Meta-Emotion: How Families Communicate Emotionally

Meta-Emotion: How Families Communicate Emotionally

Meta-Emotion: How Families Communicate Emotionally

Meta-Emotion: How Families Communicate Emotionally

Synopsis

This book describes research on the emotional communication between parents and children and its effect on the children's emotional development. Inspired by the work, and dedicated to the memory of Dr. Haim Ginott, it presents the results of initial exploratory work with meta-emotion--feelings about feelings. The initial study of meta-emotion generated some theory and made it possible to propose a research agenda. Clearly replication is necessary, and experiments are needed to test the path analytic models which have been developed from the authors' correlational data. The authors hope that other researchers will find these ideas interesting and stimulating, and will inspire investigation in this exciting new area of a family's emotional life.

Excerpt

Haim Ginott, to whom this book is dedicated, was a clinical psychologist, child therapist and parent educator whose books Between Parent and Child, Between Parent and Teenager, and Teacher and Child revolutionized the way parents and teachers relate to children. The communication skills that he advocates in these books help adults enter into the world of children in a compassionate and caring way and teach them how to become aware and respond to children's feelings. As he said, "I'm a child psychotherapist. I treat disturbed children. Supposing I see a child in therapy one hour a week for a year. Her symptoms disappear; she feels better about herself, gets along with others, even stops fidgeting in school. What is it that I do that helps? I communicate with her in a unique way. I use every opportunity to enhance her feelings about herself. If caring communication can drive sick children sane, its principles and practices belong to parents and teachers. While psychotherapists can cure, only those in daily contact with children can prevent them from needing psychological help."

Most of us are unaware that words are like knives; that we need to be skilled in the use of words. How would Jane feel if the surgeon came into the operating room right before the anesthesiologist put her under and said, "Jane, I really don't have much training in surgery but I love being a surgeon and I use common sense?" Jane would probably panic and run for her life. But there is no exit for children. Unlike a surgeon who is careful where he cuts, parents and teachers use words carelessly. They make many painful incisions until they hit the right spot, heedless of the open wounds they leave behind. They perform daily emotional operations on their children without training.

Were he alive today, Haim Ginott would be most appreciative of the research in this book, which confirms his anecdotal findings. As stated in chapter 5, there is evidence that from the beginning of a child's life, parents' interaction with a child has implications for the child's ability to self-regulate, focus attention, share intersubjective meaning, form the essential affectional bonds with parents and be able to interact with a changing environment. As children develop, the child's developing emotion regulation abilities are directly influenced by parenting and by the way parents talk to children about their emotion.

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