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Kleinerman, L. (2007). Discussion. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 6(2):156-161.

(2007). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 6(2):156-161


Laura Kleinerman


IT IS AN HONOR TO DISCUSS THE WONDERFUL ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE, and I will begin by mentioning one other.

In his paper on the nontraditional family romance, Ken Corbett refers to what he calls a prescient statement by Laings (1968), in which Laings said, “We speak of families as if we knew what families are.” Corbett himself goes on to suggest “that the contemplation of nontraditional families, and the vicissitudes of contemporary reproduction, lead to an unknowing of what families are, including the ways we configure the family within developmental theory.” I would like to continue from that statement, to gather and discuss some of the ideas we have been thinking about today. These are realities and ideas on the frontier of experience and on the frontier of thinking. Dr. Cary Friedman recounts asking himself, “Does the need to find nontraditional means to create family cause problems or opportunities?” He and our other authors and our experience make it clear there are problems and opportunities. (One could ask if there is any family for whom this is not the case.) At this conference today, we keep in mind as a group what children and parents of invention know about their situation—that is, not knowing. Not knowing is part of what we all must learn to negotiate in our work and in life; today we consider it in particular situations that affect our theories of development and of object relations. I hope we take away from the experience of this day thoughts about how we help to make a process of bearing the unknown in situations that are new for us all.

To speak about not knowing does not argue against disclosure, as we have been discussing. We have probably all had the experience of working with children who do know, in the sense of the “unthought blown,” while the parents are still feeling that there is no reason to tell or good reason not to tell. As Dr. Diane Ehrenshaft points out, we often must help in the negotiation among these differing senses of reality, and in striving for what is best for all concerned. It is in a larger sense that I want to stress not knowing.

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