The mother-child bond – care and nurtureCompiled by Yolandi Singleton: Supervisor – Assessments and Therapy Unit
During this month (May), we celebrated and saluted the mothers of South Africa who manage to find their way to be a mother, despite the realities of poverty, unemployment, traffic, work stress, challenging intimate relationships and the rush to run a household, amongst many other “monsters” in their lives.
We see how difficult it is for mothers today to give their full attention to providing care and to nurture their children. These difficulties often include their inability to bond with their children. Mothers find it difficult to bond, often due to their own mothers being emotionally and physically unavailable to them during their childhood.
In South Africa we see how communities suffer due to the absence of strong male figures in families and the mothers then need to play both roles, leaving them distressed to fulfil the needs of their children.
In order to comprehend a child’s natural need to be cared and nurtured for by his mother, it is important to understand the biology behind it. When a mother is, pregnant there is, a mucous tissue called Wharton’s jelly within the umbilical cord that has a protective function for the foetus. Additionally, inside the womb there is a liquid called the amniotic sac that also has the function to protect the foetus. In other words, a child default need to be protected, cared for and nurtured develops due to the nature of the mother’s body providing them with that need even before birth. After birth, it is essential that a mother shows affection to her baby, by holding the baby 15cm away from her face. Remember, a baby’s sight is limited. When a mother regularly touches her baby it creates a warm and secure relationship, setting the necessary foundation for the baby to grow as a confident young child and adult.
Now you may ask, how do I care and nurture my child? The answer is easy and yet quite challenging, but remains a conscious choice. Every child has the need to feel loved which means that a parent should spend time with them on their developmental level. By doing that, they will feel cared for. They also have the need to feel acknowledged by complimenting them and acknowledging attempts made by them. Show them you believe in them and get rid of the criticism. Show interest in the things they are interested in by being in line with the latest trends. Just imagine that you come home, telling your 13 year old child about a cool new app that might interest them. Really listen to them when they tell you something that is important to them. If you do not listen, they will lose interest in telling you things when they grow older. If they feel sad about something, just sit with them and resist the temptation to always be ready with advice. Maybe they just need your presence and time, so put that cell phone and tablet away. Set realistic boundaries for them. They will not understand the essence of it now, but when they grow older they will. Remember, we are not raising children, but future adults.
We have seen mothers through our Mama Zama programme engaging with their children through play and touch, leaving the child feel cared and nurtured for. Child Welfare Tshwane’s Family Preservation Programme aims to restore the bond between mothers and small children in order to build stronger adults and communities in the future.
Let us keep on investing time in our children’s lives by caring for them so that one day when they also become parents, they will be empowered to instil the same principles onto their own children. The foundation is in fact the most important segment in a child’s life. If we can achieve that, I believe that South Africa can become a country where there is peace and harmony.