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 discussion.

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.

Ulli Diemer