November 09, 2006


Touchpoints: Birth to Three, 2nd Edition. By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., with Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D. Da Capo. $17.95.

Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect – What You Can Do. By Marsha Temlock, M.A. Impact Publishers. $17.95.

     Touchpoints is one book that fully lives up to its subtitle: “Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development.”  T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow present an even 500 pages of advice on almost every topic likely to affect parents during the first years of a child’s life in the second edition of Touchpoints: Birth to Three.  Much that is here has been kept unchanged since the first edition more than a decade ago: there is month-by-month (and even week-by-week) developmental information, and there are considerations of typical developmental difficulties (or “challenges,” as the authors put it) – ranging from allergies and asthma to television and toilet training.  Within the sections, though, there have been a variety of updates, with new discussions on families sleeping together, obesity prevention and more.  You simply won’t find more thorough, no-nonsense guides to a child’s early years than Drs. Brazelton and Sparrow.  A typical comment, in a section on self-esteem, reads, “The pressure on a small child to learn to read, write, or perform tasks that may not be appropriate for his age and stage of development is a danger if it overwhelms the child’s own sense of competence.”  On feeding, the authors remark, “If you give [an eight-month-old] two or three soft bits of table food when you sit her down – to finger, to pick up, to smear, and finally to put into her mouth – you’ll find she is absolutely enthralled.”  Even these two brief quotations show the viewpoint of Touchpoints: babies will develop at their own pace, and that is the best way to let them develop – even when some messiness and parental worries are involved.  Above all, Brazelton and Sparrow urge parents (though not in so many words) to take it easy – things will be fine, and if they are not fine (the authors explore developmental difficulties level-headedly), there are things that parents and doctors can do.  There has always been something highly empowering about Touchpoints.  The new edition brings its success up to date.

     Once children are well past the “baby” stage and have themselves become adults, parents of those now-grown kids face all sorts of new challenges.  Some are distinctly unpleasant, such as what to do when an adult child is getting a divorce.  Marsha Temlock, who helped her own two adult children handle difficult divorces, says it is important to strengthen your relationship with your child during this troubled time – while being a role model for him/her and for any grandchildren.  This is a very tall order indeed, especially when Temlock urges parents of adult children to do things that sound straightforward on paper but that are extraordinarily difficult to implement in the real world.  For example, Temlock recommends helping with the legal and financial issues of divorce and also helping grandchildren deal with their feelings.  That is a lot to ask of parents/grandparents who may not live anywhere near their adult children’s families – as is increasingly likely nowadays.  “Feelings of guilt will linger for parents who cannot be there face-to-face to answer the call for help.”  Well, yes – and so?  Temlock suggests phone, E-mail, fax and other long-distance contact, but of course these are not likely to be enough for anyone suffering emotional turmoil.  On other subjects, Temlock says what to do when your values clash with those of a divorcing child; how to handle his/her request to come home; what to do if your child needs ongoing financial support; what to tell other children if you are giving extra help to one who is divorcing; and much more.  Temlock’s solutions are a touch too pat, and sometimes a trifle too simplified, to give the book a (++++) rating, but it deserves a solid (+++) for its plainspokenness and the well-meaning and loving way it tries to tackle an extraordinarily difficult time in the lives of three separate but interdependent generations.

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