Child psychologist speaks to Blue Valley parents

Dr. Brooks stands before the audience

Dr. Robert Brooks stands before his audience on Sept. 14, sharing his ideas on self-esteem and family relations. Brooks has published 14 books on the subject and currently teaches at Harvard University.

Kayla Yi, Photographer

On the evening of Sept. 14, the auditorium seats at Blue Valley High School were filled by an expectant audience waiting for someone to take the stage and speak on self-esteem and resiliency.

It’s the typical scene one would expect in a high school; those who were just arriving milled about until they saw a familiar face to sit by and a few impatient people slumped into their chairs and switched on their phones to check emails or text messages.

On this night, however, it was the parents, not the students, who had returned to school to learn something new.

The much anticipated speaker, Dr. Robert Brooks, a child psychologist who teaches at Harvard University, asked parents to be empathetic and to place themselves in the shoes of their children in order to help strengthen family relationships.

One idea that he stressed was a child’s need to have a ‘charismatic adult’ in their life, somebody that they gather strength from.

“I think it is important to be a charismatic parent,” middle school parent Linda Jones said. “Kids need support and love to grow.”

Although parents are often the first and most influential role models in a child’s life, a charismatic adult could be anyone; a teacher, counselor or anybody who has a positive impact in their life.

In one of his many anecdotes, Brooks shares the story of an elementary school girl whom he calls Sarah. Sarah’s charismatic adult was her bus driver, Mr. Smith.

“[Mr. Smith] always says hello when I get on the bus and treats me nice. He makes me feel so good right at the beginning of the day,” Brooks recalls Sarah saying in one of his articles entitled “A Therapeutic Environment Called School.”

By being close to someone who provides support and structure, kids and teens will grow up to become charismatic adults themselves. Parents who reflect love will in turn teach their children to love as well.

Instead of harsh words, Brooks stressed the importance of patience and love. Instead of giving up and walking away, he asked for empathy and persistence.

“I think the most important thing [I’ve learned] is to speak to my children emphatically,” middle school parent Kathy Lancelota said, following the presentation. “We have a calling to encourage and love our children.”

“Teens often have preconceptions about how their relationships should be with their parents,” Brooks said. “They look on TV or movies and see a reflection of their lives. I try to ask them how they can change so life’s what they want it to be. That’s my whole philosophy.”

By stressing the importance of love and embracing acceptance, Brooks echoed the words of wisdom passed down to him from his father:

“During one’s life time, there are thousands of opportunities to built people up. Why do we spend so much time nit-picking?”