Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mother and child bond

Verwante prent

The mother-child bond – care and nurture
Compiled by Yolandi Singleton: Supervisor – Assessments and Therapy Unit
May 2017


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.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Children spell love TIME

Time, the most precious gift

Written by: Yolandi Singleton (Supervisor: Assessments and Therapy Unit)

Dated: 13 April 2017


We often think and say that time is our biggest enemy. It must be that life has become so busy with lots of happenings around us that we then feel bombarded with many things on our plates.

Technology and the development thereof also plays a huge role in this as people are regularly busy to make sure they keep up with the latest trends to feel that they are not missing out on the world and what it has to offer.

Time is continuously reminding us of things that happened in the past, the present and what might happen in the future. We know that the past is not something we can reverse, even though we often want to. The future is out of our hands now, but what we do in the here and now will ultimately impact the future. Therefore it is important to focus on the here and now.

When we conduct therapy with traumatised children our strategy is to take them into a time of fantasy while exploring their life events and feelings and simultaneously keep them in the here and now. We attempt to offer them an opportunity and some time to find healing within themselves, but we also know they cannot achieve this healing process without the love and support from their caregivers and overall support system.

We often cry inside when we assess children, discovering that they feel lonely due to the adults in their lives not making time to spend quality time with them. Mia Kellmer Pringle (2013) explains in her book “The needs of children”, the 5 emotional needs of children which is relevant in all contexts when working and living with children. This author unpacks, amongst other needs, the need for love (we will discuss the other emotional needs in the blogs to come). It is a need that is met by infants from birth onwards and is something they depend on, on a daily basis from their parents. When this need is not met, children seek alternative ways to receive love, which could lead to unwanted situations.

When we say that a child is in need of love, it means that parents should spend quality time with their children in their life world. As adults we assume that children will enjoy certain activities we prepared for them and when they do not engage we think they are ungrateful. No, that is not the case, we need to think differently about this. Everyone has different interests and activities they experience as fun and enjoyable. Parents can therefore ask their children what they would like to do that is fun for them. That is really when children experience that their parents spend quality time with them in their world. When we conduct assessments with children we often find children saying that their parents do not play anything with them. However when we seek information from the parents afterwards, the parents are surprised by this statement, saying that they often do a specific activity together. When we then ask the parents who initiated the activity, the parents are eager to say it was them. We then encourage them to rather ask the child what they would like to do for fun and explain that children perceive this as love.

Let us embrace this special time around Easter and the long weekends to come to spend quality time with our children, who loves us unconditionally. Let us switch off our phones and other technology devices that keeps us so busy and steal the joy we could experience with the innocent gestures and laughter from our children.