Friday, February 1, 2013
Dr. Susan Brandenburg gives food for thought to local adolescents and parents through her two books filled with animal characters in life-changing anecdotes.
Retiring after 27 years in the field, the clinical-psychologist-turned-author missed her clients, so to reconnect with people in need of counseling, she began writing books with life lessons.
“Food for Parental Thought” and “Food for Adolescent Thought” are both written to make people think and answer questions, said Brandenburg.
“I did not want my information to evaporate, I wanted to continue to share the knowledge I had learned,” the 35-year Hixson resident said. “People are like ‘Oh my gosh, have you written about what I told you?’ I did not use names because my characters are all animals.”
She said she hopes that, much like a buffet, people will take from the books what they need and learn from what they read.
“What I learned as a psychologist is if the client figures it out themselves, then it lasts longer than if I tell them the answer,” said Brandenburg. “I also learned that I don’t always know the answer for individual people. I don’t know what will work for you. I show a scenario and ask questions to prompt the reader to think about what they read.”
For example, in her book “Food for Adolescent Thought,” a story called “But He Loves Me” uses the tale of a lovely swan to talk about abuse. Stella the swan is with a bad person who beats up on her. She slowly becomes cut off from her friends and justifies him abusing her. She ends up with a broken wing and can’t fly.
“I hope that young people caught up in that cycle will think about it rather than accepting it,” said Brandenburg. “I counseled many women going through that and it’s becoming more common. It’s becoming more of a problem with adolescents too.”
In her book “Food for Parental Thought,” she tries to give parenting tips on how to raise children through animal scenarios.
“I try to help the parents understand that what they do when the children are young will bear fruit when they are teenagers,” said Brandenburg. “You have to have limits for kids. If I could identify one thing as the most important thing to do as a parent, it is to help your child develop personal responsibility. That manifests itself in so many ways.”
She said she does not believe that children should be hit, but instead should be put in time-out to think about what they did.
One of her examples from “Food for Parental Thought” of showing how parenting can impact the child is titled “An Apple for the Teacher.” In the scenario, Fiona the horse is being abused by a stallion in the pasture, but she keeps it a secret. She does not want the farmer to know it is happening. A treat for her is an apple, so when her daughter sees her mother receiving apples, the daughter thinks the mother is being rewarded for taking the abuse.
“It’s not just the mom being abused. She is teaching her daughter to accept it,” said Brandenburg. “It’s scary what we are teaching our children. A lot of times women stay in abusive relationships for the children and a lot of times it’s a financial decision. What are you teaching your kids? You are teaching them not only is it OK to be abused, but it’s OK to be an abuser.”
All the “sound-bite stories” contained are meant to convey information quickly, since, as a society, people today don’t have much free time, she said.
“Sometimes discomfort and adversity can help make kids stronger,” said Brandenburg, who was a single mother. “It teaches them that they can manage things. If parents always run interference, how do children learn they can handle it and get through it? My children had to learn to accept responsibility because I worked a full-time job. Responsibility was not an option and we all pulled together. It’s a family effort. We had a mutual respect for one another.”