Dr Kairen Cullen is a chartered psychologist who trained as an educational psychologist and achieved a PhD at the Institute of Education, University of London. She has worked independently and in Local Education Authority contexts for over 30 years and has provided applied psychology services to schools and the community in a range of fields including education, health, sport and the media.
She was chair of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology, British Psychological Society (BPS) in 2002 and continues to contribute actively to the work of the Society through media and consultation work. She has written for a number of academic and educational publications including the Times Educational Supplement and 5 to 7 and Childcare magazines.
Everyone needs to understand children better, and so most people will find the ideas in this book useful.
A policy which gives priority to investment in children would give practical recognition to the fact that they are the seed-corn of the future. Their development determines the fabric of tomorrow’s society.
You may be wondering: ‘Will this book help me to “psychologize” my child?’
The answer is a definite no. We live in very psychological times. Turn on the television, the internet, the radio, or open a magazine or newspaper, and I guarantee you will read, see or hear something of a psychological nature very quickly.
Most people use some amateur psychology, but this is very different to the work of a professional psychologist who, along with many years of study and supervised professional practice, must always try to work with objectivity, neutrality and scientific rigour.
Actually, there are many areas of psychological theory that use the idea that we are all psychologists in our own lives, and I will be explaining more about that later. In the following pages there are many activities and exercises to help you get a firm grasp of the ideas presented. Some of them may be fun and safe to try out with your own children, and if this is the case the book will make this clear.
One of the major complications of studying and researching children is that it’s not acceptable to do anything that could in any way harm the child’s well-being, and so it’s always important to err on the side of caution. For this reason, many of the activities must be done with an imaginary child. It might help to start reading this book with your imaginary child in mind, and perhaps the one you can create most easily will be the one that was once you!
This book will offer some ideas that will help you to understand children better. People are complex and children are perhaps even more so, as they by definition are learning, developing and changing constantly and rapidly.
Add to this the fact that each child’s situation and history is unique, and it’s obvious that the better equipped you are to understand, the more likely you are to be able to contribute something useful and to help support the child’s learning and development.
Fortunately – or maybe unfortunately, depending on your perspective – there’s no recipe book or manual for helping a child become a healthy, functional and happy adult person, but there are many well-theorized and well-researched ideas that psychology can offer in doing the best job possible-and most are ones you will recognize from everyday life, as the renowned paediatrician Benjamin Spock acknowledges in his book on child development and parenting: ‘You know more than you think you do.’
One word of caution, though: there are certain problematic issues that can arise in a child’s learning, development and/or behaviour, which require the input of appropriately qualified professionals. If the child’s overall development, well-being and/or health is significantly different to that of the majority of other children in their age group, and is causing concern, it’s important to seek advice.
The family doctor and/or the child’s teacher are generally good starting points for getting this help. Even the best-equipped and most knowledgeable parents and carers need professional support at times.