Where the Heart Listens

An Overview

Where the Heart Listens: A Handbook For Parents and Their Allies In a Global Society
by Eve Sullivan

About The Author

Eve Sullivan founded Parents Forum as a way to pass along the help she received from other parents during a family crisis. She trained to be a French teacher and retired in 2012 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she worked for many years as editorial assistant for a physics journal. Previously she taught English as a Second Language in Massachusetts, Portugal, and Tunisia. She has three grown sons, four grandchildren and counts as part of her family two African sons: one from Ethiopia and one from Burkina Faso.

About The Program

Parents Forum is based on thoughtful examination of eight original questions about family life issues. The workshops, designed by Eve Sullivan and Christine Bates, develop parenting skills and are suitable for various settings. While nothing replaces the live PARENTS FORUM experience, this handbook serves as a “workshop in your pocket” and can help parents and children improve their communications skills.

Parents Forum began in 1991 as a column in the bimonthly North Cambridge News (Cambridge, Mass. USA). The program was organized informally in October of that year and incorporated in 1992. The program received United States Internal Revenue Service determination of status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1993. This determination was reaffirmed in 1999.

In 1993 the program was given a special “Social Venturing Award” as a socially responsible business idea by the Entrepreneurs Club of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1994 the Massachusetts Volunteer Network gave Parents Forum an Honorable Mention as “Program of the Year.” In 2009 Parents Forum co-founders Christine Bates and Eve Sullivan were awarded an MIT Excellence Award for “Creating Connections” in recognition of their volunteer work with Parents Forum.

Where to Find It

Where the Heart Listens was first published in July 1991, print only. A second edition was published in 2006 in print and online with a Creative Commons License. The third edition was published January 2010. It is available on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble. Independent booksellers can order it through Ingram. Ask your library to purchase a copy! Also, the book can be purchased at a discount, in quantity, by community groups that license the Parents Forum curriculum. Thanks for your interest!

…also available in audio and e-format

The audiobook and ebook can be purchased through eBookit: www.ebookit.com.





Praise For Where The Heart Listens

“The workshop exercises hold up a mirror for us to look at our family life. My daughter and I had excellent conversations on values and rules.”

—Workshop Participant

“Where the Heart Listens is full of positive impulses, practical advice and a commitment to sound parenting.”

—Amr Ghaleb, Chief of the Family Unit of the United Nations Development Program

“The book is quite compelling, makes a good case for the PARENTS FORUM approach and has an excellent list of resources.”

—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University Professor of Sociology and Government and author of The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy

“In Where the Heart Listens Eve Sullivan offers a much-needed, timely application of emotional intelligence.”

—Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence

Book Review

Where the Heart Listens: A Handbook For Parents and Their Allies In a Global Society
by Eve Sullivan

Book review by Christie Carlson, LICSW, appeared in the November 2009 issue of FOCUS, the newsletter of the NASW / National Association of Social Workers Massachusetts Chapter.

Where the Heart Listens: A Handbook for Parents and Their Alies In a Global Society, traces the creation and evolution of a grass-roots organization focused on parenting and family, emotional awareness, and community. Eve Sullivan, co-founder of Parents Forum in 1991, provides a valuable resource for parents, especially, and for communities. Sullivan originally planned to run Parents Forum workshops for five years, then to write a book about the experience. She started writing in 1996. The first edition of the book was published in print in 2001. 

Where the Heart Listens is written for the heart and from the heart. It speaks to the core of being a parent, also of being in a relationship. The message is that parents need to be “raised” themselves in order to raise children effectively, to respond to children’s emotional concerns effectively. Personal vignettes add vitality and clarity to the book. These are vignettes from Sullivan’s life and from participants in volunteer-led workshops that form the basis for the handbook.

One vignette I especially liked is of Sullivan’s young son noticing his Mom about to lose her temper. He quickly says, “Mom, you need to call Bonny!” The son understood that when someone listened to his upset Mom that she was more able to listen to him. Not many surprises here for the seasoned social work community, but the handbook speaks primarily to non-professionals, parents perhaps facing emotions without map, compass, friend or relative to help navigate the way.

While titled a handbook, Where the Heart Listens offers no rules or recommendations for child behavior. Instead, with clear and down-to-earth language, it guides parents with suggestions, acknowledging the maze of feelings and conflicts arising from day-to-day living with children of all ages. The goal is honest, respectful, caring communication in families. The first three chapters outline Parents Forum philosophy and its origin from Sullivan and her family’s experience in a substance abuse recovery program for one of her sons.   The therapeutic community of parents, so attentive to emotional honesty, inspired Sullivan. She translated tenets of the recovery program into something similar for parents wanting simply to enhance their own family life. She sought a positive approach that would be meaningful for a variety of populations.

Chapters Four, Five, and Six (Tools of the Trade, Questions Not Answers, Watch Your Words) detail the agenda and format of the workshops, which have been held in a variety of settings, including libraries, schools, and prisons. Eight questions shape the workshops as starting points for individual reflection and for discussion. The handbook explores each question, assisting the reader to reflect on him or herself, family, spouse, or child. Question, discussion, and inquiry all have priority over answer or advice.

In speaking with Sullivan I learned that, upon completion of some workshops, participants have received a copy of the handbook along with a certificate, that feedback has been favorable regarding the usefulness of the handbook. One omission of the book is an index, which could ease referencing certain examples or subjects [Note: the third edition has an index as this reviewer suggests].

The last chapters of the handbook return to organization of Parents Forum and workshops, rationale behind format of the workshops, and guidance in organizing a Parents Forum workshop. Resources listed at the back of the book serve as a “work in progress,” with acknowledgement of Internet availability of numerous other resources.

Since its inception Parents Forum has gone beyond parent workshops to reach out to parents and families in a number of ways.  Parents often rally more easily around a crisis than around the goal of meeting day-to-day needs in a more satisfying way. I hope awareness of this handbook, of the important work it describes, and of the practical and thoughtful guidelines it provides, will help to support and promote the good work of Parents Forum.

Where the Heart Listens is part history, part description and manual, part reference. Sullivan illuminates esteemed social work values of reaching within one’s self while also connecting with community. She writes with respect, honesty, and care and draws the reader in to learn more. Take a look, and see if you agree. Better yet, see how this thoughtful book might be a resource for a client or colleague.

About the Reviewer:
Christie Carlson, LICSW, M.S.Ed., is a social worker in private practice in Arlington. She also works with families of children in the Deafblind Program at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown.

Reprinted with permission of the reviewer and the editor of FOCUS (circulation 9,000). Posted on this site with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License, with the request that Parents Forum be notified by email (info@parentsforum.org) if this review is shared, distributed or reproduced.







Sample Chapters

English: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 |
Chapter 8 | Acknowledgements

Spanish: Chapter 1

Chinese: Chapter 1

“In Where the Heart Listens Eve Sullivan offers a much needed, timely application of emotional intelligence.”
—Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence


Top 10 Reasons to Buy Where the Heart Listens

10. The bright cover will cheer you up on a down day.

9. It fits into your briefcase or bag for ready reference.

8. You’ll find the extensive resource list invaluable.

7. You’ll read questions about parenting you’ve never considered.

6. It explains how your silences are as important as your words.

5. You’ll learn ‘smart love’ strategies for balancing love and order in your family.

4. It gives you practical tools for better organizing your personal and family life.

3. It explains how to ‘raise parents’ so they can do the most important job in the world: raise children.

2. It gives you a blueprint for building strong parent groups in your community.

1. It has a happy ending: greater confidence and competence for you and the people you love!