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The Importance of Childhood Development & Attachment to Create A Healthy Family System with Erica Komisar, LCSW| 11.29.2023

In this episode, Kristen talks with Erica Komisar, a clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and author, about the pivotal role of early childhood development and attachment in shaping a healthy family. They explore the profound impact a mother's role in the first three years has on a child's overall well-being.

You'll Learn

  • Practical insights on fostering a strong bond with your child during their formative years.
  • Keys to building resilience within your family unit for a healthier future.
  • Expert tips on navigating parenthood and promoting a thriving family.
  • Why being emotionally present for your child, especially during critical developmental windows, is transformative for their long-term well-being.

www.ericakomisar.com

Resources

For counseling services near Indianapolis, IN, visit www.pathwaystohealingcounseling.com.

Subscribe and Get a free 5-day journal at www.kristendboice.com/freeresources to begin closing the chapter on what doesn’t serve you and open the door to the real you.

Subscribe to the Close the Chapter YouTube Channel

This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about ideas on stress management and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not psychotherapy/counseling in any form.

Kristen Boice

Welcome to the Close the Chapter podcast. I am Kristen Boice, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice pathways to healing counseling. Through conversations, education, strategies and shared stories, we will be closing the chapter on all the thoughts, feelings, people and circumstances that don't serve you anymore. And open the door to possibilities and the real you. You won't want to miss an episode, so be sure to subscribe Welcome to this week's close the chapter podcast. It is Thanksgiving week. If you're listening to this in real time, if it's an encore episode, I just want to say I'm so grateful and thankful for you listening, sharing, growing, learning, expanding and being with us. Thank you so much for supporting the close to Chapter podcast. It means the world and I'm so excited to share this conversation with you. I listened to her on a previous episode and really got so much out of it. I was like we have to have her on the podcast. I will say a preface that this can trigger shame. So feeling not enough like you're a bad mother, you're a bad father, you're bad parents. So just know this does not mean you're a bad parent. This is about information that you're learning that you didn't have before. So I want to preface that as you listen to this episode because it can bring up shame it can bring up some grief and sadness because you didn't know this earlier. So just know I'm holding all this space with love and compassion. And you didn't know you didn't know. So let me introduce you to today's guest Erica Komisar, LCSW is a clinical social worker, psychoanalyst and apparent guidance expert has been in private practice in New York City for over 30 years a graduate of Georgetown and Columbia University's and the New York Freudian society. Ms. CO Samar is a psychological consultant bringing parenting workshops to clinics, schools, corporations and childcare settings. She is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, and is also a contributing editor to the Institute for Family Studies and appears regularly on Fox and Fox and Friends. And Fox five news. Erika has the author of being there by prioritizing motherhood in the first three years matters and Chicken Little The sky isn't falling, raising resilient adolescents and the new age of anxiety. So again, this is about learning, growing, looking within yourself to break generational attachment wounds. So please listen to the whole entire episode, share this with friends, spouses, partners, anybody pregnant wants to be a parent. I think everybody needs to hear this because it's rooted in research. And again, hold a compassionate space. If shame does come up, take a pause, take a breath. Try to pour love on that shame. Because we know compassion is the antidote to shame. And it's like a healing balm. And it's hard to do when we feel so much shame and grief. And just know with the shame if we move down and tap into what's really underneath, it's so much sadness and grief. And that's okay to have. So I encourage you to get the journal at kristendboice.com/freeresources to help you process what you're feeling and give you tools to cope with it. If this is helpful, share it on social at Kristen D Boice. And Instagram and Kristen Boice on tick tock, just still learning my sea legs there. And then Facebook, Kristen D Boice. So without further ado, here is my important, life changing conversation with Erica, welcome to the close the chapter podcast, I am so excited about my guest. As I said in the intro, this is such a pivotal, important conversation. If it brings up shame, I want to reiterate this because for a lot of people that can go I'm a bad parent of a bad person, and they can start feeling bad about themselves. And it can take them down the rabbit hole of shame. And so when a hold a tender place in inside with compassion, because what we don't know we didn't know. And now you'll know some different information that can bring up some sadness, too. So Erica, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Unknown Speaker

Thank you for having me. Yes.

Kristen Boice

So I thought we'd jump in because I read your been their book, which is I think a pivotal book and understanding attachment work with John Bowlby and kind of the foundational elements of attachment. And you're really the foundation of your book. Can you share with the audience a little bit about that theory, and then how it sparked your inspiration to write your book. So

Erica Komisar

attachment security is at the root of mental health for everyone. So even the first three years, it's what we call a critical period of brain development. And children are born neurologically fragile, they're not born resilient in any way. And what that essentially means is that they need to feel safe in a world that feels unsafe to them, they need to feel secure. And that first three year period, their environment is critical to that security. And the environment is their primary attachment figure, usually their mother. And so mothers play a unique biological role in that first three year period, which is that they make children feel safe and secure. They regulate their emotions, every time you sue the baby who's in distress, you're regulating their emotions, and keeping them from going too high and too low, which is, again, the foundation for mental health. And they buffer them from stress, because our brains are not supposed to be exposed to a great deal of stress until after the age of three. So incrementally, we're exposed to stress in the first three years. But most parts of the world babies are born on their mother's bodies. And they're really buffered from stress for the most part in the first year. And then the next two years are within either physical touch or eye reach of their mothers. And so that makes them feel as if they're secure. They're safe in the world, that their environment is predictable, and constant and loving and nurturing and sensitive, empathic and safe. And so that's the foundation for emotional security. If we don't have emotional security, we developed something usually called an attachment disorder. And what we know is that if a child has an attachment disorder in the first 12 months, they generally have it 20 years later, and that leads to things like anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. So it's a very important piece of the puzzle of this mental health crisis that we really don't talk about, don't understand, have kind of lost instinctual knowledge about,

Kristen Boice

I'm so glad that you're putting this out into the world. I can't even tell you how pivotal it is. I was listening to one of your talks. And what sparked something in me because I've studied attachment as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, there was something that got brought up in me and I thought, Oh, this is good. You had talked about that separation from a mother, and how that impacts the child. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Attachment.

Erica Komisar

Security is very important for children, and so is separation eventually. And you could say for the moment children are born, they're separating in little increments. Every time a baby looks away from a mother is caring for them and looks at the light. I mean, it's a sort of Declaration of Independence, they throw food off their highchair. It's a declaration of it. I mean, there's always little bits of separation. But the idea is that we're meant to practice it in the presence of our attachment objects. So we're meant to be around the person that makes us feel secure, to practice exploring the world and exploring independence, right. And so what's happened in our culture is that we have pushed women to go out into the work world very early after they have children, telling them that it's more meaningful work, telling them that material security is more important than emotional security. I mean, the messages of society are very much about mothering is not valuable work, you go to a cocktail party. And if you're a full time mom, and somebody says, What do you do you say I'm raising my three beautiful children, that person will often turn around and talk to somebody else. So our culture is very screwed up when it comes to what's really valuable. And as a result, women don't stay at home with their children for a variety of reasons, some of which are financial, but a lot of which has to do with feeling valuable. So the idea is that children need to be within eyeshot, or earshot or touch of their mothers as they're starting to explore their independence and start to explore the world right? And take risks. And what that does is it layers on top security layered on top of security means when they turn three, they can internalize that feeling that their mother their secure attachment, figure their mother's with them all the time, even when they're alone, even when they're out in the world. It's sort of what we call your internal Mother, you can summon up her voice to soothe you whenever you need soothing, because you've internalized that voice until about three we don't internalize that voice. And so that's another misunderstanding. Somehow women say, Oh, well, I breastfed for six weeks or breastfed for three months, and my baby's all securely touched. I'm like, no, no, no. So you bond with your baby. And that's wonderful. But it's the repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repeat, repeat, repeat for three years that really forms the foundation of attachment security.

Kristen Boice

I think that's so important because I knew about attachment, and here I am. And I was like, I'm gonna stay at home till the developmental years. And then some of the moms were like, well, let's do like a parent's day out. And so about two, I did a parent's day out and I was sick. To my stomach, I was sick. And that was my instinct. And you said this, this is what got me you're like, those are the things that we are almost detaching from or kind of push it repressing, I had that it just brought up so many emotions. I was like that validated. I didn't want to do that. And I went against what I wanted to do. And that's so key what use? Can you say a little bit more about that guilt? We talked about mom guilt, right?

Erica Komisar

So you mentioned something, when you open this podcast, you said, I know this might bring up some feelings for you. So first, I want to distinguish the difference between guilt and shame. So guilt is a sign that our conscience is working, it's a sign that our super ego is working the part of our brain that says, Do this, don't do this, do this, don't do this, this is better for you, this is not good for you. When we feel guilty, it often means that we feel something we're doing is not right, meaning we're in internal conflict over that action over that behavior. And so guilt is not a bad thing, because guilt means your conscience is working. And it's like physical pain. So if you break your ankle playing a sport, you're not going to keep running on that ankle, you're going to stop, you're going to go see a doctor and get medical care, right. It's the same with guilt, we tell women that they should ignore it, it would be like telling someone who just broke their ankle to ignore the signal feeling of pain and keep running on it. So it means that you're in internal conflict over behavior. And some of those behaviors probably should be looked at. And that conflict means that you feel attached to your child. And you feel something called maternal preoccupation, which you're supposed to be feeling in an evolutionary way. We're not supposed to leave our children in the first three years. So if you're not feeling it, I'm more concerned than if you are feeling it. Okay? The difference between guilt and shame is the guilt is about a behavior conflict over our behavior. Shame is about feeling like a bad person. So if you automatically go from leaving your child very early to feeling like a bad person that probably has very little to do with your child and has more to do with your childhood. Meaning if we do a bad thing, do we feel that we're bad as people, and so already bringing up something important? So you'd say whatever comes up is grist for the mill. And you don't want to push it away. You want to look at it, we're meant to look at it, examine it, go get help with it, go to a professional who can help us with it's sort of like going to a doctor if your ankles broken, but you don't want to shut it down. So this is a very bizarre culture that we live in that says, when we feel guilty, we should just push it away and go on because everybody will be fine. And what's happened is everybody is not fine. Mothers are not fine. Babies are not fine. No one's fine. Yeah,

Kristen Boice

I think that's so important to do that self discovery work around it. Like I feel this way. And let me sit with it. Let me be with it. Let me explore it, what I was able to float back to is a memory of my mom dropping me off at she went to like a Bible study or something and dropped me off at the church. And I was screaming bloody murder. Like, I remember feeling that separation. And it's almost like a body memory. I think that was my stuff coming up and going against my internal motherly instincts. And it was important for me to pay attention to but I was like, oh, but they're gonna play and they're gonna have their friends. And when you said no, they parallel play as right. Okay, well, that was me rationalizing my trying to move out of that feeling I had and rationalize it.

Erica Komisar

Again, I think that's a societal message to that. They tell women society tells women that they should get their children into daycare at an early age or get them into group environments, because it's good for the children. And it's not good for the children. So what's interesting is we focus on mother's needs. And the truth is that it may be good for you to go to a playgroup, because as a mother, you need company because we shouldn't be isolated. When we're raising children. We always raise children in groups, extended family groups, and this is a our western cultures is very isolating in terms of raising children. So in truth, sitting in a group with your baby with other mothers is not a bad thing for mothers, because mothers then have contact with other mothers who feel less isolated. But it's not for the children, the children get nothing out of it with infants, and they get nothing out of it when they're under the age of three other than towards, I guess, going towards three, they're starting to recognize another person is in the room. Otherwise, they're just doing parallel play. And what they really need is you they need your presence, you as their security, us their feeling of safety, they don't need a bunch of other children there. They do want to sit on the floor and have Floortime playtime with you. You don't care about the other kids. So it's sort of again, I don't want to sort of throw it all in society, giving bad messaging but I sort of want us It is a very common thing I hear from mothers when they come to me and say, Well, I've heard it's good for my children who are like one and two to be in group environments for socialization. I'm like, No, I'm like, they don't need it. They don't want it, you know, for stimulates them. It overwhelms them often, if you're there with them, so they can come and get a hug, and go back out and explore. That's fine, as long as it's not too big a group, but a drop off when they're under three is not for children. And

Kristen Boice

it's so important that you're saying this, because what we see and like an avoidant attachment will be a child, they're like, well, they're good. Look, they're doing great at drop off. They didn't even get upset, you'll hear this, right. So they're having fun. Like, it's almost like that non reaction is almost like rewarded in a way does that make more societal

Erica Komisar

messaging. So society says that children who don't react to separation are healthier. And that's a myth, because you actually want your child to react. Just like when a mother says to me, I feel guilty. I'm like, good, because that means something's working in you, you're attached to your child, if you didn't feel guilty, I'd be worried about you. If a child doesn't react at all, that child has an attachment disorder, because you're their security, you're, they're meant to be the center of your universe, and you are the center of their universe. So in What world do you see a child under the age of three, not caring if the center of the universe leaves them in a drop off class. So already, we say this child has developed pathological defenses. So think about an attachment disorder, at least an avoidant or an ambivalent attachment disorder is strategies that children use to cope with loss, and basically more on the pathological side of strategy. So if we're walking barefoot up a mountain, we develop calluses on our feet, so we can walk on the mountain, but it doesn't mean that's good for our feet, but we have to develop some strategy. But the problem is those strategies have long term consequences for children. Right. And avoidant attachment disorder has the consequences of becoming depression later on, and having difficulty trusting others and having deep relationships and intimate relationships. An ambivalent attachment disorder is a child who cannot let go of their love objects, whether it's friends or lovers or they cling for dear life, and there's no space between them, the other person, and those children are very anxious and may develop things like anxiety and anxiety over loss. And the children who do the least well are the children who have something called a disorganized attachment disorder, which means they have no strategy. And they cycle through strategies because they have no one strategy. One minute, they're clinging, the next minute, they're looking away, and the next minute, they're slapping you in saying they hate you and running away. So the concept is these children, often it leads to things like borderline personality disorders, and most of the kids that we're seeing that are cutting themselves and trying to commit suicide. And so we have a problem, or societal messaging is really bad. And it's unhealthy. And I think we have to really turn that narrative around. Yeah,

Kristen Boice

I agree. And this can bring up a lot of feelings for people listening, like they can get angry, they can feel like what about my career? And what about what I want to do? And what do you say to that when maybe someone's having those feelings come up. So

Erica Komisar

the thing is that you can do everything in life as a woman, which can't do it all at the same time. And being there I interviewed a bunch of women, including Nita Lowey, who is a very, she was one of the longest standing members of Congress who had I think she had five children, four children, five children, I can't remember and she didn't start her career until she was in her mid 40s. In Congress, she was a mom she was on PTA she, you know, she was a full time mom. And she said to me, when I interviewed her that she wished she had stayed home a little longer, because one of her children. And so the concept is we have very long lives, the fact that we feel in a rush to get to like the end, when we have our whole lives to determine, first of all, having children gives you skills that otherwise you may not have, it gives you confidence in certain areas that otherwise not build, and it directs you in a different direction. So what you may choose as a career when you're 21, may not actually be who you are when you're 30 or 35, or 40, after you've had children. So I think the concept being I think women are really afraid. They're afraid that if they don't eat that piece of chocolate cake, right, this instant, they're never gonna get another piece of chocolate cake. It's sort of a scarcity mentality. Again, I do blame the culture for that as well, a little bit that we've told young women at a young age that they must go out to work and stay out at work for the benefit of themselves and society. And there's nothing more important than bringing home the bacon and having a successful career. And what we don't tell them is course you can have a successful career and of course meaningful work outside the home is important, but it certainly doesn't Trump raising healthy children. And the only thing that I can say is I've never met a parent who would tell you differently, that parent is only as happy as their least happy child. And so it's very short sighted and impulsive of women to say it's about me, because in the end, Penelope leach that better than me, she's was an English. And if you remember, Penelope lead, she was an English developmental, she was an author. And she wrote books on child rearing, and mostly in the 70s in the 80s. But she said, Look, anybody can have a child, most people can have children. But if you don't want to care for your own children don't have children, because it really screws them up. And

Kristen Boice

to that point, would you say if your child has an attachment disorder? Typically, the mother has an attachment? I hate blaming the mom, but the mom is Yeah, yeah. Well,

Erica Komisar

no, but it's not blaming the mom. It's understanding. Yeah, to say that if you understand that mothers who have attachment disorders, generationally pass down to their children, those attachment disorders, and less they get help, and they interrupt the cycle of pathology in their families. So one can enter at any point and interrupt that cycle. But no, it's called neurotic repetition, where we pass down to our children what was done to us. So these mothers are victims, too. So if we want to say that these children's are victims of mothers with attachment disorders, their mothers were victims of being attachment disorder children from their mothers.

Kristen Boice

Yes. That's why I'm so passionate about the work I do, because it's all moving towards secure attachment within. So I work with, what about the dads? How important is it to look at their attachment. So

Erica Komisar

dads are critical for children as well, but they're not fungible or interchangeable with mothers. They're different than mothers. And this is all part of it. These are societal messages, right? Gender equality means that we're exactly the same and we're interchangeable and we're fungible and it's just not true. It's a load of bunk. Mothers and fathers are both critical for the rearing of children. They have different functions that they serve based on the hormonal attachment to their nurturing behaviors. What does that mean that their hormones which are different in men and women or nurturing hormones affect their behaviors differently. So there's a hormone called oxytocin, which mothers produce in large quantities when they give birth when they breastfeed when they care for their young. And that hormone, which we call the love hormone makes their behavior more sensitive, empathic and nurturing. What that means is when the baby cries, the mother is more attuned to the baby's cries. But this is only in a healthy mother. This is not in every mother, because if a mother has been neglected or deprived of that sensitive, empathic nurturing from her mother, then she may have developed an attachment disorder and may not respond to the oxytocin in the same way. She may resent her baby, she may feel self focused and say, What about me and this baby is a pain in the neck and I can't, there's a website, I think it's called scary Mommy, where you actually see some pretty kind of, you hear some very sad things from mothers who have been really damaged by their own mothers, the way I say it is mothers who are victims of their own mothers neglect and abuse, are then passing it down to their children, right? If you have a mother who says, I hated breastfeeding, I hated carrying that child, I hate mothering. It's the worst thing and parasites they call them. You look at this website, you go, Oh, my gosh, there's so much pathology in the world. And it's a lot of it's around mothering. How do I say it as a society, we're really screwed. When as mothers, we have been damaged so badly that we don't enjoy one of the most enjoyable kind of connections between us and our children. That's really a kind of sad statement about where society's going. Yes.

Kristen Boice

And I'm wondering too, even if someone is staying at home, but they're on their phone, they're on their computer, they're really disengaged. Because I see this all the time, the mom or the dad's on the phone, and the baby's trying to get their attention. And the parent is completely immersed in the technology. And I'm thinking this is playing out and attachment wounds because we're not responding to the child. So even if you're at home, and you're doing other things, and the baby's trying to get your attention that still can result in an attachment wound.

Erica Komisar

Yeah, absolutely that distractibility is, it can be depression. It can be an avoidant behavior. It definitely is a dissociation. So you're dissociating in the presence of your baby. I mean, we all dissociate for a second, we might look away and look out the window for a second, but we come back to our babies, right? Nobody's perfect. And we're not meant to be but that's a dissociated behavior. So women who dissociate or men, I mean, I didn't get to say what fathers because you asked me a question about fathers. I just want to finish that answer, which is that fathers have a different nurturing behavior, which is related to oxytocin so fathers stay home and babies they produce a little bit more oxytocin than they normally would, because remember, they're not giving birth or not breast Speeding, but it makes them more playful tactile stimulators, they throw the baby up in the air, they tickle the baby, they chase the baby around, they help a separation. So when fathers are not around children have trouble. So a lot of single mothers are raising babies, single mothers by choice single mothers, not by choice. Those children who have trouble separating, those children also have trouble regulating some mothers help to regulate emotions, like fear, and distress and sadness and father's help to regulate aggression and risk taking behaviors. And so yeah, so fathers are critical. They're just not critical in the same way. So fathers and mothers can both dissociate. And I would say that fathers probably the average father, there's always exceptions to the rule probably is even more inclined to have trouble maintaining that sensitive empathic connection because it's not naturally connected to his hormonal sort of behavioral connection. So I would say that the fathers and mothers who look at their phones and are distracted, it's a kind of dissociation.

Kristen Boice

And that impacts the child in Absolutely.

Erica Komisar

Well, it's felt as neglect. It's felt as disconnection again, and I want to be clear, we're not talking about you get an emergency phone call, and you have to take it we're talking about. So I was sitting at a restaurant the other day, and this little eight month old baby, maybe a nine month old baby was sitting there so sweet, looking at his mummy. And as mommy was nowhere to be found absolutely her head and her phone and just tapping away and ignoring the stadium, this baby was just a longing. You saw this baby, it made me want to go over and just connect with this baby because this baby was longing for the mother and the mother was completely vepesid Nowhere to be found. And it doesn't take I mean, again, to say that we also have a tremendous amount of what I call empathic impairment, which is part of the generational expression of all this damage that parents don't feel empathy for their babies. This mother didn't look at the baby and say my baby is feeling alone. My baby is looking at me for connection. Nothing just total checked out. Yes,

Kristen Boice

that's happened. We were at a coffee shop this week was my daughter, my 16 year old daughter and I, and I couldn't see this family behind me. There was a father and a son, actually, they were just sitting behind us. And she said, My heart is breaking right now. I said, Oh, honey, she goes, I'll tell you when we get in the car. So we got in the car. She goes, this little boy was longing to connect with his dad looking at him. So admiration, all like he wasn't on his phone, the little boy, the dad is on his phone. And then he goes, Dad, do you think we can go soon, and the dads, I will just give me a minute. And it was like another 10 minutes later. And he's just sitting there looking at his dad longing for that connection. It was just in my daughter. Notice sticks. We talked about this being present and attuned and talk about our emotions, to hear her heartbreak over it. Like she was heartbroken. She goes, he was so cute, but he just wanted his dads to pay attention to him. And I just think this is an epidemic. I really do. And I'm not saying I'm perfect parent by any means. I mean, I really tried to work on not being on my device and being present. It's hard. I mean, these things are addictive. When we look at the age, because we've talked about zero to three, what about the start from there and go on developmentally. And attachment, what's three,

Erica Komisar

after three, you would say between three and nine, you'd say it's a reinforcement period. So at three you start to internalize the feeling of security, but then from three to nine, you're reinforcing it, right? I mean, you're as present as you can be. And I'm gonna say parents, they'll drop their kids off at school, and they'll put them in after school and they'll pick them up at six o'clock they'll feed them dinner and want them to go to sleep. I mean, think pew did a research study on the fact that American parents spend no more than 1.5 hours a day with their children. And that's just not enough to raise healthy children. So we say children are not self cleaning ovens, they actually bring them into this world, they need a tremendous amount of love, attention, care, they need to be the center of your universe, not the other way around. They're not meant to rotate and satellite around you as the universe, you are meant to satellite around them. This is something that you see, which is the parents spend very little time there. Children between three and nine don't reinforce a sense of security. I mean, tween three and nine children are developing their egos in a way they're developing things like competencies, learning about what their strengths are, what their limitations are building those strengths. It's a real strength building time. So it's why between let's say, five and nine years old, we start to teach them skills in school. We introduced them to sports and art classes and because we're trying to see what are their competencies, right, they need their parents presence as much as possible to really feel reinforced, then nine comes in between nine and 25, you have adolescence and really between nine and 18 is all for most parents when they have their children home before they go to college. And that's adolescence is what we call the second critical window of brain development. Freud said, between three and nine is kind of a stable period more or less that then nine to 25, you have another period of children feeling fragile, like they were zero to three, and their brains being very susceptible to environmental influences, meaning you and meaning their friends and meaning school. So the environment has a tremendous impact on their brain development on things like emotional regulation and stress regulation. And it's because zero to three is a period of cell growth. And you'd say, think about a garden. This neurogenesis happens from zero to three and the cells overgrow. So now you have like a garden that hasn't been weeded or pruned, or it's just an overgrown garden, and then a nine, the garden starts to get pruned. And the pruning is as important as the growth, if you're not there enough, in the first three years, the cells don't grow. If you're not there enough, from nine to 25, the cells don't get pruned. And when the cells don't get pruned, you don't have things like executive functioning, and working memory, judgment, and perception and emotional regulation and stress regulation, you don't have any of those things happening. So adolescence is another critical window of brain development, where parents influence over their children lays down the foundation for the rest of that child's life.

Kristen Boice

What sparked you to write your follow up book on adolescence, like what brought that on, because you kind of covered the foundational pieces in your first book being there,

Erica Komisar

the name of the second book was originally second chances, meaning you had loved that you missed it the first time and you were working, you were distracted, you were depressed, whatever, Adolescence is another opening, the door opens again, and you have an opportunity not to repair everything that has happened before but to repair some of it, and to give your child a better chance of going out into the world healthy and resilient. I think they didn't like second chances, because they felt it was too technical. I don't know, they felt that's basically what it was called. At all. Yeah. So that's why I wrote it. Because the first window is critical to laying down a personality, the second window is as critical in a different way. And being there at that time is critical to your children in an almost similar way to zero to

Kristen Boice

three. Yes. Okay. So let's say someone says, Well, I messed up, I wasn't there. And I have a challenging time listening and being present. And I'm really struggling with that. And I want to take the first step to repairing this, what would be your first step for somebody that says, I really want to do this? Well

Erica Komisar

get help, because you can't do it on your own. Let's say that attachment disorders don't form they form because there wasn't anybody on the other end, who was healthy. So you could say that going to get help is finding someone who's healthy, where you can learn how to regulate your emotions as a parent, because you can't raise children who are healthy and who can regulate their emotions. If you never learn to regulate your own, you can't raise children who seek healthy relationships. If you yourself had an avoidant attachment disorder and didn't make good choices, you can't raise children who are less anxious if you haven't dealt with your own anxiety. So I always say that you have to take care of yourself first, before you can raise healthy children, right. So if you've avoided it all these years, or you kind of eked sort of out an existence where you never had to deal with your own past losses or traumas, now would be a good time to do it. But you still have your children at home, and you still have the opportunity to make a difference. Let's

Kristen Boice

say so I hear this because I do a lot of family work. And they'll say well, I'll ask them, How are you feeling? And they're like, I don't know, or I don't want to talk like they just don't want to talk to the parent. So how do we cultivate an environment a safe environment for a child to be authentic and share vulnerably? How they feel, even if the parent doesn't agree or triggers something in the parent? How do we start to create a healthier environment at home?

Erica Komisar

I think again, if you're talking about as a therapist with a child, you told me about parents when I'm talking

Kristen Boice

with parents, parents, I see this was people that come into the office, they're like they won't talk to me. They shut down. They don't

Erica Komisar

they will talk to you but they're going to talk to you on their terms. Because remember, who's the satellite of whom and so if you are around when they are vulnerable, and when they're most vulnerable is a transition points when they're going to school in the morning before they leave home and go to school. That's when they're vulnerable. They're vulnerable when they come home from school. So the whole idea of having mom home baking cookies when your kids come off the bus was the idea or picking them up at school was the idea that that's a transition point where they're most vulnerable, where their defenses are down. Right. Another point is right before bedtime right before they're going to sleep. The problem with adolescents, young children go to sleep early. So but the problem of adolescence is they have something called sleep wake phase delay, which means they produce melatonin much later in the evening. And they generally don't go to sleep until 12, one two in the morning, because they don't feel sleep pressure. So most parents aren't around for that transition. So the idea is you want to be there for as many transitions as possible, if you are working full time, and there's no and both of you as parents are working full time. And there's no one home when your child comes home, and they're a latchkey kid, or they come home and you're on your phone, working from home, but you're not really available, then the door opens during those transition periods. There's other transition periods, too, when your kids in the room and the doors shut, when the door opens for them to go to the bathroom, get a snack, come up and take a breather from their homework. That's a transition. That's a point where they're switching activities. And if you were there, that's your opportunity to say, how was your mouth test today? I know you were concerned about how did it work out with your friend Joe, I know that you were worried about talking to him about how you're feeling. But if you're not there, when the door opens, and you come home on your time, and you try to knock on the door, your child's going to say go away, because again, that's all about you. It's all about them when they're home. And so you have to be there. The timing is the key to talking to kids. Another transitional place that you can talk to kids is when you're driving them to school or picking them up from school, it's kind of side by side communication, where they've just experienced school, it's raw, you have that opportunity to process the day with them and process their experiences and feelings. Because otherwise the defenses go up again. So it's not the kids don't talk, it's that they don't talk when parents want to talk.

Kristen Boice

So true. That is so key. And then I find oh, we're on perimenopause or menopause and we have teenagers and we're tired, or a cycle sometimes don't sync up, like we want to go to bed early, they want to talk to us at night, we're like we're so tired. And so it's really regulating yourself. So you can have the energy to talk to them when they want to talk to you. It can be tough.

Erica Komisar

So as teenagers get to be teenagers, if you get out of work at two, and you're there when they come home at 315 or 330. Or you pick them up at school, then you have that transition, maybe you have the transition in the morning. And maybe you can stay up till two in the morning. But you can't be absent for all of those transitions. That's when their defenses are down. That's when they're going to talk to you.

Kristen Boice

Do you get a lot of pushback for this? Like what's this been like for you? I'm curious, because these are for folks, this can be very triggering and activating. Has this been tough on you really putting this work out? It

Erica Komisar

was in the very beginning when I wrote being there. It wasn't it wasn't because I did it knowing what I was getting myself into. You have realistic expectations. And it doesn't really impact you in that way. I mean, I suppose in the very beginning, all of the reviews for the book were great. There were some very far to the left liberal views that were sort of they politicize the book, and they said, Oh, she's an anti feminist. And I said, How could I be an anti feminist? I'm, I'm a woman, and I work how is that the rabid anti feminist? They call me misogynist. I say how can I be a misogynist? I'm a woman. I love women. What is it, but I love children. And so this is for children. We're doing this for children, we have children, for children, not for us. We don't do it for us, or we shouldn't do it for us, we should be doing it for them. So in the beginning, it was a little bit of a shock to see the reaction and then I got used to it. And then like anything, it just doesn't bother me. Because

Kristen Boice

do you think there's more attachment wounds now than there were before? Do we have any research on kind of over the years?

Erica Komisar

Oh, absolutely. The longitudinal studies show that the attachment disorders have increased tenfold. And we know that the mental health issues have increased tenfold, meaning mental illness is on the rise in adolescents and children and adults. We know that adolescents and children turn into adults. If you're mentally ill when you're young, you generally carry that mental illness into your adulthood unless you interrupt the cycle somewhere along the line, which is why it's good to get your children and adolescents help before they become adults so they can break the cycle. I think a lot of parents don't get help for their children. Because one, it's hard. It's hard in America to find the proper help and find help. It's affordable. There's another reason that we don't talk about which is the parents don't want to look or take responsibility for what's happening to their children. And so they're so afraid of bringing their children in because they either feel guilty or they feel shame or they feel worried that therapist is gonna feel badly about them, and so they deny their children access Something that could really help their children.

Kristen Boice

Yes, I find that to be true in my group practice where the parents are like, they don't want to come to therapy. We're like, well, we need you a part of the process because we all have stuff. Have you had to do your own healing work as you were even working on your books?

Erica Komisar

So I'm a psychoanalyst. So we're in analysis for a long time. So the way I think about it is, I always say to people that well trained therapists had to be in years of their own treatment, you should always ask your therapist, including your psychiatrist, how many years of treatment they have been in? And that sounds like a strange question to ask. But it is not a given. If you go to a psychiatrist, many of them have never been in therapy. If you go to a therapist, a psychologist or social worker, many of them have never been in their own treatment. So when we go to what's called postgraduate training, after getting a social work degree, a psychology degree or a medical degree, that's the great equalizer. And when we go into postgraduate training, to become talk therapist, we're required to be in therapy ourselves. And in my case analysis is a very in depth process of really looking at one's character and one's defenses. And it lasts for many, many, many years. So I have 12 years of treatment under my belt. And I think it's really important that people ask, have you been in treatment? How many years were you in treatment? What are your credentials, these are the things you never ask after the first session, but you should feel free to ask in the first session. And the one thing I can tell you is people mistake medical degree with better training. Most psychiatrists have never been in therapy themselves. And many of them, I'm going to say this, many of them have no experience with talk therapy, some of them are addicted to medication themselves, and they use medication to cut the grass, they cut the grass, that means we'll just cut the symptoms and not deal with anything deeper. Let's not talk about the deep meaningful motivations and roots of these mental illness, we're just going to make sure you don't feel distress. And so people think I'm taking my child to a psychiatrist. I've never known anybody to take a child to a psychiatrist or an adolescent to a psychiatrist where that psychiatrist did not give medication. Instead of saying, No, you know what, this child doesn't need medication, this child needs talk therapy, you're always gonna get medication and unless a child is severely depressed, or is having severe panic attacks, or suicidal a child does not need a psychiatrist, a child needs a play therapist when they're younger, a talk therapist whose feelings oriented what we call psychodynamic, not CBT, or DBT. DBT was designed for Borderline Personality disorders, if your child has a borderline personality disorder, DBT can be very helpful. CBT is for nonverbal children, many children are verbal, or can express themselves through art through play. So don't run to these quick fix solutions. Or don't run to cutting the grass, try really to bring your child to someone who's going to sit down and really look at all the underlying psychosocial stressors, the relationship in the family, with your child, and really help you to understand why your child is under stress and what they're reacting to.

Kristen Boice

Yes, I agree, you have a way of being so direct, that I really appreciate, and I think is very rare. Do you see that within yourself? Like you can say it without this fear of You've done so much work? I can feel it that you don't have the fear come up of what are people going to say? And are they going to judge me, you're just saying it because you believe I can feel that you're passionate because you know the truth of if someone works on this, we can change generations?

Erica Komisar

Well, maybe I'm old. And when you get older, I'm over 60. Maybe you stop caring about what people think even people in your field what they think. So there are a lot of therapists and psychoanalyst, even in my institute, I would say it's pretty split. We say oh, we don't want to make women feel badly we wouldn't. And then there's others who say, but we're seeing the same thing she's seeing. So I think if you're really too fixated on what people think of you, you kind of can't get on with life. It's or what we say to teenagers that all that self consciousness and all that worry about what other people think of you, most people don't think of you at all. That's the best way I say to my teenagers that I work with, I'm like, people just aren't thinking about you. So the good news is you can get on with your life and not worrying about what people think of you because you're thinking about what people think of you more than they're thinking about you.

Kristen Boice

That's so true. But we really think because we're like, they're saying this and this about me and like you know what they're more worried about themselves than they are you. What do you think is the biggest takeaway from your work? Like, what do you feel like you're really want to get out there. That is the most important takeaway for someone listening to this podcast.

Erica Komisar

Moore's more, the more emotionally and physically present you can be for your children in those two critical windows of brain development, but really throughout childhood, the healthier the better the chance your child is going to be mentally healthy in the future.

Kristen Boice

Thank you so much for your work. Where can someone find you if they want more information? Should they want to get your books? They're like this is really life changing for me where can they go? www

Erica Komisar

dot coma SAR k o m i s ar.com. And you can get links to the books there and you can see articles and speeches I've given and you can make appointments and all that.

Kristen Boice

Lots of information there. After perusing it lots of helpful information please go to Erica site, get the help start on this healing journey so you can change generations. So thank you so much for your heart, your hard work and you're just putting what you are out in the world. I so appreciate what you're doing.

Erica Komisar

Thank you for having me on today.

Kristen Boice

Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to the close the chapter podcast. My hope is that you took home some actionable steps, along with motivation, inspiration and hope for making sustainable change in your life. If you enjoyed this episode, click the subscribe button to be sure to get the updated episodes every week and share with a friend or a family member. For more information about how to get connected visit kristendboice.com. Thanks and have a great day.