Inspired by a fellow blogger Jaye Marie who wrote the following on her post on Relationships :
I have always been fascinated by relationships.
Any kind of relationship really, for as I grew up, it seemed everyone had one except me.
I spent most of my childhood in foster or children’s homes, where most of the other kids were just like me. Sad, forgotten little people who didn’t really understand what was wrong with the world or why most people seemed to have families and people to care for?
Eventually, I came to realise that the fault had to lie with me. It was somehow my fault that no one wanted or loved me. This was quite an easy mistake for a child to make, for all we have to go on are the facts and the reasons as we see them.
My adult life hasn’t exactly changed that mindset either. I have left a trail of broken relationships, marriages and sadness wherever I happened to find myself. And although I have tried my hardest to make things work, it never has, not properly anyway. Maybe I still have something to learn, which is probably why I find relationships so interesting. By studying them at every opportunity, I still hope to find that magic ingredient.
What Jaye Marie and many others have to study to grasp would have come by itself if the right circumstances had been at hand from her birth. It’s like learning your mother tongue as a toddler, you are not aware of the much training or failures in pronunciation or syntax. The parent names everything very distinct and repeats even at the age where the baby has no chance of being able to say the sound. As the contact between the parent and the baby is right, the baby longs to learn what everything is named and points and ask endlessly to the joy of the parents. The same way the baby learns to understand the parent and her own inner self by the parent helping to put the right words on feelings and situations like being :
hunger, thirst, being tired, afraid of angry or happy
By using everyday situations from all the waking hours we have with the baby the understanding for what is going on in herself and the other will grow. This is the ideal situation when the baby can grow and develop in a safe and secure environment. She just knows that she is loved unconditionally.
You don’t have to be a parent to do these things right for a baby. What matters is consistency in the care. A baby without parents will need as few as possible who take care of her. Anyone who genuinely does what I described above together with taking care of the basic needs of feeding, enough sleep and proper clothing will be able to see a child thrive. The sense of loss will dawn on an orphaned child, and a great help is to give the child her story. See a post on this here and another here.
In my job as a Health Visitor I have seen a severe lack of the way, some parents handle their babies. Often it is due to too little knowledge of babies’ needs or this combined with huge lacks in the parents’ emotional baggage. Mending the situation is very demanding as parents are very vulnerable to negative feedback on their way of parenting. You don’t have that much time to influence these patterns of behaviour as every day in a baby’s life is essential. She can’t wait very long for the right way to be treated without consequences. On the other hand, the parents need to have confidence in you to be able to receive what would help. Sometimes that is not possible as adults with severe emotional disorders don’t have faith in anybody.
Both parents and the baby need help to meet each other if the parent or parents are in emotional deficit. For those who are interested in supporting the baby to grow appropriately a few things will help like
- Be close to the baby’s face when talking. Help her to find eye contact and smile. Every time at the changing table and at every other situation where things can be explained.
- Be generous with smiles and say positive words and sentences to support the child
- Support the child when it cries or screams. Hold it tight and wrapped and speak gently while trying to calm her down and put her in her cot or baby carrier. Stay there and hold a hand on the cover to calm down until she sleeps.
- Be supportive during meals. Nod and smile while talking gently about the food and how she manages.
- Be supportive in motor development and show the way in small steps like looking at bright things lying at her stomach and roll her gently from side to side until she masters it by herself. From there, any child will continue and start to crawl and later sit and stand.
- In a locked-up situation, ask how do you think little Emma understands this?
These practices can be learned even if the parent doesn’t have the skills from before and the child will for sure benefit. A method of using video take of different scenes can be advantageous. When you find a few seconds where the parent and the baby look at each other, you can pause at that and show the “frozen” picture. That can make a huge difference for the feeling of bonding with the child. The method is called “Marte Meo” and was invented by a Dutch social worker who needed a way to show parents how she helped autistic children to develop. The method is used a lot in our “Health Visiting” in Denmark to help parents understand and support their children.