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Community WELLNESS

A Conversation on Parenting with Dr. Aliza Pressman

BE WELL

Parenting practices worldwide share three primary goals: ensuring children’s health and safety, preparing children for life as productive adults, and transmitting cultural values. A high-quality parent-child relationship is critical for healthy development. With so many different types of parenting styles–ways in which parents interact with their children–it can be difficult to know which is the most effective.

We are so thrilled to be welcoming developmental psychologist and host of the Raising Good Humans podcast, Dr. Aliza Pressman, to the Bene blog! We spoke with Dr. Aliza about how parenting influences development, how to empower parents with the knowledge they need, and the evidence-based practices that showcase the most effective parenting techniques for raising children to be good people. If you missed the discussion, read on for everything Dr. Aliza has to share! XO Nina

Nina Westbrook: As a developmental psychologist with over 15 years of experience working with families, what inspired you to embark on this career path? 

Dr. Aliza Pressman: Before I had children of my own, I was doing volunteer work with kids. I took some introductory courses on the major branches of psychology, and I was mesmerized by developmental psychology. I fell in love with the idea of how we become who we are, how we can change over time, and how our early experiences influence who we become as adults. When I became a parent, I felt like if we can support caregivers and those raising the next generation, we can make a real difference. 

NW: You are an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, where you are also a co-founding director of The Mount Sinai Parenting Center. What motivated you to open this parenting center? What do you believe is lacking in pediatric healthcare?

AP: I work very closely with pediatricians, and have a lot of love and respect for them. There is no specific training in human development, behavior, or parenting and yet from the moment a baby is born, pediatricians are typically the only access parents have. My goal is to transform healthcare to incorporate parenting and child development into pediatricians’ practices, with the belief that mental health is a core component of physical health and development. We’re continuing to develop training for healthcare providers with respect for the immense workload they already have while arming them with content that will support families. 

NW: After co-founding SeedlingsGroup and the Mount Sinai Parenting Center, you began the Raising Good Humans Podcast to bring the latest research on child development directly to parents. Why do you feel it’s so important for parents to have direct access to this research? What message do you want to impress on parents in their journey to develop their children?

AP: As a parent, I know there is a lot of information out there, and I believe science can help filter out what’s just noise. My mission is to give parents guidance in making the best choices for their unique family and circumstances. Leading with science feels the best way to keep things balanced and manage other parenting approaches that are not rooted in science. What I want parents to know is there is a lot of wiggle room for the details as every family is unique. Getting a broader picture of the science can make parenting and childhood much less stressful. 

NW: Congratulations on the launch of Raising Good Humans premium! Through the podcast, you guide listeners through real life examples, scientific research, and mindfulness practices that will help you be the parent you want to be, instead of trying to be the perfect parent. As a parent of two, what does that mean to you?

AP: Thank you! I’m so excited about this new season of the podcast. For me, it means being self compassionate with my mistakes, and compassionate with my kids’ mistakes. It also means truly accepting that being the perfect parent, which is impossible anyway, is no gift to anyone. I also feel it means believing that there is growth in discord and repair, and that things don’t have to be so precious in our everyday parenting. As Dr. Donald Winniccot said, “I would rather be the child of a mother who has all the inner conflicts of the human being than be mothered by someone for whom all is easy and smooth, who knows all the answers, and is a stranger to doubt.”

NW: What do you think is the most important thing that developmental psychologists can do to help improve the lives of children and families?

AP: The most important thing developmental psychologists can do is support caregivers so they can support their children. 

NW: What does raising a “good human” entail? The world can be full of misinformation and many communities don’t have access to formal parental training; what can parents do to ensure their children grow up to be confident, healthy, well-adjusted adults?

AP: I want everyone to define a ‘good human’ according to their own values and beliefs. If we can define what our core values are, what really matters to us, what we want our children to think and say matters to us, then we can parent according to those values. It’s imperative to make sure children are safe both physically and emotionally, but also have the capacity to adapt when things are challenging. The most powerful tool in resilience building is when children know they have at least one supportive and loving adult that they can be themselves around and depend on.

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