Chico Center for Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy and Counseling services for Children & Adults | Support for Parents

(530)321-2970

Chico therapist An Bulkens, LMFT is psychotherapist and counselor in Chico, California.  An Bulkens specializes in psychotherapy and counseling for young children  (toddlers, preschoolers, adolescents) and support for parents, with a special emphasis on  early childhood psychotherapy, and counseling  for preschoolers and Kindergarten aged child.  She also offers parenting skills support. She offers psychoanalytic psychotherapy for adults.  Her approach is grounded in  Lacanian Psychoanalysis. She was also trained as a clinical psychologist in Europe, Belgium.  Her education emphasized developmental psychology and psychoanalytic therapy. 

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6 challenging times with your young child according to Brazelton

Berry Brazelton is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School as well as the founder of The Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Boston Children’s Hopsital.  He was awarded a Citizen’s Medal by President Obama.  He was also named a Living Legend by The Library of Congress.

Brazelton’s work emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to parent.  Every baby, every child is different.  If one approach does not work, another can work.  ‘Learning to be your child’s parent is about having an experimental, trial-and-error mindset.’

The difficulty moments for parents are when children reach certain touchpoints.  According to Brazelton they are predictable developmental points, but parents typically think that there is something wrong with their child.  They get anxious, it might be in those moments that abuse becomes more likely.  They might think that there is something about their parenting that is not quite right.  They might get upset with their child.  It is here that the parents will need extra support.

According to Brazelton there are 6 touchpoints:

-Unexplained, end-of-day fussing that starts around 3 weeks.  This can be very difficult for parents as it is unexplained, and very hard to sooth.

-At 4 to 5 months, the child can focus the eyes much further from the breast which might make feeding more difficult, possibly leading to conflict between parent and child.

-Between 7 and 9 months the child start to point.  The parent can feel bossed around.  They can put crawl and put little objects in their mouths. 

-At age 9 the child start to read the parent’s nonverbal cues.  At this point the child start to test the limits. This can be a shock for parents.

-At age 2 there are the temper tantrums, the ‘terrible twos.’

-Then there is the toilet training which does not have to be a struggle, but often is, and can end up becoming a battle of control.

-At age 3 there is the ‘I want to do it myself’ issue.

All these touchpoints are moments where the parent can start ‘arguing’ with the child, but possibly also with the other parent, which complicates the situation. However, they are moments of growth for the child, and can also be moments of growth in the relationship with the parent. 

To set up an appointment you can reach An at (530) 321-2970

 

Your child off to college? Left with an empty nest?

Did your child leave for college, and are you left with an 'empty nest?' Chances are that you do not feel 'empty' at all.  Chances are that you are handling the situation pretty well. In a comprehensive study about parents' well-being when children leave home, Genevieve Bouchard concludes that the consequences of children leaving the parents is relatively positive. Other studies also indicate that 'empty nest syndrome' is largely a myth.

That being said, it is a fact that interaction and activity patterns between parents and child have to be modified for the family to persist.  And that families have to adjust to the new situation. The system is being profoundly modified. 

Becky Scott in 'Life in the Empty Nest' gives the following advice:

1. There is no 'right' way to cope:

Just like with pretty much everything in parenting. Although parents would like to have the one right way to approach a problem, an issue with their children, there is not one right way.  Each family, each parent and child have to find a way that works for them.  There is no formula, but there is room for creativity.

2.  Communicate

With your child to come to an agreement about how often you will be in contact, with your spouse how you will fill your child free schedule.

3. Address and resolve conflicts immediately.

As both children and adults are adjusting into their new roles, it can be stressful for both parties.  The pain and conflict that can emerge during this time is not a new conflict, but typically something old. It might be the time to take a closer look at this.  I think of a mother whose very old feelings of abandonment were triggered.  Although she wanted her child to become independent, she was perceiving his striving for independence as an abandonment, a rejection.  The difficulty this woman was facing was how to find a balance between supporting her children and letting them learn on their own.

4. Finding balance between independence and connection

You want to support your child fostering interdependence.  His or her support system should include his family of origin, but also new friends, college... It might be hard to let go of being the only one or main one protecting and supporting your child.  

How do you think you might feel about your children leaving the house?

To schedule an appointment call An at (530) 321-2970

 

Your child's creativity and it's GPA.

Counseling centers at universities and colleges have been overflowing with emergency call.s  At one university it was stated that over the past 5 years emergency calls to the Counseling center had doubled.  Students are increasingly seeking help not just regarding issues like depression and anxiety, but regarding on the surface banal problems that seem to occur in everyday life.  An example was a person who felt traumatized because a roommate called her the B-word.  Or a student who called the counseling center because he saw a mouse.  Or even getting a B or a C can activate a student to call a therapist, as it is considered often as 'failure' are a reason to call the counseling center.  This current trend seems to indicate a decline in resilience among young adults. Colleges are struggling.  Traditionally their mission was to busy themselves with higher education, but the lack of resilience to address typical problems seems to demand that the university and professors also take on the role of substitute parents.  They wonder how much hand holding has to be done.

Peter Gray, the author of Free to Learn connects this decline in resilience with the dramatic decline in children's opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults.  Among the consequences he states are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives.  This generation of children has not been given the opportunity to get into trouble, make mistakes and solve them.  Gray thinks that 'helicopter parenting' is at the core of the problem, but he makes clear to say that it is not the parents who are to blame.  We are living in a 'helicopter society.' He states that if we want  to counter these social forces, we have to give the children the freedom and practice to take responsibility for themselves. In the current society, children and parents alike are victims of the increased power of the school system and a schooling mentality that says that kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults.  

We could see in everyday life and my practice with children and their parents that this plays out in the attitude towards grades. Often anything under an A is considered inadequate.  The focus on GPA becomes so central, as it is taken as the indication of future success or failure. What controlled research studies are currently discovering is that there is either no correlation, or even an inverse relation between GPA and Innovative orientation or creativity.  A study at NYU found that there was an inverse relation between students' reported GPA and their orientation towards creative or innovative work. One of the possible explanations was that possibly students with propensities toward innovation are less concerned with grading systems that rely on memorization.  Or, college going students with innovation intentions may be more likely to approach their education as a means to discover new ideas, wanting more out of the experience than a series of external valuations. 

So, in today's helicopter society it is harder for students to build upon their natural curiosity and creativity. As parents, it might be our task to not fall in the helicopter trap, and leave the door open for growth towards independence, and leave room for creative exploring of interests, rather than focus too strictly on GPA.

You can contact An at (530) 321-2970/

 

 

 

The drama of Jealousy by C. Mathelin

Mathelin, a French child psychoanalyst and psychotherapist published the book 'Lacanian Psychotherapy with Children. The Broken Piano.'  It consists of short case studies which might give you an idea how psychoanalytic work can help children, and how it differs from different approaches.  Rather than helping your child adjust to a certain norm, its attention focuses on the uniqueness of each subject.  I want to pick one small case study, entitled Violette, or the Drama of Jealousy. I am closely following Mathelin's text here.

Violette was 6 when her parents came to see Mathelin. She was shy, withdrawn, sulky. The mother said that she was a loner, although the parents decided that they chose to have another child for her. Her little sister is 18 months old. The pediatrician had told them that jealousy is normal. They had read the work of Francoise Dolto. They had told her: 'We will always love you. you have the right not to love your little sister, but you must not hurt her.' It was no use: Violette hated her sister and the parents could not endure this. How was it possible, after all they'd read, and with all their knowledge (they were teachers of difficult children) that Violette could not bring herself to accept Marie's birth, and even wanted to choke her?

The previous week they had found little Marie suffocating as Violette said to her: 'I've had it. Now you will finally leave me alone!' The parents thought that she had gone mad and brought her to an analyst. Violette listened as the parents talked about the last 18 months. She sulked, no doubt thinking they were scolding her. Mathelin turned to her, asking: 'What is it, Violette? You look sad and angry? What do you think about what your parents are saying. What's going on between Marie and you? Do you want us to talk about it?'

Violette: 'I dunno. It's normal. Daddy says, it's normal if you don't love your sister. So I don't know why they pick on my. Ever since she was born they yell at me all the time. It's her fault. She gets on their nerves too much. When she was little, she never slept, so they were upset and took it out on me. We're at war.

C.M.: What was Marie's birth like?

Mother: Fine, no problems, but the pregnancy was much harder for me than when I was expecting Violette.

Violette had begun to draw a house with the shutters closed and the door barricaded, a house without flowers, without sun, a gray house. She stopped to listen to her mother speak of the time when she was pregnant with her. 

Mother: I was so happy when I was expecting Violette. I wanted a little girl so much. With Marie it wasn't the same.

Father: It's true. you did not want a second child.

Mother: No, I didn't. But I was persuaded by what I read (she laughed) about how it is not good for an only child.

C.M.: Why?

Mother: All the books say that. When a child is the only one, he gets bored, and hte world revolves around him. And that is true, because the world revolved around Violette before Marie was born. 

C.M.: Do you have a sister? 

Mother: No, I'm an only child. My mother 

I love you rituals

When parents come to consult a psychotherapist or counselor to help them handle their children they are often at a point where they feel that parenting has become a hassle where rewards are few and far in between. They experience their children as insisting with requests, that never seem to be satisfied, and which once satisfied, just seem to create more of them; and they resents themselves having to nag, repeat themselves without being listened to. 

It boils down to the following points: neither child nor parent feels 'listened' to by the other, the tendency to take a child's requests at face value, the tendency to focus on the behavior by reacting to it, vs responding what might be behind the behavior or the child's request. A child can ask for a cookie, but might just want to spend some time with you. Requests that insist might be just ways of the child to engage the parent.

It can be hard to tackle all these issues at the same time, but the Child Centered Activity which I mentioned in an earlier post is a great starting point. It will introduce some time to just be in eachother's company and where you can reflect on your child and on yourself just being in the presence of your child. It seems easy, but it can bring about some strong affects. As I mentioned before, just spending a little bit of time like this every day can bring about a major change in how your child will engage with you. The child is typically very appreciative of this kind of time spent together.

As a preschool teacher I have also experienced that introducing little pleasurable one on one interactions with your child can do wonders. They can also make transitions which can be sometimes hard for a child a lot easier. Nursery rhymes and songs are key here. I would refer you to a book by Becky Bailey, 'I love you rituals.' It has a lot of nursery rhymes and little fun games to play with your young child.  Sometimes she has cleaned up the original nursery rhyme which she felt was too violent or not as loving enough, with more loving words. Becky will not let the cradle fall down with baby and all. I disagree with her on this. Working as a therapist with young children, I know that the inner world of the young child is not as idyllic as we adults like to believe it. I think it is actually a nice message to have a nursery rhyme that might be somewhat violent in content, but where the violence is tempered by the rythmic, loving, playful tone of the parent.  It sends the message that we do not have to be afraid of those cruel, and aggressive ideas that might sometimes pop in our heads. It sends the message that we can handle them, we can play with them. In Becky Bailey's approach it seems that this darker side is unnecessarily locked out. 

 

 

therapist work with parents

As a child therapist one of the delights of my work is to be able to work with parents.  Sometimes, I work mostly with the child, and meet with the parents once every month or every other month. Sometimes, I work mostly with the parent, and meet the child only on occasion.  And sometimes I never even meet the child, I just meet with the parents.  

This all depends on the specifics of the situation, and of who wants help. Is the child suffering, and wants he or she help, or is it more the parents who need the help? To find the right modality or way to work might take a couple meetings.  But the multiplicity of also indicates that there are different ways of bringing change about.  Not all the players need to be necessarily involved.  However, the work will go much faster if there is a willingness of the parents to also be engaged when the child is brought to therapy.  It is not a prerequisite, but it is helpful, and allows for change in both parent and child, enhancing the therapeutic outcome. 

Sometimes there is an initial reluctance for parents to come talk, as they have the hope that the therapist will 'fix' their child.  Or they feel that by talking about themselves in connection to their child they implicitly acknowledge that they might somehow be implicated in their child's problems. 

One of the delights for me of working with the parents is to see how their  perception of the child's problems changes. Initially they come in focused on the problem behaviors, and on how to remove those behaviors.  However, as the work continues they start to see the behavior not just as a problem that needs to be suppressed but as a language of their child, as an attempt of their child to express something of their very being that they want to see recognized.

I think of the mother who was concerned about her son hitting and kicking her. She would consistently draw the line, and give him a consequence. However, the behavior did not subside, and the anger of the boy seemed to increase.  As I was listening to the mother I noticed that she was doubting the way that she was intervening with her son, she felt that the way she was drawing the line also implied her 'ignoring' him.  As we thought about it together it appeared that the mother was encouraging her son's behavior implicitly as she was not really listening to what was going on in the son, beyond his behavior.  She 'ignored' where his frustration was coming from. Not being listened to, being ignored made the son feel powerless, and encouraged his 'acting out' of hitting.  The mother came to the realization that there is a balance to be maintained between drawing the line, which she was naturally good at, and allowing room, recognizing where her son is coming from, creating a space for him.

Parental Guilt

Child therapists often deal in their work with parents with the parents' feeling of guilt. Parents might feel that they have made mistakes in the early years of child rearing. They feel that the opportunities are missed and that it is now 'too late.'  It is true that a child's character is formed by the age of 6, and that this character is shaped by the type of relationships this child has had.  But this does not mean, if these early relationships were difficult that the child will necessarily suffer or be 'damaged.' 

The important thing is not to try to compensate for what did not happen in the past now.  What has happened, has happened. It would be much more important for the parent to talk to the child about it. The parent could tell the child that she realizes that she might have maybe done too much for the child, and not have left enough room for the child to make her own mistakes.  She can say to the child that she wanted to give the child everything she did not have as a child, and was maybe too 'giving,' and maybe smothering.  That she realizes that her child will have to find her own way, separate from her, that she cannot keep holding her hand. That part of her wished maybe that she could keep holding her hand, but that she also feels how important it is that her child can go her own way, and how proud she is of that as a mom, and that she can trust that the child can go her own way.

Or in the other direction: it would not make sense to starting to feed a 9 year old the bottle because the parent realizes that he was maybe not feeding the baby enough bottles when he was a baby. Although there are certain kinds of therapy that focus on compensating for what is missed, on closer investigation it is much more the symbolic dimension, the ability to symbolically work through the early trauma which is the healing factor.

In this context I also think of the young mother of a 15 month old child, who is prone to arguments with her spouse.  Although she tries to change this, the urge to argue is sometimes so big that she cannot resist.  After she got in a big argument in the presence of her son with her spouse she apologized to her son, and talked to him on how she was working on this issue.  She was surprised how attentively her son was listening to her as she was talking to him 'heart to heart.' Admitting our mistakes to our children in a genuine way, talking to them truthfully, in an open way, is a powerful tool that can mitigate possibly traumatizing experiences.

If you want to talk to a therapist,  call An at (530) 321-2970

My Child is lying!

As a child therapist I often have parents express their concern about their young child lying.  This 'lying' can take on many forms, and there is nothing that we can say 'in general' about lying, We have to look at very concrete examples to explore why the child might be lying.

However, when the child is still quite young, what parents perceive as lies are often just fantasies, myths, inventions. There is no point in treating these fantasies as lies and in reprimanding the child for them.  These are poetic inventions originating from the child's imaginary. Children, just like adults need this poetic dimension in life: As we have so little power, are so limited in our human lives, we like to imagine ourselves capable of realizing what we cannot do or have.  Those fantasies have the same status as an adult reading a novel, or watching a TV show: they are not true, but they are important in our lives. Reprimanding a child for these kinds of fantasies would be the same as reprimanding someone to read a novel, because why would you read something that is not 'real.' 

It could also be that the child tells a lie to contradict or get a rise out of the parent. Maybe the child has never had the ability to contradict the parent in play, in a 'pretend mode?' Better to treat these lies with a sense of humor. The child might be tricking the parent, enjoying the power of not complying with the parent, having his own little secret the parent does not know about...In any case, it is always important to explore why the child thinks lying is so fun.  It is crucial to try to understand where the child is coming from, rather than get upset and angry with her, as this is counterproductive. This is especially the case if the child tells a lie to get out of trouble.

Children often lie when they feel guilty.  Forcing the child to admit that he or she did the wrong thing, for example by saying: 'You won't get in trouble if you admit it,' misses the point.  If a child did something harmful or hurt another child the goal would be for him or her to be able to take responsibility for this act. Rather than forcing the child to admit the truth, you will move him more towards being able to take responsibility, according to Dolto, by talking to him like this: 'These are your hands, and your feet, but it was not you who wanted to hit the child; I know that sometimes the hands and the feet do things, that the head does not want them to do.' You are more likely to move the child towards taking responsibility like that. 

When a child is not able to take responsibility for his act that is fine. This cannot be forced, better to talk, and dialogue about it. In this case Dolto mentions the following possible interaction:

Parent: 'I see that you are too ashamed to admit. You are right, but please, don't do this again.'

Child: 'But I did not do it!'

Parent: 'I believe you. What is done is done. Let's not talk about it anymore, but know that even if you did it, I love you and I trust you: and if you did not do it, please excuse me for having suspected you.' 

I agree with Dolto that this is a better solution than creating a big drama.

To schedule an appointment with An call: (530) 321-2970

What if my child does not want therapy?

Therapy to be effective has to be a voluntary activity, something a person engages in because he wants to. Of course, nobody really 'wants' therapy. Maybe, on one level we might want change, but on another level change can be difficult, and the known, even if painful, can be comforting in so far as it is the known.

Sometimes people come to therapy because their spouse thinks they need it, and in the case of children it is often the parents who think the kid needs help. The spouse, or the parents might be right in thinking there is something troubling their loved ones.  However, when the child or spouse don't want to come in for themselves but rather to please someone else, or because they are forced to, therapy becomes impossible.

If I tell this to parents that consult me for a child who seems to be resisting coming to therapy, they sometimes hang up, and say their child does not have a choice. This is an unfortunate response, as I like to tell them a second part. 

Whenever a child, teenager, or an adult is not sure whether they want to engage in therapy for themselves, I invite them, if they feel comfortable with me after the first session, to commit to 6 sessions, and to make the decision whether they want to continue after those 6 sessions. It is not because a person says that he does not want therapy, that he does not want therapy! It could just mean: I do not want to comply with what you want for me. In those 6 sessions a space can be created where the person can come to the decision that therapy is something that could benefit him, or is something that she can want for herself, in her own name. 

I have also had a parent stop bringing a young child, because the child said she did not want to come to therapy. However, this child was engaged in the process and making progress. However, going to therapy is difficult and can produce anxiety. It is very typical not to want to go to a session, but that does not mean that the child does not want therapy.

It is important not to take these expressions at face value. The time and the space need to be taken to explore them. Therapy cannot be forced upon someone, but it is possible to offer people space where they can come to their own decision whether they want it or not.

How to talk with your young child about sex (2)

In my therapeutic work with children and in consultations with parents the issue of sexuality and how to talk about it often comes up. I recently saw a youtube video where young children were giving 'the talk' about where babies come from. The environment was a quite sterile and gray environment with the parents sitting quite awkwardly at a table with their child, to whom they were going to deliver 'the talk.'

Rather than planning on having the talk at one specific moment, it might be a better idea to start talking to children as soon as they have explicit or implicit questions. When you are giving a 2 year old a bath, and he points at his penis, name the part by its actual name. The same for the girl.  Typically around age 3, when they discover sexual difference, children start to have more questions. Sometimes they pose them explicitly: They make a comment on the difference between boys and girls, or they volunteer an idea on how they think babies are made.  Or the question is implicit: Suddenly they start to make a lot of 'butt jokes,' or 'fart jokes.' Valuable opportunities are missed when those questions are not responded to, or when the 'inappropriate behavior' is punished without the underlying question being heard.  

These are all great opportunities to explore the child's thoughts about the subject more, and to give them simple information, in a matter of fact way, in the line of the truth. These kind of conversations will need to be repeated as the child grows up, as the child tends to 'forget' those things. It is important to take the child's questions at face value, and to not get embarrassed about it. Simplicity and a matter of fact approach are key in responding to the child.  If not they might feel there is something wrong about the topic, something that cannot be spoken about.

Here are some examples mentioned at the website of the Mayo Clinic: 

  • How do babies get inside a mommy's tummy? You might say, "A mom and a dad make a baby by holding each other in a special way."
  • How are babies born? For some kids, it might be enough to say, "Doctors and nurses help babies who are ready to be born." If your child wants more details, you might say, "Usually a mom pushes the baby out of her vagina."
  • Why doesn't everyone have a penis? Try a simple explanation, such as, "Boys and girls bodies are made differently."
  • Why do you have hair down there? Simplicity often works here, too. You might say, "Our bodies change as we get older." If your child wants more details, add, "Boys grow hair near their penises, and girls grow hair near their vagina's."

It is these kinds of little conversations, where the questions of the child are heard, and then responded to without embarrassment, giggling...

Sometimes, if you feel too embarrassed to answer certain questions, it does not hurt to be open to your child about that. You can tell them that you have to think about how to answer that question. 

Sometimes a therapist can also help you out how to explore these important topics with your child.

To schedule an appointment call An at (530) 321-2970

How long will my child need therapy?

In my practice I often get the question how much therapy it will take for a child to get better. The unsatisfying answer to it is that 'it depends.' 

A very young child that is brought in when he or she has not been struggling for a long time can improve quite quickly within a time span of 6 to 8 sessions.  A child that is in the later years of elementary school, junior high or high school and has been struggling for quite a while might take a longer time. In those cases it might be unrealistic to expect that a couple sessions of 'talking' will bring about the hoped for change.

Sometimes, there are dramatic improvements after the first couple sessions. This might cause optimism in parents and they might feel like they can end the treatment right there and then. However, too much, too soon, might be something to be suspicious of. It is likely that the child is feeling somewhat anxious about the treatment and is trying his best to be 'good.' It is important to have the time to explore this, and to not cut the treatment short too soon.

Children (and adults) can start to change quite quickly and typically after about 6 months of consistent therapy you will see some substantial change. Unfortunately, a lot of parents want to stop the treatment as soon as the symptoms that bother them disappear.  However, to the work of therapy there is an internal logic, and it is important to complete this work. Rather than having the parents decide when to stop the work, it is important to take the child's wish into account.  If the child is not ready, the work should ideally be continued.  

Just as the child should be the one ending the treatment, he should also be the one that wants to enter it. It might take several sessions to explore whether the child wants to come talk for him or herself. If not, it could be helpful for the parent to talk in the presence of the child or even without the child being present. Therapy cannot be forced.  

To schedule an appointment you can reach me at (530) 321-2970

What to say when your child asks: 'Is Santa real?'according to dolto

I am continuing with my little series on Francoise Dolto. This time an excerpt from 'Lorsque l'enfant paraît.' Volume 1, pg 94-96. A rendition of the radio program she used to have in the 70's. People would call in with their questions on child rearing.

Dolto responds to a question about Santa. Will children not be very disappointed when they find out that the parents lied to them about the existence of Santa? Her answer:

'I think that this is posing the wrong question. Children need a lot of poetry, and adults too, since they themselves keep wishing each other a merry Christmas, right? What is a real thing? By the way, a lot of money is made due to Santa: is that not real? When one makes a lot of money, then it seems to be a real thing, right? But, I think that this listener worries that the child believes in Santa as in a lie, and that talking to his child about Santa is lying,' But a myth, is poetry and has its own truth. Of course, this does not have to go on too long, and don't tell that Santa won't bring presents if the child does not listen to the parents...

When the parens 'add on' to this belief and seem to take it too seriously, then the child herself won't be able to tell them anymore: 'You know, my friends tell me Santa does not exist.' At that moment you explain her the difference between a myth and a living person, who is born, has parents, a nationality, who has grown, will die, and who lives like all human beings in a house on earth, and not in the sky. (French Santa seems to live in the Sky - Note by An)

I want to let you know that this listener is strongly opposed to Santa's, especially the ones walking around in the streets.

Maybe he feels rightly so that those dressed up people depoetize the real Santa, the one in which he believed, and the one one did not ran into during the whole month of December. It bothers him. Or maybe he is a person who does not have much poetry left inside. In any case, I don't know whether you still believe in Santa, but I still do. I can tell you a story - as everyone knows I am the mother of the singer Carlos - when Jean (that is his real name) was in Kindergarten, he asked me one day: 'How come there are so many Santa's? There are blue ones ... purple ones, red ones!' We were walking down the streets and they were everywhere. I told him: 'You know, that Santa there, I know him, it's Mr So and So.' It was one of the salespeople at the toy store or the bakery, who had dressed up as Santa. 'You see, he has dressed up as Santa, and that other one too. He is a salesman dressed up as Santa.' He asked me: 'But what about the real one?' - 'The real one is inside of us, we carry him in our hearts. It is like a big gnome that we imagine. When we are little we like to imagine that gnomes and giants exist. You know that gnomes do not exist. Neither do giants from fairy tales. Santa. he was not born. He does not have a mother or a father. He is not alive. He is only alive on Christmas in the hearts of all those who want to surprise and celebrate little children. And all the grown ups regret not being little kids anymore. That is why they like telling kids: 'That is Santa.' When one is little, one does not make the difference between real living things, and things that you can find only inside, in your heart.'

He listened to all that and told me: 'So, then the next day, he does not take off in his sleigh, with his reindeer? He does not fly through the sky?' - 'No, as he is in our heart. - 'So, when I hang my stocking, he will not give me anything?' -  'Who won't give you anything?' - 'There won't be anyting in my stocking?' - 'But yes.' - 'But who put it there?' I smile. 'You and daddy will put something in it?' - 'But of course. - 'Then, can I be Santa too?' - 'Of course you can be Santa.' We will hang our stockings, your dad, me and Mary. You will put things in it. You will know that you are Santa for others. And I will say: Thank you, Santa; it is you who will be thanked, but I will act as if I do not know. For your dad, I will not tell him that it was you, that will be a surprise.' He was delighted, happy and he told me on our return: 'It is now that I know that he does not really exist, that Santa is really good.' 

The child's imagination and poetry is not gullibility, nor childishness, but intelligence in a different dimension. '

From: Francoise Dolto, Lorsque l'Enfant parait.

To contact An, call: (530) 321-2970.

 

 

An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

Tel. (530) 321- 2970    |   186 E 12th ST,  Chico, CA 95928