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A Village for Every Wee One

“Looking at a wee baby snuggled between her loving parents brings us joy. Not just because she is the new daughter of our Prime Minister and her partner, but because she has safely arrived into a secure and loving family that will be able to give her everything she needs to grow and learn during her first one thousand days.” Said Lynne Holdem, spokesperson for the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (NZAP).

“How generous Jacinda and Clark are to share their personal happiness with us all. Here is Jacinda cradling blissfully her new infant and Clarke smiling and no doubt protecting the peace of the

family from too much public curiosity. Anyone can see that there is every chance of a secure attachment developing between both Parents and their infant daughter.” Said Holdem.

“If only every baby born in Aotearoa had the advantages that such secure attachment offers,” she added.

NZAP’s recent submission to the Mental Health and Addictions enquiry included the following recommendations for ensuring infants have as good an early start as possible. 1. Continue to prioritise policies that reduce child poverty and engage public support for protecting development of all children in Aotearoa. 2. Every region to offer new, vulnerable, or struggling parents infant attachment services such as Watch, Wait and Wonder® Intervention, Circle of Security, or Tikanga Maori approaches. 3. Financial incentives for parents with children aged 3 months to 3 years to attend a parenting centre. 4. Maternal Mental Health services to focus on facilitating the mother child attachment system.

There is plentiful evidence on how vital pregnancy and the first three years of life are to brain development and future well-being. We need to start at the beginning, so the first thousand days of a child’s life are secure and the mother is not stressed by homelessness, violence or poverty, and can give her child as secure attachment and all the health and mental health benefits that flow.

Sixty years of cross-disciplinary research on the importance of secure early attachment, and the work of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study, emphasise exactly this.Together, they chart how much of an infant’s initial experience will determine the trajectory of the rest of their lives. Securely attached infants learn that they matter, are loved, safe, and that it is possible to venture forward and explore the world. They also learn how to self-regulate and self-soothe, emotional resilience.

Whanau Maori have faced historical and social processes which have impacted the ways in which whanau parent and interact with children. It is vital that parenting interventions are culturally appropriate and informed by tikanga and whanau ora approaches such as the work of Hoki ki to Rito at the Ohomairangi Trust in Auckland. Maori psychotherapists have published excellent papers on Kaupapa Maori approaches to attachment and raising children that address historical processes and can inform future initiatives.

“NZAP congratulates Jacinda and Clark on the safe arrival of their daughter. We wish them much joy and adventure in their journey as parents. We also wish the Prime Minister encouragement and courage to improve the beginning for every child in all our villages” said Holdem.

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