A colleague spoke today about her cousin. Cousin has one son aged ten. People were surprised when she became pregnant and decided to keep the baby. Cousin spoke of going on holiday to Spain and of everything she was planning to buy for the boy so that he won’t be bored. Colleagues suggested that the boy might like a trip to a water theme park, and cousin was horrified. This is My Holiday she said, I’m not doing that. And when colleague added that the boy might enjoy a water park, cousin said ‘I don’t care what he likes’. For me this is a horrifying story – the more so because this is just an ordinary mum, she doesn’t need our help.

But a girl came in today who has been thrown out by her mother. She is fourteen and had been sleeping rough until Social Services became involved. Aged fourteen and sleeping outside. She is an unhappy girl and probably difficult to live with, but when the psychologist phoned the mum, Mum said ‘don’t bother phoning again, I’m not her mum any more’.

How do things get to this point? Is this a reflection of a major clash of personalities? Or someone who resents the child for a range of reasons? Or should never have had a baby? Or has the mother got a mental health problem that she is struggling with? And does it matter?

The why probably matters much less than you think. Sometimes understanding the Why means that it can be changed. This is only relevant when the parent wants things to change.

HelpMeHelpMyChild Ruth Coppard We all do parenting differentlyA friend used to tell mothers who were worried that they hadn’t bonded with their child, to pretend that they had. By smiling and hugging and giving every impression of caring, they were giving the child some safety on which to build. And by pretending, the parents were learning how to do it for real until, one day, maybe they found that they were no longer pretending – it was real. {its just the same with e.g. smiling. If you smile even though you feel awful, eventually you feel less awful and the smile becomes more real.

But it all hangs on that very old psychology joke: how many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just One, but the bulb has really got to want to change. If the parent does not want to learn to love their child again, it aint going to happen. And that as shown in the two examples above, is very sad indeed.