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The importance of relationships in early parenting support

The importance of relationships in early parenting support

The importance of relationships in early parenting support

The importance of relationships in early parenting support

I’ve worked in schools as both a counsellor and a teacher. I particularly enjoyed teaching young people who were known for their challenging behaviour and was often asked this question by other teachers;

 

‘Why does XYZ kid/kids behave for you and no one else?!’

 

The answer? RELATIONSHIPS

 

I took the time to get to know each of my students as an individual, and let them get to know the real me- not just the teacher me (kids see through pretty much everything so being real is really the only way to be!) I formed a connection and then a relationship with each of them.

 

Now I’m not saying this was always easy- the relationships that help to shape us often aren’t. There was trial and error, good and bad moments/days but after a period of time we established trust because they learnt that I wasn’t going anywhere or giving up on them.

 

I was constant in my role as the adult in the relationship and didn’t let them get away with things, in-fact I used consequences for behaviour more with them than anyone else did, but I was consistent, fair and I dished punishment out myself. I forgave and forgave and then forgave some more.

 

Turns out not surprisingly that there’s a very well-known approach to education and it’s called ‘Relational Learning’. I certainly wasn’t the first to teach in this way and I won’t be the last, because as human’s relationships are at the core of everything we do, and no more so I believe than in early parenting.

 

It’s fairly common for parents to be asked what kind of approach they are using for raising their child- Gentle Parenting? Attachment Parenting? Feeding on demand or to a schedule? Co sleeping or Control Crying...?

 

But do you ever hear anyone ask what kind of approach you are using with your partner? The person you met, got to know as an individual, formed a connection with and then a relationship. This VERY SAME PROCESS is happening with parents and newborn babies.

 

So doesn’t it make sense that any approach used in this stage should have relationships at its core? Spoiler alert! Many don’t!

 

Before my son was born I read a book about baby sleep. It detailed how to use a particular ‘approach’ to his sleep. Trouble was, after a few weeks it was becoming really clear that my son hadn’t read the same book and we were certainly not on the same page when it came to our expectations around sleep!

 

Like many new parents, in my honourable quest to provide the best for him, I’d inadvertently lost sight of the most important thing- our relationship! My focus wasn’t on getting to know him as an individual which would help us to form a connection and a relationship. I was looking for the answers to BIG questions like sleep outside of us and that was never going to work.

 

Enter the Possums ‘Cued Care’ approach- in particular for sleep and feeding- yep, the BIG ones! Here I found something that;

 

  • Recognises that parent/s have needs too where sleep and feeding are concerned and takes these needs into account.
  • Teaches how to respond to babies needs in the present moment (that’s the moment that really counts! Not the theoretical moment occurring in books!)
  • Understands the interrelationship between sleep and feeding for baby.
  • Is a way of sensibly responding to baby’s cues/communication over a period of time- an approach known to lay the foundation needed for a healthy parent/baby relationship.
  • It teaches parents to recognise their babies own unique patterns of behaviour over time. It’s not a one size fits all approach, parents will actually find it easy to apply unique creative solutions to situations that arise.
  • It’s NOT about delaying care that baby is cueing for or responding to baby but not in the way your heart knows they need you to- this not surprisingly creates communication confusion.
  • It recognises the importance of recognising biological cues- such as the normal effect of babies feeling sleepy after a feed. 
  • It recognises that babies have a need for rich sensory stimulation and that many other behavioural approaches to baby care confuse this with tired signs.

 

This approach DID work for us! And here’s just one reason why I think it’s such a great approach for breastfeeding too.

 

You’ve heard the saying it takes two to tango? Well it takes a baby AND a Mum to breastfeed- a breastfeeding RELATIONSHIP! I believe this core aspect of breastfeeding is not being valued enough when mothers seek support and this is letting them down. Now not all and perhaps even not many relationships are equal, take my teacher/student relationships for example. Of-course the baby’s needs are at the centre. there is their survival NEED to be fed, their extreme level of VULNERABILITY as an infant and their need for CARE from an adult. While a mother is laser focused on these needs of her baby (often to heroic extent) We need to ensure that others are keeping HER needs at the centre with any breastfeeding support, her instinctual NEED to feed her baby, her extreme level of VULNERBILITY as a new mother, and her need to be shown CARE from those around her.

 

If this approach honouring the needs of BOTH in the breastfeeding relationship is applied as a way of dealing with a breastfeeding situation or a problem, then we can better ensure that both individuals in the relationship are able to build a connection that grows into one that is mutually beneficial relationship. One that is happy, fulfilling and as an end result successful.

 

For more information about the Possums Cued Care approach including how it can be applied to both sleep and breastfeeding go to; https://possumsonline.com/ or come chat to me - a possums certified professional at www.theperinatalspace.com.

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Amanda Stinton MSW, GradDipEd, B.Soc.Sc. Is dedicated to empowering parents throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum by providing education and counselling during this time known as the perinatal period.

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