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Being Crazy About That Kid Or Making that Kid Crazy

Being Crazy About That Kid Or Making that Kid Crazy

Over-crowding in New Zealand Early Childhood Centres, leading to stressed children and teachers, is certain to be affecting both the physical and emotional development of our children, according to New Zealand psychotherapists.

“Psychotherapists recognise and welcome the courage of Early Childhood teachers who became whistle blowers to show the poor, stressed conditions and illegal ratios of adults to children in many of our Early Childhood centres as reported on RNZ Insight program on Sunday. We have also been concerned about conditions in Early Childhood centres and other early childhood services” said New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (NZAP) Public Issues spokesperson, Lynne Holdem.

Child and Whanau psychotherapists in Dunedin for a conference of the NZAP recently listened to papers on Attachment -the need for children to have an attentive and responsive caregiver who holds them in mind and is ‘crazy about that kid.’

“Attachment research points to the vital necessity of quality attuned care, mutual gazing and ‘serve and return’ interactions, holding, cooing, talking and singing in the first two to three years of a child’s life. Such interactions are the bedrock which enable mental, emotional, social and even good physical development. Children need access to an unstressed caregiver who consistently receives verbal and non-verbal cues from baby and responds with kindness and understanding to help meet the needs of the child and organise their feelings. Only then can they explore and play and learn to relate well to others, to become the civil and mature adults society needs” said Holdem.

Other presentations at the conference recognised the significance of attachment to whanau, hapu, iwi whenua and wairua as well as to the primary caregiver or parent, for wellbeing of Maori. Psychotherapists were told of need to recognise the interconnectedness of whakapapa to people, living and ancestral, and to nature and lands for Maori and to address impacts of intergenerational disconnection and colonisation in therapy with them.

“ Disorganised and insecure attachment styles impact on the development of mental ill-health and addictions, violence and criminality, success rates in education, employment, and may explain the difficulties we are experiencing with self-harm, sexual attacks (lack of empathy) and the great increase in referrals to Child and Adolescent mental health services. If there is no one there to be crazy about that kid, then there is a good chance that we will make that kid crazy” said Holdem.

“Whereas secure attachment to at least one parent, and no more than 20 hours per week spent in good quality, protective and attentive child care, provides a lifelong capacity for good relationships and emotional resilience” she said.

“As a society we need to pay more attention to protecting parents so they can focus on infants in a relatively relaxed manner in the first three years of life. Caregivers under stress from high mortgages, low incomes, trauma (intergenerational or personal), find it harder to provide the nourishing environment that gives their children optimal chances for brain development, emotional regulation and successful, happy lives. All our children deserve that, not just the children of the wealthy and advantaged. If we want to protect children, we need to also cherish parents. This means giving priority to children and their parents when we decide how to share our resources,” said Holdem.

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