Sculpting a Better Self Image in Families

Body sculpting pedagogy can be effective in illustrating family dynamics. At least, that’s one area that Professor of Social Work Sybil Coleman has been exploring in her scholarship this fall while on sabbatical. Coleman even presented on the topic at the 63rd Annual Convention of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work held in Atlanta Oct. 17-20, 2013. Her talk,”The Past Matters: Body Sculpting” used the concept to explore the generational dynamics of two unhealthy families and discuss the impact on personal relationships, emotional well-being and spiritual health of the family members and possible intervention strategies.

Here’s how Coleman described her interactive presentation:

“Growing up in an unhealthy/dysfunctional family distorts who a child becomes and what he/she thinks about themselves, others and possibly God. They often believe the wrong things about love, trust, respect, personal value, responsibility, anger, fairness, acceptable behavior and proper discipline to name a few possible distortions. When they believe the wrong things about God they will most certainly believe the wrong things about themselves.

“When problems and circumstances such as parental alcoholism, child abuse, or extreme parental rigidity and control interfere with family functioning, the effects on children can sometimes linger long after these children have grown up and left their problem families. Adults raised in dysfunctional families frequently report difficulties forming and maintaining intimate relationships, maintaining positive self-esteem, and trusting others; they fear a loss of control, and deny their feelings and reality So, the needs of children in dysfunctional families are not consistently met. While it is generally understood that children are valuable, vulnerable, dependent, immature and imperfect, negative patterns of inappropriate parental behavior become the focus rather than the nurturing of the child. The child often becomes externally focused and develops an inadequate sense of self.

“The purpose of my presentation is to look at two of the many types of dysfunction in families. These are the addicted parents (who may also be deficient) and the controlling parents. Both types of parents and subsequent family dynamics will be sculpted and the unmet needs of the child will be illustrated through looking at the generational, interconnected dynamics. I also looked at three questions: What does scripture have to say about parenting, caring for children, impact of addictive and controlling behaviors? On what basis do we determine intervention strategies? What might a healthy outcome look like?”

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