“Good enough” parents

In this TEDx talk in 2020, Dr Sue Whitcombe draws on her own family experiences. She shows that what children need is “good enough” parents. To be a “perfect” parent, strange to say, is not such a good thing.

Children need their parents to make some mistakes sometimes, to have some bad moods – even though they’re stressful.

An effective mother or father then makes sure to repair those ruptures as soon as possible. That process builds healthy development for kids and stronger future relationships too.

How do separated families repair ruptures?

Separated families have to take extra care to repair these normal ruptures as children move between homes. If not, it’s easy to make the rupture worse rather than repair it.

Separated couples may well be at odds with each other. Dr Whitcombe explains how easy it is for one parent to turn their child against the other. It’s tempting for adult and child to enlist each other to gang up against the one they’re both annoyed with.

For example, a child may arrive back at a routine agreed time. But that time may interrupt a repair in process. Then bad feelings and distancing can get amplified and fixed in place. With a little more thought, the adults can avoid that harm.

Dr Whitcombe’s talk is a vivid picture of parenting that works. Together or apart, it’s what children most need from their “good enough” parents.