Letting go

The Importance of Separation in Child Development

Marcel Rufo

pages March 2005 Original publisher: Original Publisher: Editions Anne CarrièrePersonal Development

With precision and insight, acclaimed child psychologist Professor Marcel Rufo examines the often traumatic separations that are nevertheless an intrinsic part of growing-up.

During the nine months spent in the womb, a baby experiences a vital period of union with its mother, which enables the infant to draw the strength and sustenance that it needs. But once born the baby will have to exist independently, to grow up and learn to stand on its own two feet, and separation is an inevitable part of this process. In fact, the development of a child is a series of separations: from the womb, from the breast, and later from a nanny or a teacher, from a house, a toy, a favourite pet, a friend or a loved one. In each case the child must separate itself from one world to be able to move on to another. Every separation is a test from which it will emerge more emotionally mature. The job of the parents is to gradually release their child, so that it can assume its autonomy and liberty. Professor Marcel Rufo draws on the cases of children and adolescents, but also of adults, to illustrate the different aspects of separation and the questions that arise. Is it possible to separate from something or someone without pain? Why does separation provoke feelings of abandonment? What are the differences between a break-up and separation? Why are memories useful? Does addiction indicate an inability to separate? Do we feel nostalgia for the initial union with our mother? In this illuminating book Rufo holds up a mirror that clearly reflects all of our questions, doubts and apprehensions about separation. They are considered and responded to with warmth, humour, and great empathy for our fragilities. Implicit is the assumption that whilst we can’t we can’t live without close ties, if those ties become too exclusive, they can become suffocating. We must be able to cut them, to release our self, in order to find a healthy balance in our relationship with others.