Pascale Burns drew on her wealth of experience as a veteran psychologist and mother to support families in unlocking who their child is and helping them navigate the world of social media as part of the 2022-23 program of Raising Great Girls.
Burns has been an active member of the Willows community for many years. She has presented to teachers and parents about adolescent anxiety, parenting in an age of technology, understanding your child’s temperament, and much more. Based on audience feedback and community interest, Burns and the team behind Raising Great Girls have decided to focus this next talk on mental health and its relationship to social media.
“We are not immune to these issues,” Burns says. “We might see them manifest differently but the principles apply no matter who you talk to.”
She hopes that parents are inspired to analyze the impact of social media on their families and learn to meet the needs of their children in specific ways. Burns wants to emphasize how critical it is to know and understand a child–her motivations, her friends, her temperament, and more–-to know how to best support them.
EDUCATION & CAREER
Burns is a Naperville native who attended a private Catholic school until college. She graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Speech with a bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders. After graduation, she worked for a residential treatment program that inspired her to consider postgraduate education. She pursued a master’s in clinical psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology while she worked for Midtown Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization for low-income youth in Chicago. At Midtown, she started in volunteer and student recruitment before transitioning to fundraising and development.
After completing her master’s program, she got a job at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital as a clinical psychologist. She worked there for almost thirteen years before transitioning to the private practice where she is currently practicing: Park Ridge Psychological Services.
As Burns’ career grew and evolved, so did her family. She got married toward the end of her master’s program and has had six children since then. While she has always been involved in some kind of professional work outside of the home, her priority has always been in raising her children.
In fact, one of the largest motivating factors for transitioning into private practice were the growing demands of motherhood. She had originally thought that her longer shifts at a hospital would be more manageable as her kids grew older, but eventually learned that this was not the case.
“When they got older and more cognizant of what’s happening and making bigger decisions was really when I thought I needed to be home more,” Burns reflects.
Her work as a psychologist also informs her own parenting. In discussing her children, Burns is thoughtful and detailed. She is able to pinpoint each child’s unique personality and caters to the needs of each different temperament.
In addition, she sees how important it is for her family to have clearly defined priorities. This comes largely from Burns’ first hand experience seeing the dramatic rise of mental health issues in her years of working in the field. As a clinician, she attributes this largely to changes in family life. Increasingly, she sees distracted, busy parents who are overwhelmed and overloaded with an ever-growing list of things to do.
“I just think the world and capacity for doing things has grown faster than we are ready for,” she analyzes, and explains that her and her husband try to push against this. “We’re invested in trying to keep the world as small as possible for our kids. Not to limit their desire to explore and see the world but in terms of…what makes somebody psychologically whole and secure.”
As much they sought to craft a culture within the home, Burns and her husband were also intentional about the community of people they chose to surround themselves with. The Burns have one Willows graduate and two current Willows students and are grateful for the community that the school has provided. In particular, she emphasizes the absolutely pivotal experience it was for their family to be surrounded by families and an institution with the same value system as her own.
“They appreciate the gravity of the things that I think are important,” she explains. “It removes such a massive barrier that exists for most people. When you’re nervous about the people that your kids are around, and nervous about the people who are teaching your kids, I think your baseline level of anxiety is just so much higher.”
She recounts being able to have extremely open conversations about parenting and receiving both sympathy and valuable perspective. More veteran parents would counsel her and lead by example; Burns would look to others’ older children and see them as role models for what she hoped her children would grow.
Watching her oldest daughter graduate and thrive academically and spiritually at Burns’ own alma mater, Northwestern University, has left Pascale even more convinced of the significance of Willows as a foundation for her children.
“The personalized attention and the message Willows was trying to communicate to the girls was so consistent and so singular,” she explains. “I am just so glad that [my girls’] backdrop is the Willows.”
Raising Great Girls is a speaker series for parents. Learn more about the Raising Great Girls series here.