Being an Ububele Home Visitor

By: Zanele Mokolutlo (Ububele Home Visitor)

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The Ububele Mother-Baby Home Visiting Project is an intervention offered in Alexandra Township. This project is focused on strengthening the attachment and relationship between pregnant women and their babies. As a home visitor I visit mothers who are pregnant or have recently given birth. I offer emotional support, mark positive interactions between the mother and baby, and reflect on mothers capacities to think about their babies as unique little people. I have now been a home visitor for two years and this work has come with its own challenges and rewards. It is important to reflect on these challenges and benefits and how they have impacted on both me, and the mothers that I visit.

Being an Alexandra community member:

I was born and bred in Alexandra and have always wanted to work within my community. This project was an opportunity for me to fulfill that dream and it also opened my eyes to what I always thought was just a normal life. Through the project I became aware that the people that have always been my neighbors live in very dire conditions. I also came across numerous teen moms, some pregnant with a second or third child. These were both difficult social situations that I struggled to face.

Entering into a mother’s home:

The most challenging part of this work is that I know and believe in the value of this work. This for me is life changing, but at the same time I can’t ignore that I am expecting a mom to make space for me in her mind on an empty stomach and while she is concerned about getting nappies and food for her other children. It is a challenge to persuade a mom to let you into their life, when she feels she’s not in a space to receive any knowledge because she needs material things at that moment.

Offering support not advice:

Another challenge that I have come across is when I have to hold back on giving advice and expressing feelings of anger. As a mother myself, it is hard to sit back and watch mothers that I visit make decisions about their babies without enough thoughtfulness about their feelings and actions. In these emotional connections with mothers and their babies, it can sometimes become difficult to be supportive without wanting to offer advice.

Feeling valued and welcome:

There have been times when I have witnessed life changing positive decisions that mothers have made about how they parent their children. Assisting a mother to understanding themselves in this new role as mother and that they are the most important people to their babies is a very rewarding experience.

Every so often I become a very valuable person to a mother that I am visiting. Some of these mothers don’t have their own mothers around or they don’t have older sisters. They take up that opportunity and use me in that space as their pillar of strength.

If you would like more information about the Ububele Home-Visiting Project please contact Ububele on 011 786 5085, or visit our website at www.ububele.org.

 

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Sibling Rivalry

By: Amy Shirley (Counselling Psychologist)

Sibling rivalry has been around for as long as there have been families. The jealousy, bickering, taunting, competition, and at times physical aggression that often accompany sibling interactions can leave parents feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

Sibling rivalry can begin immediately after a second child is born (indeed, often before the newborn even enters the world), and can continues throughout childhood.

Why do siblings fight?

At its most basic level, children feel the need to compete for their parents’ attention, love and affection. All siblings experience some level of jealousy and competition for emotional and physical resources that may result in conflict. Boredom, each child’s individual temperament (including mood, disposition and adaptability), personality characteristics, gender and age may all have an effect on the severity of the rivalry.

What factors may influence how well siblings get along?

  1. Children’s age and developmental needs

Siblings who are close in age may fight more than those who are farther apart in age. Each child’s developmental stage and the specific needs that accompany that stage of development, also play a role. Children’s various developmental needs, individual identities and anxieties have an impact on how they relate to each other.

  1. Composition of the family

Older children often feel burdened with the responsibility of having to help care for their younger siblings. A middle child may feel that they do not receive the same attention as their older or younger siblings, and may then act out on these feelings of being left out. Younger children may also often feel overshadowed by their older siblings, leading to competitive behaviours.

  1. Gender

Gender of the siblings may also play a role. Same sex siblings may feel a greater level of competition with each other, but be more similar in their interests. Children of different sexes on the other hand, may feel that their parents treat them differently. For example, a father might seem to be more gentle with his daughter than with his son. This perceived differential treatment might increase the likelihood of sibling rivalry.

  1. Divorced families

Where children come from families where parents are divorced, they may feel the need to compete for the attention of both parents separately. In the case of blended families, competition with step-siblings may be worse.

  1. Special needs

In a family where one sibling has special needs, due to physical, learning or emotional difficulties, they may require more care and attention from a parent. This in turn can be the source of much jealousy.

How Can Parents Respond?

Parents are told to let their children fight their own battles. And, in truth, jumping in prematurely can create more difficulty. If parents try to be the judge by attempting to figure out “who started it” (which is impossible) they may wind up taking sides and aggravating the already conflictual situation.

Parents are also told however, not to ignore sibling conflict. Kids need their parents’ help and guidance while they are still figuring out how to work things through with their siblings. Siblings may want to hang out together, but don’t always know how to resolve conflicts in a helpful way. And children are still learning (and sometimes testing) what parents will put up with: what is acceptable, what is not, and how far they dare go.

 

Here are some ways for parents to think about sibling rivalry:

  1. Pay attention to how you tend to react

There can be much uncertainty about knowing when and how to intervene in conflicts between your children. A balance must be struck between over- and under-reacting to these altercations. If a parent continually attempts to mediate every interaction, it can create more difficulties – parents may end up taking sides, trying to find out who instigated the issue, and become the ‘judge’. On the other hand, parents should not always leave siblings to resolve these conflicts on their own. Children, especially young children, are still learning how to manage and organise their feelings, and don’t yet have an internal blueprint on how to resolve conflict.

If you tend to over-react, try pause for a while, managing your own anxiety before jumping in to the altercation too quickly. Where possible, provide your children with the space to experience conflict, manage their own distress, and solve their own problems.

If you tend to under-react when stress rises, remind yourself to stay present rather than distancing yourself from the intensity when it pushes your own buttons and makes you uncomfortable.

  1. Respect the uniqueness of your children

Each child has their own unique way of being in the world, and their own specific needs. It is impossible to treat all your children in the same uniform way. Focus on meeting each child’s unique needs as they arise. This is especially important for multiples (such as twins), who are often seen as a single unit without an acknowledgement of their individuality.

  1. Avoid comparisons

Children often feel that they are being compared to their siblings, and often come out lacking. Comparing your children’s capabilities and abilities can be hurtful, and lead them to feeling insecure. When acknowledging a child’s achievement or failure, avoid phrasing it in relation to a sibling’s achievements or failures.

  1. Set ground rules

Children should have a clear idea of what is expected of them. They should be able to have an idea of what you feel is appropriate behaviour, and the consequences of inappropriate behaviour. It is important to be consistent and to follow through with consequences. Where reasonable, try to include your children in the creation of rules and consequences.

  1. Don’t be dismissive

A parent should avoid being dismissive of a child’s negative feelings, such as anger and resentment. These feelings are a normal part of being human, and it is a natural part of life that siblings will experience these feelings towards each other. It is the responsibility of the parents to assure them that mothers and fathers get angry, too, but that there are appropriate ways to express your anger. Negative feelings do not mean that you are allowed to behave in a mean or dangerous way. When these feelings do arise, sit your child down, acknowledge the angry or negative feelings, and talk it through.

  1. Look at whether you are contributing to your children’s’ rivalry

Sometimes, we as parents can unknowingly contribute to our children’s rivalry. Just as our children have their own unique characteristics and ways of being, so do we as parents. Sometimes we may align ourselves with one sibling more often, as they are simply more similar to ourselves. To see if this happens in your family, pay attention to how your children interact with each other, and closely observe your reaction to them. Also be aware of inadvertently creating alliances and aligning yourself more with one sibling than another. Children are sensitive to these dynamics, and may react negatively towards a sibling because of this differential treatment.

 

So parents are told to stay out and parents are told to step in. No wonder we’re confused when it comes to handling sibling struggles!

Remember however that your response to sibling rivalry can make a difference in how your children relate to each other, and create a template for how to relate to peers and other conflict situations outside the family.

 

References and Further Reading:

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sibling-rivalry.html

https:///article/6-ways-to-stop-sibling-bickering-and-rivalry/

http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/sibriv.htm

http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/school-age-children-development-parenting-tips/sibling_rivalry/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568

 

 

 

 

The Signs and Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

By: Shelley Nortje (Clinical Psychologist)

 

Many mothers believe that they should feel completely happy and content when they give birth to their newborn baby. Mothers may avoid talking to family and friends about their difficult feelings or concerns of not coping, because they may worry that others will judge them for not managing. Some mothers believe that they should be perfect and never make mistakes. However, for many mothers, the start to motherhood comes with difficult emotions and experiences. Looking after a new baby is full of challenges, stresses and responsibilities!

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The baby blues:

Most women feel a bit low, tearful or worried in the first week or two after giving birth. This ‘baby blues’ period is quite common. The start to motherhood is a difficult time of adjustment. For example, hormones are fluctuating,  sleep patterns  change, there are the complexities of breastfeeding or bottle feeding, and the marital relationship also shifts into the new role of the parental couple.

Post-natal depression:

Sometimes these ‘baby blues’ become more serious, and the difficult feelings don’t dissipate. When these difficult emotions continue for longer than two weeks you may be suffering from post-natal depression. It is important to make sure that you are able to access enough support and assistance. Post-natal depression may not always start immediately after your baby’s birth and can still occur later in the baby’s first year of life. Sometimes the symptoms start gradually, and sometimes they start all of a sudden. The symptoms of post-natal depression can affect your everyday life and especially your relationships with your baby, family and friends. Even fathers and partners can become depressed after the birth of a baby. It is important for family members to communicate with each other about all your experiences at this time.

 

The signs of post-natal depression:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
  • feeling that you’re unable to look after your baby
  • problems concentrating and making decisions
  • loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating)
  • feeling agitated or irritable
  • feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
  • difficulty bonding with your baby with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in the relationship with the new baby
  • frightening thoughts about hurting your baby
  • thinking about suicide and harming oneself
  • frequently crying for no obvious reason
  • having difficulty bonding with your baby, and looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
  • withdrawing from contact with other people
  • neglecting oneself, such as not washing or changing into clean clothes
  • losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or two hours have passed
  • constantly worrying that something is wrong with your baby

 

What to do if you think you may be suffering from post-natal depression:

  1. If you think you may be depressed please seek help with your GP or community clinic as soon as possible so you can access the support you need. Post-natal depression can continue for months or years if not addressed correctly.
  2. Try to help family members and friends understand how you are feeling and what they can do to support you.
  3. Allow others to help out with daily chores such as housework, cooking and shopping.
  4. Try to make some time for yourself doing activities that you find relaxing (such as going for a walk, exercising regularly, listening to music, reading a book or having a warm bath or shower).
  5. Try to get enough sleep. Although newborns wake often during the night, try to follow healthy and consistent sleeping habits, and if possible, even ask your partner to help when the baby wakes in the night-time.
  6. Try to follow a healthy lifestyle by eating regularly and doing exercise.
  7. Find out if there are any local support groups running in your area, to be able to access support from other mothers who are experiencing similar difficulties.
  8. Psychological treatments and parent-infant therapy (PIP) may be a helpful way to manage your difficult feelings and assist with the bonding process with your new baby.
  9. In some more severe cases, medications, such as anti-depressants, may be recommended. If you are breastfeeding remember to discuss this with your doctor, as not all anti-depressants are safe to take while breastfeeding.

 

At Ububele, we hope to support mothers in this new and complex role, and to strengthen the developing relationship between mothers and their babies. If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, please contact us for assistance or an appropriate referral (Tel: 011 786 5085).