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Hampstead child psychiatrist pens parental guide to help build kids’ self-esteem

PUBLISHED: 11:22 02 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 05 June 2017

Dr Holan Liang

Dr Holan Liang

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A child psychiatrist believes that having conversations with your children from a young age is vital in building their self-esteem.

Inside Out Parenting by Dr Holan LiangInside Out Parenting by Dr Holan Liang

In her mission to “build children from the inside out”, Dr Holan Liang – a consultant psychiatrist at the south London and Maudsley NHS Trust – has penned her first book based primarily on the early years of parenting.

The book – Inside Out Parenting: How to build strong children from a core of self-esteem – evolved largely from her experience as a mother of two young kids, which propelled her to start the blog called Shrink Grows Kids: Can a child psychiatrist raise children?’

Despite her career being based on working with children, Dr Liang believes that nothing can prepare you for the real thing. As well as the impact on your life as a whole, you are left with a decision to make on your career.

“When you have kids you have difficult choice when it comes to balancing your work life and family life,” she said.

"There is a worrying trait that some parents wait to establish their career first before being around for their children, or even wait until they can have intellectual conversations around the dinner table to really speak to them. "

Dr Holan Liang

“When people have children they are often at the point in their lives when they are just about to make real strides in their career, that was certainly the case for me. This sharpens the difficult choice required.

“Each time I came off maternity leave my salary was downgraded and the pay felt atrocious as it barely covered two children in nursery – and that’s a doctor’s salary so I don’t know how many people on a lower salary cope with trying to continue to work.”

“I wanted to be researching and at the cutting edge of my work, but as a child psychiatrist I knew the importance of parental engagement in the early years and so I made the difficult decision to go part time to the detriment of my career. But once my children were at nursery and school, I found myself twiddling my thumbs at home. It felt a waste of my training, so I started my blog.”

In Dr Liang’s book however, the focus is firmly on the kids, and in particular  an empowering approach to parenting that champions building a strong base of “inside things”, such as self-esteem, so that the “outside things”, like achievement in musical exams and academia, has better meaning for your child.

Unpicking the barrage of information available out there, the book helps readers to develop parenting strategies best suited to each individual child rather than presenting a catch-all method.

“I think that the tiger parents, the helicopter parents, the micro-managers and maxi-organisers, the French parents whose children don’t throw food, the Chinese who are all about the tutoring, have been getting their priorities all wrong,” Dr Liang said.

“They’ve been sweating the small stuff – without self-esteem, a child’s achievements will be unfulfilling, their relationships will be lopsided at best and doomed at worst, and perhaps happiness will elude them forever.

“We need to start building them up from the inside out.”

Dr Liang – who lives in north London with her husband and two children – is also a firm believer that the key is parents building a relationship with their kids when they are very young.

“There is a worrying trait that some parents wait to establish their career first before being around for their children, or even wait until they can have intellectual conversations around the dinner table to really speak to them.

“I think that employers and institutions need to allow their employees to be there for their children when it matters.

“Those early years are incredibly formative and it is so important to have conversations with your children from an early age – even if what they are saying doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

In her book, Dr Liang – who is also an honorary consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital – blends scientific reasoning with anecdotal advice, with the latter proving to be just as invaluable.

The over-arching mission is to help nurture children with a strong identity who are ready to “take on the world”.

You can find the book – which was published in May – in Waterstones and by searching for Dr Holan Liang at amazon.co.uk. Take a look at Dr Liang’s blog by visiting shrinkgrowskids.com.

Dr Liang is also holding her book launch at 6.30pm at the Waterstones on Hampstead High Street on Thursday, June 8.

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