained and experienced in a variety of theory and techniques, we do not subscribe to any one model of parenting or theory of psychological health. Instead, we draw from many different schools of thought to create an approach that will best suite the needs of each family. In the end, we believe the best determinate of what is right for a family is what works for the parents and for the children. We believe families are best equipped for success when parents are well informed; when they are clear on, and comfortable with, their approach to parenting; and when they are able to accurately understand the needs of their children.
Diversity and Family Life
Because we share a professional background and personal investment in diversity issues, working with families whose compositions contrast with common norms is an area of special focus for us.
Family life is constantly impacted by issues of diversity and privilege for many of our clients: bi-racial couples and their children, families of color raising children in a world that reflects and privileges them less than it does white children, children who have been adopted by parents of a different race or nationality, siblings of varied race and nationality, families headed by same-sex partners, and single, gay moms and dads.
For these families, parenting and familyhood are inextricably bound to a myriad of issues related to the diversity. As such, navigating commonplace experiences such as an introduction at a playground, filling out a medical form or taking family photos turns parents into activists by default. Important decisions such as selecting schools or extra circular activities become all the weightier. Even in our progressive Bay Area this can be challenging and stressful. For families living in places that are less progressive, it can be defining.
In our work with families that confront diversity issues on a daily basis, addressing the particular blessings and challenges of these issues with respect to family life is an integral part of our perspective, and our approach. Because we believe that experience and identity are inseparably linked, we do not see the cultures identity(ies) of a family as being separate from concerns regarding child-development or parenting; neither do we see it as a singular determinant in any area.
In the context of every service we provide, we work with families to address diversity in the same manner that we approach any issue: we bring our knowledge and experience to bear to help increase parents’ understanding of the meaning of these issues for their children and their ability to effectively guide and support their children through those issues. As always, our approach is designed to respond to the specific needs, values and goals of each particular family.