Kia Pai Tai TatouMatariki!
We want to say a big thank you to all of our parents, grandparents and whanau who came to celebrate ourMatariki evenings. I only managed to get to the Pre-School event this year but the parents I spoke to all agreed that holding the two events (one at pre-school and one at Crown Street) has meant that they could enjoy them better without overcrowding. We want to thank Susan, the cook from Church Street Childcare Centre for making delicious Rewena bread and soup.We also want to thank all of our teachers for the work they put in to make the evening such a success at both centres.
Settling Children: It’s an art
It can be very disempowering for children to start at a childcare, and quite stressful for parents who want the best start for their children, and their children to feel loved and secure, and thankfully most children settle within a couple of weeks.
However every now and then we have a child who finds this process much more unsettling than others, and cries almost continually throughout the day. Parents and teachers can find this distressing as none of us are comfortable with children crying, and often want to stop the crying in any way possible by offering the child some form of distraction or incentive.
Magda Gerber, the Hungarian infant development expert who brought to the US an approach for care giving that became known across the world as the RIE approach says this about the effect that crying has on adults:
“It’s painful to listen to a crying baby. Grown ups tend to overreact to a child’s cry. Why? Because crying often stirs up painful memories of our own childhood, churning up issues of abandonment and fear. Perhaps as babies or young children we were not allowed to cry and were distracted or reproached when we did. Our children’s tears may trigger in us these buried memories of rage, helplessness or terror taking us back to those early years. Our baby’s message may then become muddled in our own issues. “
She encourages us to see crying as a way to express pain anger and sadness and so should not be repressed but should be acknowledged so the child knows they have communicated their feelings. “Babies /children want what all of us want when we cry; to be heard, understood and helped if possible” (Gerber)
Staying centred to children’s needs to express their feelings helps us manage and feel better about the crying. But the way we approach the child matters. We might say to a child:
“I know you are feeling sad, dry your tears and let’s go and play”
This is quite different from saying to a child:
“Are you feeling sad about being here today, is there any way I can help”?
In the first example I am assuming I know what is wrong and in some ways I am negating those feelings, suggesting that if we go off and play everything will be OK. Where in the second response, I am genuinely inviting the child to tell me how they feel, and asking if there is something I can do about it.
Now the child may well not be able to put into words or even have the words to tell me how they are feeling, but they do know that I care and am prepared to listen to them. They also know that I am not making them wrong for having these feelings, and am definitely not asking them to stop crying because it irritates me.
Of course adults feel relieved when a child willingly comes for a cuddle to soothe their feelings as we don’t feel so useless, but sometimes children don’t want our help, and if there is anger as well as grief they definitely don’t want to be held. Then we need to trust in their process, and not our need for a quick solution, and give them permission to cry and let their feelings out. There is a big difference in being given permission to cry and in being left to cry, and we call this process: ‘Holding a child in our hearts’.
As AlethaSolter from the Aware Parenting Institute says:“A growing number of psychologists believe that the healing function of crying starts at birth, and stress release from crying in early life will help prevent emotional and behavioural problems later on.”
And yes at times it has been a challenge for us, and this respectful way of working with children is a steep learning curve. But we are seeing the results of this approach in our settling processes. We like to think we are developing a nurturing environment where your children trust that they will be listened to and understood, and we would like to think the same goes for you as their parents.
If at any time you have any queries about the way we do things, or the way you are doing things, we are here to listen, and even give a shoulder to cry on. We believe it truly does ‘take a village to raise a child’.