Dr. Michael Kinsey is the author of the picture book Dreams of Zugunruhe.
In these times, connections are awfully important to maintain. I have found a wonderful expert on this subject, Michael Kinsey, PHD. He is a clinical psychologist that lives in Manhattan. Dr. Kinsey’s specialty is parent-child attachment, and he has written a wonderful book that is called Dreams of Zugunruhe that combines his expertise and love for birds. Through the journey of the Little Tern, children experience empowerment in order to face challenges. I had the chance to ask some questions of Dr. Kinsey about his childhood, his book, and how to support children during this pandemic.
1) What is your favorite memory from reading as a child?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: When I was a child we started a Christmas tradition of reading “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg every Christmas Eve. To this day it’s my favorite children’s book. The illustrations underscore the magic of the story, and I love the message of keeping childlike imagination and fantasy alive into our adult lives.
2) Who was your favorite author and how did they influence you?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: I read a lot of Gary Paulsen as a school-aged boy. Not surprisingly, his most popular book, “Hatchet”, was my favorite work of his. Recently I spent a weekend staying at lodge in the Catskills, near where Brian Robeson, the main character in the story, had to survive on his own. I was struck by how my memories of reading that story enhanced my experience of the landscape.
Your question makes me realize that his writing has really influenced my inner world. Multiple times I’ve taken trips to boreal forest in search of experiences with nature. I realize now that my love of nature and particular fascination with boreal forest likely stems from his influence on me. It proves to me that beloved books can really shape our inner world and our life as a whole.
3) Do you have a writing routine? Share what works for you.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Writing is still something I do as a passion and hobby. I love the idea of rigorous writing routines, but for now I don’t obsess over craft and regular schedules. My method is really to maintain a commitment to listening to the muses when they sing to me, and doing my best to capture the spirit of their message.
4) What subjects would you like to write about in future projects?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: My expertise is in parent-child attachment and I like to write about the bonds between parents and their children. Proper parenting is such a delicate balance of providing support while getting out of the way of nature’s oversight of a child’s developmental journey. That’s what Dreams of Zugunruhe is about and I see myself continuing to write on that theme. In the future, I’d like to write on the unique contributions that fathers make to their children. Fathers are important in creating happy and healthy adults and I’d like to provide a vehicle for fathers to provide the guidance children need from them.
5) Why did you become interested in “birding”?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: My love of birds started at a school assembly when I was about 8 years old. A man who rehabilitated hawks and other birds of prey brought some of the birds he cared for to the school. The birds made a huge impression on me. They were an awesome display of paradoxes; they were both fierce and serene, powerful and elegant, hulking and delicate. I was also struck by how dignified they looked in captivity. As a child I think I often felt trapped and admired both the freedom these creatures could have through flight, and the strength they showed while fettered.
The realization I think I had at that time was that these creatures, in all their majesty, could be found and observed if I were willing to pay attention and look for them. This is the link between being a birder and psychologist. Amazement can be achieved remarkably often if we are willing to pay attention and look for what’s hidden in plain sight.
6) Why are connections important during the coronavirus pandemic?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: It’s what humans do and what defines our species. It’s a cliche but also very true that we are social animals.
During times of stress and uncertainty, we instinctively look to friends, family, community, and culture for comfort and support. The inhuman aspect of this pandemic is that we’re told we need to “distance” ourselves from others to survive. Luckily, we as humans have amazing brains that allow us to treat “closeness” and “connections” as abstractions. We have powerful communication tools that allow us to follow our instincts and turn to people we love and trust as attachment needs arise while we maintain the necessary physical distance.
7) What can you suggest for parents in regards to connections now that children are at home for distance learning?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: I do have some suggestions which I’ll make later on, but the main thing I’d like to offer parents is that this is a really challenging time to use opportunistically. A lot of parents I work with really want to use quarantine as an opportunity to connect with their children, but it can feel overwhelming to create opportunities out of a situation where boundaries blur and home is now home as well as school, office, and playroom.
Just because there may be more time and opportunity, does not mean it’s easily harvested. Schedules and structure are helpful. If you can combine schedules and structure with some flexibility and spontaneity, all the better.
Connecting with kids is a very personal thing and each parent will have to find his/her own way to reach each child. Creating space and openness to allow for connection is the hard part. Younger children especially are extremely good at making sure a connection happens if parents can only free up time, attention, and the receptivity to take advantage of opportunities their kids bring to them.
8) What have you been doing at home with your family during the coronavirus lockdown?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: I’m actually not a father yet, but I have recommended to fathers that this is an ideal time to start a project with their kids. A father’s traditional (or stereotypical role) in times of crisis is to insulate children from danger and to provide a model for how to confront challenges. Starting a project, in the yard, in the garage, or in the living room, is a fantastic way to show children that things are safe. If a father can show children that it’s safe enough to immerse his attention completely in a project, then children will truly feel safe.
I think these times also reveal how overvalued the content of a standard educational curriculum can be. Schools do teach valuable skills, yet the value of a traditional education is lessened when parents are at home and available to teach their children important things that they have learned. A skill passed on from father to son is far more valuable than the typical thing a child learns in the average day of school. A project, whether basic repair, woodworking, building a model, learning a sport, etc., promotes feelings of safety, teaches something valuable to a child, and provides quality time between parent and child.
9) What main takeaway would you like to give as support to parents during this time?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Children are watching and learning during this time, as they always are. Not every parent will be able to use this time as an opportunity for bonding because of economic pressures. That’s fine. Think of this period as an opportunity to show financial resilience, perseverance, and resourcefulness. If you’re a parent who is fortunate enough to have a financial cushion, treat this as an opportunity to bond with or teach your kids something important. This could be as simple as reading a treasured novel together, teaching them something about your work, or have them help you with the daily chores. Show them your coping skills–especially the ones that actually work for you.
To be succinct: parents have a ton to teach their kids.
I really want parents to think of themselves as having something valuable to teach their children, and empower them to supplement (or even replace) the day-to-day educational curriculum with something only they can teach their children.
10) What is writing to you in one sentence?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Writing is a tool to create connections, and thus moments of temporary relief from the pain of existential isolation.
Dreams of Zugunruhe is a charming picture book that captures the ups and downs of leaving home and growing up. It is told through the lens of “Little Tern” that goes on the harrowing journey of migration with his mother. Expressive illustrations enhance the beautiful conversation between the terns. Children will hear the empowerment and encouragement through Mother Tern, and be emboldened as they face the great adventure of life. The urge in birds to migrate is a great springboard to educate and comfort children. It’s a great addition to any home or classroom library.
Dreams of Zugunruhe is available through Amazon. This is a Kindle Unlimited title.
For more information, please visit Dr. Kinsey’s website at: https://mindsplain.com.