Parents Like Us Intro to Renetta (Netty)

Something about me

My proudest achievements are being a Mother, a Grandmother, a Child, Adolescent and Adult Counsellor and an Attachment Play Specialist.  All sounds very grand but I have no intentions of ever claiming to be an expert though I aspire to be a Professional.  I have been working therapeutically with adults and children for over 14 years, though longer if you count the raising of 5 children! I know some stuff and I recognise that this stuff is not readily available to everyone and I think that is a tad unfair.  I see my work as re-introducing the fun by sharing some of the knowledge I have gained that makes me passionate about people, relationships and life!

Play is so important for bringing joy into life, even when there is not much else in life to be joyful about.  Play also encourages healthy growth of the body, spirit and mind.  Adults are just as much in need of play as children are and I want to spread the word. Children can teach us so much if we just take time to be with them, they seek joy and find it in the small things, adults sometimes need to be reminded of the benefits of play. Joining together through play increases healthy attachment and infuses the relationship with connection that is needed for healthy, fulfilling life and growth. Being playful is not always easy and for those who were not allowed to be playful as children (for a multitude of reasons!) there can be a lot to gain and learn, this isn’t always fun and involves some hard work but having gone through the process (and being still on that journey) I can vouch for the value in it. I have improved self-esteem, better relationships with others and I laugh so much more.  Sound like something you might be interested in then please read on……….

Things I wish I had known when I became a Mother

1.     You can’t spoil a baby!  If a baby is crying then they need you, a new born does not have the mental capacity to wind you up or to punish you by crying.  They are feeling something and need it to be soothed.  Babies are born with the need for relationship and human touch; it is a primary need and not an attempt to deprive you of rest or sleep.  Who’d have guessed? 

2.     The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain where we feel empathy for another and gain a feeling of the world being a safe place, develops according to the amount of nurture received, a baby who does not get enough love, care and safety does not develop a healthy pre-frontal cortex and lives in constant fear of not being cared for or, worse still, a constant fear of attack; there is much more to this and there are many books and lots of research to back this up.  If you would like to find out more and don’t know where to start just ask me and I’ll point you towards some great texts which are easy to read.

3.     Babies are NOT little adults; they cannot think the way we do and do not cry out for the sake of it, even a toddler or child, (or an adult who has not experienced safety in caring), who is acting out is crying out for attention they need.

4.     Boys need cuddles and reassurance as much as girls do!  A boy who is hugged and cared for is able to grow and become a man with a sense of security, growing up knowing that their basic needs will be attended to.  The Men that become aggressive are those that cannot be sure they can have their basic needs met. They grow up with the belief that they have to fight the world because it is NOT a safe place. Often boys are brought up in our society to believe that they are to be devoid of softness or compassion and yet this very softness and compassion is what makes a man strong, self-assured and confident to be healthy and whole.

5.     Children are not complicated or out to get the better of you, they are trying to learn about the world and themselves.  They try things out and test the rules to see if they are true.  They need consistency and loving firmness NOT attack.  Please explain to me what makes us think that hitting a child for hitting another child will teach them not to hit? Does this just teach them that adults can do as they please to others but children cannot? If it is wrong to hit then why do we insist on hitting to teach this?

6.     Number 5 does NOT imply that boundaries and limits don’t need to be set because obviously they do.  For the sake of safety and being ‘civilised’ certain behaviours are unacceptable in public.  It takes time and effort to work out how to set these boundaries and limits and isn’t easy at times, but time and effort spent when the children are young saves on therapy later in life!  Sounds dramatic don’t it and it is! In therapy often all that happens is that a child receives the acceptance and safety to become who they really are.  We aren’t taught the skills sometimes and if we did not get ‘good enough’ safety and acceptance when we were growing up it can be difficult to know what it looks like.  Luckily these skills and experiences can be learned at whatever age we are.

7.     Learning new skills and changing old habits is hard work, not for the faint hearted but from experience I can share that it is so worth the energy spent learning!  We can ALL grow and become less fearful through the safety of accepting and loving relationships with others.  In fact we are made to only thrive through connecting with others and are born with the instinct to form these connections, this is called attachment.  A baby needs to attach to another human to survive.  Look how helpless and dependent we are as new-borns. 

8.     Sometimes an ability to bond/attach to Mother is made difficult due to a multitude of reasons and support is needed to assist this to happen.  It takes a whole community to raise a healthy human who is whole; there is NO SHAME in asking for help.  There is NO SHAME in not being able to attach to a child straight away.  Hey who said this little person that arrives without an instruction book is going to be whom or what you expected? Who said it is all fun and love? Though I must admit that is often the image we are sold and we swallow whole heartedly.  Learning to love this little stranger is sometimes instantaneous but sometimes it takes time and effort.  If you are struggling to attach then there is help and support out there, if not family, parents, grandparents then health visitors, doctors, therapists and organisations….if you think of others drop me a line and I will add them!

9.     Every child we have is different and has different levels of need.  We cannot compare one child to another because they are a whole different mix of hormones, genetics and chromosomes’.  Why do we believe siblings are alike when we know we are all different? Getting to know each of my children as individuals is a process I am still in and my eldest is 25 years old!  I do NOT treat all my children the same because they are NOT the same! There are lots of reasons for this and one that I found interesting was that birth order can make a difference.  Think about it though, if you are the second child you are going to want to be different from your other sibling because you want to stand out and get what you need.  If the eldest is quiet then perhaps you will be loud to ensure your survival, not a conscious choice but a primitive need.

10.   If I want my children to stand up for themselves in the world then surely this is a skill they have to learn in safety with those they love first.  Too many times I hear (was guilty of this myself) that my children should respect me and not speak against me.  Really I think we need to look at the differences between fear and respect.  Gangsters demand respect through violence, threat and coercion, do I want my children to see me as a gangster?  How much easier will it be for them to get into gangs if they are used to the rules of a gangster already? How do they learn to respect themselves if they are not respected or shown what it looks like? I don’t have to accept my child speaking to me in a way I do not particularly like but neither do I have to bully them into appearing to be respectful.