Psychotherapist out of touch
Letter to the Editor:
It would be difficult to imagine advice for children and parents
more damaging than that offered by psychotherapist Darlene Hall
(Asking kids about a touchy subject, 23 July).
According to Ms Hall, "enlightened parents" who want
to reduce "childhood victimization" should stop hugging
or touching their children unless they have first asked for and
received permission to do so from the child. The offer of a parental
hug or touch "should be given and articulated to the child
in a clear and direct manner by the adult." If touching the
child is unavoidable, as in bathing or giving medicine, then the
parent is to explain "why they need to touch the child, and
they should continue to talk to the child as the activity unfolds."
What a perfect recipe for raising children to be self-conscious
and uncomfortable about their bodies, about
touching, and about being touched! In Ms Hall's emotionally constipated
vision of family life, there appears to be no room for spontaneous
physical expressions of affection. Touching one's own child is an
inherently suspect activity, never to be engaged in without prior
Someone needs to explain to Ms Hall that spontaneous touching and
hugging are natural behaviour all over the world among people who
like or love each other. They play a crucial role in developing
a child's sense of being loved and secure. Normal parents don't
ask a crying toddler "Would it be all right with you if I were
to pick you up and comfort you?"
The best that can be said for Ms Hall's advice is that it would
be sure to generate plenty of additional business for "experts"
on family problems like herself.