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Michael Donovan, PsyD
Post Doctoral Fellow
New Jersey Permit Holder TP#193-010

Parenting can often be referred to as that in life which, in the same moment, can bring you the greatest of joys and the greatest of worries.  The milestones can be equal parts amazing and stressful as you revel in first steps, yet develop new worries about falls.  There are first days of school that may bring tears for the speed at which your baby has grown, coupled with questions about the friends they’ll make, how they’ll measure up and whether or not they will be safe- emotionally, academically, socially and physically.  There is an essay written by Emily Kingsley called “Welcome to Holland” that makes a great connection between parenting and positive psychology.  


The premise of the essay is a trip to Italy- the beauty, pace, adventure and exotic memories that will be created and kept for a lifetime.  The planning, anticipation and excitement are indescribable.  And then, as the plane lands, the announcement is too clear- “Welcome to Holland.”  Instead of landing in Italy, your trip has taken you to Holland.  You don’t know anyone who’s been, haven’t seen any social media posts about this vacation spot and it simply isn’t what you had planned, expected or want to accept. The essay can be used in many ways, especially when talking with parents about plans for their children that have changed due to a variety of medical issues, disabilities or concerning diagnoses.


Martin Seligman is known as the father of Positive Psychology.  You can read more about the theory, history and principles of Positive Psychology through Seligman’s work at the University of Pennsylvania by visiting this link Positive psychology focuses on the idea that all individuals want to be happy and enhance their experiences of love, work and play.


Dreams may not always become reality and that can apply to parenting.  Children can become ill, receive various diagnoses and experience challenges that a parent can’t make go away.  The child you planned to have may be different from the child you love.  Your joys, your worries, their milestones...may be different from those of other parents.  Different.  And while Holland may be a very different trip from Italy, once you have landed it’s up to you to consider how the trip will go.  It may not be what you planned, but there are great possibilities for adventure, for creating special memories and for making it a positive trip.  Life, laughter and love can happen anywhere. With a positive psychology mindset, you can smell the tulips and even discover Rembrandts [see essay below] while in “Holland.”


During July, Summit Psychological Services celebrates Positive Psychology month.  It’s a time when the sun shines bright and let’s face it, parents don’t have to pack school lunches or worry about nightly homework assignments- already ideas to be positive about! In a world filled with “trips to Italy,” so quickly celebrated on Instagram pages, consider the positive possibilities in a “trip to Holland.”  Consider the impact of positive psychology on your parenting style, how it can impact your children and your family and how embracing what is good and positive in life can help in making your dreams become reality.  Live, laugh, love. Be positive. Welcome to Holland.


When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.


After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland." "Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy." But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.


The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It's just a different place.


It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.


But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.


c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

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