Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...

Colic

Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...

Strap-in-the-Future

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Mindful Parenting

Self_esteem“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.” ~ Dr. Henker
The ways in which parents interact with their children has an impact on all aspects of childhood development and the way in which children respond to others, and the world around them later in life. By living in the moment and bringing mindful qualities, such as acceptance, non-judgment, curiosity and observation to the parent-child relationship, parents are able to enrich the connection they have with their children.
Research has shown that children who feel a strong connection to their parents and live in a secure, stress-free home environment- a place of love, acceptance and calm- tend to have healthy self-esteem, do better in school, choose healthy relationships, feel comfortable around adults, explore and try new things, and adapt to change more readily.
You might be thinking that in theory, mindful parenting sounds like a viable option, but in practice, intentionally bringing purposeful awareness to parenting situations is much more difficult. Life is often hectic and unpredictable, where home may sometimes feel overwhelming and out of control. At times your child might be demanding, attention seeking, pushing on the boundaries, acting completely inappropriately or challenging you in a provocative manner. It is natural for all parents to “lose it” with their children from time to time but it is how you reconnect with your kids, and the quality and quantity of positive relational moments that is important.
Attachment
The attachment bond between parent and child influences their relationships in mid- and later life. Attachment refers to an enduring, intimate emotional bond between two people. Attachment begins developing before birth and provides the child with a sense of comfort and security. Although this sense of closeness and affection for a parent changes over time, it remains important throughout life.
Any attempt to maintain contact and communication with the attachment figure, is known as attachment behaviour. For example, your child talking to you and simultaneously pulling the cord while you are on the telephone might signify their need for emotional contact rather than a will to be “naughty”. Perhaps their attachment behaviour is saying that they feel their sense of connection or attachment to you has been lost and they are searching for affirmation of their emotional bond.
Attachment parenting
This is a parenting style in which parents seek to create strong emotional bonds with their children. Proponents of attachment parenting advocate the avoidance of physical punishment and instead discipline through interactions involving the recognition of the child’s emotional needs. This child rearing strategy focuses on the holistic understanding of the child.
Why emotions matter?
Our emotions influence all aspects of our lives including; learning skills, social skills, thoughts, memories and perceptions. Research has indicated that parents can and do have an impact on their children’s emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. Wiesel and Hubel found that during pregnancy and the first 18 months of life, the emotional circuits of the brain are the most sensitive to programming. During this “window of opportunity” parents are able to lay the foundations for self-esteem and emotional security, so that their children are able to bond with the world and learn more easily.
Emotional development
Emotional development is a complex task that involves; learning what feelings and emotions are, understanding why and how they happen, being able to recognize and identify ones own and others emotions, and developing effective ways of managing them. As children grow and are exposed to different situations, their range of emotions broaden and their emotional lives become more complex.
Parents play an integral role in their children’s emotional development and well-being. They do this by responding effectively to their children’s emotions; provide examples of how to manage feelings; and talk to their children about how they are feelings so that they can learn to recognize, name and express their emotions in an appropriate manner.
Dealing with your child’s pain
In order to strengthen the love bond parents have with their children, they require the ability to be emotionally responsive to their children’s painful feelings. This means taking the time to understand what your child is struggling with and finding the appropriate words to describe their painful emotions. By deeply connecting with your child’s pain, you are teaching them one of the integral components of loving well, namely the ability to comfort the distress of a loved one and meet them in their pain. However, this does not necessarily mean giving them what they want or are screaming for.
Daisy’s (aged 4) family has people for dinner and someone sits in “Daisy’s seat”. An upset and frustrated Daisy starts to cry. Her mom feels tempted to tell her to stop being silly, it is just a chair but instead decides to validate Daisy’s emotions. “I know it is really important to you to sit in your usual seat, Daisy, and this is upsetting and disappointing for you.” She then reaches out and holds Daisy’s hand tightly. This type of comfort and solace can have a powerful, positive effect on the parent-child bond, without overindulgence.
How to respond to provocative and challenging behaviour?
Children are genetically programmed to seek emotional contact with their parents, even if the response they get from you is a negative one. As an analogy, young children generally enjoy experimenting with the different functions of toys and gadgets, repeatedly press the buttons that make a noise and turn up the volume. By shouting and screaming, you become the perfect toy and your child learns “how to wind you up”. By mindfully using a playful and loving response instead; for example when your child jumps on you, shouts in your ear, or ties your shoelaces together, you are effectively modeling the desire to meet your child in a delightful relationship.
Joshua (aged 3) is getting bored and is feeling the need for attention because his mom has been on the phone for 20 minutes, so he goes up to her and starts pinching her leg. Joshua’s mom initially feels like berating his bad behaviour by saying, “Don’t do that, that is not nice, I think it is time for Time Out” but rather choses a more fun diversion. “Oh, it is time for the car wash. This dirty car definitely needs a wash.” She then picks up Joshua, puts him over her knee, and makes swooshing noises and movements. By meeting in a playful manner, Joshua’s mother is stimulating the release of opioids (feel good hormones) instead of stress chemicals, and enhancing her bond with her child.
Repairing bridges
Naturally, all parents lose their tempers sometimes and the occasional shouting, is unlikely to have any long-term ill effects on your child’s emotional or social development. What is important is to mend the connection or love bond between the two of you, if this has been broken. This can be done verbally by telling your child you love them in a genuine tone of voice; through the use of facial expressions, such as by smiling warmly; or through physical intimacy by giving them a hug or kiss.
Sarah’s mom works full time and comes home after a particularly stressful day. Sarah has missed her mom very much and to get her immediate attention, starts spinning around and knocks over a plant. Sarah’s mom overreacts by shouting loudly. Sarah bursts into tears, runs up to her mom and hugs her legs tightly. Sarah’s mom meets this embrace and comforts her child.
This example illustrates that children are also able to mend broken connections. Your child may not be able to verbally express their feelings or regrets, but they may draw you a picture, come up to you with a spontaneous cuddle, start helping you with something, or give you a present. By meeting your child’s love with grace, you are having a positive effect on their approach behaviour and building a healthy sense of self-esteem. Responding with grace means meeting your child’s love with a warm and responsive facial expression and tone of voice, getting down to their level, making eye contact and thanking them enthusiastically. If you are still feeling angry when your child seeks to repair the relationship, it is advisable to say, “I am still too angry to reply right now but I promise, when I am feeling less upset, I will come and find you.” This ensures a validation of your child’s feelings, as well as a genuine response.
If Sarah’s mother had of brushed aside her attempts for relational repair due to her own life stressors and this was a consistent response, Sarah may begin to fear intimate relationships later in life. If her passionate feelings were never acknowledged and her mom only met her with indifference, she may begin to think that her mom finds her love and as extension herself worthless, or that there is something wrong with her (e.g. that she is unlovable, undesirable, uninteresting, or repulsive).
Emotional connection leads to “emotional intelligence”
When we focus primarily on our children’s behaviour and ignore, negate or invalidate their emotions; we run the risk of seeing all screams, rages and tantrums as naughty behaviours that require modification. By recognizing and responding to our children’s pain, we are teaching them to bring compassion rather than emotional insensitivity to later relationships. Parents are responsible for the fostering of their children’s emotional development and children need help in the understanding and processing of their pain. By nurturing their children’s emotions and meeting them in distress, they are teaching their children that they don’t have to deal with their hurts on their own. This emotional support allows children to be in touch with and eventually let go of their pain. In contrast, disregarded childhood emotions may translate into “self-holding” during adulthood, whereby a person “holds on” to their pain with the help of alcohol, drugs, or some physical or neurotic symptom.
Emotion research has indicated a clear link between parenting styles and children’s capabilities for emotional regulation. For example, Parke et al. (2000) found that children transfer some of their negative affect and poor emotional regulation strategies that they have learnt from parent-child interactions to their own interactions with peers, resulting in poor peer relations. In contrast, through parental modeling- parents are also able to help their children deal with negative emotions, develop positive emotional regulatory strategies such as self-soothing behaviours, and to modulate their affective states in general- by forming a strong and meaningful attachment bond with their children.
References
Chang. L. et al (2003). Harsh Parenting in Relation to Child Emotion regulation and Aggression. Journal of Family Psychology. December; 17(4): 598-606.
http://www.mindfulparentinghappychild.com/
http://fcs.tamu.edu/
http://www.support4change.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/
http://www.kidsmatter.edu.au