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Tending the Family Heart Through the Holidays
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In Tending the Family Heart, family therapist and parent educator, Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, highlights the importance of creating and nurturing the "heart part" of our families; that almost magical bond that interconnects every family member with all the others. It is the heart that provides safety and warmth to all within its embrace. It is what transforms the very ordinary and repetitious tasks of daily life into expressions of mutual support and care. It is what celebrates the dailyness of love and belonging and helps everyone cope in times of challenges, separations, and even tragedies. When the "heart part" is strong, it provides both children and adults with what they need emotionally and psychologically to become their best versions of themselves in spite of whatever stresses come their way.
Parents are doing the best they can to parent well in spite of too little validation and conflicting messages regarding their own importance in the project. Hungry for information and support, parents are blogging, attending parent study groups, reading parenting self-help books, and talking with each other.
In Tending the Family Heart, Dr. Marie joins the conversation, affirming the importance of family and validating the centrality of parental influence. Using ordinary stories from ordinary families as examples, she makes her suggestions accessible and manageable for even the busiest parent. The tone is conversational and upbeat, encouraging parents to sort through the many ideas and to decide for themselves what will work in their families or what can be adapted to their own realities.
Each chapter outlines common areas of family life that can be opportunities for developing a family's heart. Dr. Marie emphasizes the need for family members to be actively engaged in each other's lives and provides practical and realistic suggestions for doing so. Using placemats at a meal or putting something unusual in the grocery cart makes the ordinary into something special. Getting the whole family to cheer at even the youngest child's t-ball game or organizing a family reunion affirms family membership and love. When added together, such gestures shape a family identity and strengthen the heart. Yes, the heart requires thought and time and care and tending. When parents attend to the task, everyone thrives.
Unlike most parenting books, this one does not describe yet another method for disciplining children. It does not offer a one-size-fits-all recipe for connecting the collection of people called a family. Instead, Dr. Marie charges us to define what is unique about our family and to make the care of its heart a priority.
"Tending the Family Heart deserves to become an instant classic. Dr. Hartwell-Walker has created a blueprint for daily life that should be required reading for any parent who hopes to raise happy, well-adjusted kids in today's complex world."
--Sally Koslow, author of With Friends Like These and the upcoming, The Wander Years: A mom's public display of reflection
"While waiting for major brain surgery, Marie Hartwell-Walker thought about what advice she could leave for her family to help them carry on and if she didn't survive. The result was a list of rules for the family to live by to help them stay connected and thrive. Having survived the surgery, she has expanded the list intoTending the Family Heart. This is amoving and practical book that can help all parents nurture the connections in their families in spite of difficult times."
--Dr. Holly Counts, clinical psychologist in private practice
"Wisdom from the most sacred source, a mother of 4 who is both a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist. This guide makes known the details for families willing to shape the emotional commitments to each another. Practical, beautifully written, and sensible, it anticipates the readers questions and offers guidance with clarity rarely seen in self-help for families. Each chapter includes a rationale for the suggestions, answers to reasons the reader might have for not trying the advice, and ways to ease implementation. All of this is followed by a summary for uncomplicated referencing.
But is Dr. Hartwell-Walker's motivation behind writing this book that provides the reader with the depth of her commitment. I won't reveal the details of her inspiring story here, these will be for you to savor. But I will say that this story alone belongs on the shelf next to Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture."
When I was growing up my mother used to say, "When you and your sister were born, you didn't come with a book." Had I known back then Tending the Family Heart would be written, I could have told her one was on the way."
--Daniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D., TEP, MFA, author of Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist's Memoir
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed in Massachusetts as both a psychologist and marriage and family therapist and has been in practice for over 35 years. She began her career as a junior high school English teacher. At that time, there were no special education programs and no accommodations for children who found school challenging and so became challenging themselves. She found herself increasingly interested in those students and their families and went back to school at the University of Massachusetts for a masters degree and then a doctorate in psychological education. Still not satisfied that she knew what she needed to know to help families, she went on to the Alfred Adler Institute in Chicago for another masters degree, this time in counseling.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Nov 2011
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