A recent New Yorker article by Paul Tough, “The Poverty Clinic,” is wonderful and inspiring, although too narrowly titled in my view. It is about a parenting hero, Dr. Nadine Burke, who is making a difference with some of our least supported and most hurt children and families; and it’s also about the effects of abuse in childhood on not just emotional, but also physical health in adulthood. But it’s also about how to help, how to connect, how to work more effectively… by taking feelings more strongly into account even when looking at physical healing—and that is about the world we all live in, a world where the “poverty” may be spiritual, compassion-oriented or consciousness-oriented.
Abuse in kids leads to later psychological and physical illness when they grow-up (see the ACE Study, which I wrote about previously, and which underpins Burke’s actions). Since we cannot be happier than our least happy child, if that child lives in the hood, the barrio or in rural poverty (or in a more economically advantaged part of town, even under our own roof) we must do something about it. And that something starts with accurately understanding feelings, something that both medicine, and our broader culture, have given short shrift. Why is this? Perhaps we just don’t know how to deal with emotion effectively… and we have not yet bought into how effective and important it is to attune with our kids: this is a huge part of how we enhance self-esteem, improve academic performance, reduce wasted health-care dollars (i.e. after people are already very sick) and heal out children and our collective community.