The Role of the Teacher in the Preschool Years

Hazel Masiko (Grade R practitioner and Vice principal of the Ububele Pre-school)

A personal story:

I would like to begin this blog by sharing a story of a young boy who was in my class several years ago, and whose memory inspired the topic of this blog. Chippendale (his name has been changed for confidentiality) first came to Ububele Preschool when he was just 4 years old and had an articulation problem. His lack of language skills however did not hinder him from becoming a delightful, motivated and perceptive little boy. He always had a warm and friendly disposition and was confident.

On Monday mornings during the ‘weekend news’ activity, Chippendale would mumble and point around, talking in a language that only he could understand. Even though we could not understand him, his face would light up and he seemed to feel very excited about relating to me and his friends how his weekend had been.

The following year, Chippendale was retained because he still lacked language skills and his cognitive capabilities were not yet well-developed. With praise and recognition, Chippendale would enthusiastically participate and enjoy action songs. With class activities he would work diligently and conscientiously and he seemed to feel proud of his achievements.

He then started uttering the words “mama” and “papa”. The vocabulary grew to “garage”, “Alex” and “coke”. I would help him string the words together – “you went to Alex and bought a coke at the garage” for example. He would nod his head with delight because the teacher understood him. In class, Chippendale was never singled out as a child with a challenge; he was included in all class activities and spoken to like any other child. I think this made him feel accepted, safe, understood and cared for.

Towards the end of the second year, the little boy could say sentences and spoke more clearly. His determination and positive attitude helped him overcome his difficulty, although it was a slow and difficult process. To me, his teacher, he was a source of amazement and inspiration. Helping Chippendale rise above his limitations, gives me a pleasant and warm feeling of happiness and achievement.

“The marvellous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome” – Helen Keller (1980-1968)

preschool pic

The role of early childhood educators:

An essential part of a child’s successful early school learning is the quality of the teacher-child relationship and the abilities of teachers to provide a positive, consistent and responsive environment. All children have the right to meaningful participation in education.

If you have a good teacher who understands what young children’s learning us about and knows their subjects reasonably well, then you’ve gone a long way. It’s not about the facilities and curriculum, although we need a roof and clean toilets – It’s about the teacher!”

– Professor Elizabeth Henning, director of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Education Practice Research, on the Soweto Campus.

Some of the responsibilities of early childhood educators:

  • To keep small children safe from harm
  • To help small children adjust with the separation from their parents each morning
  • To encourage children to find their own answers through play and exploration
  • To provide a developmentally appropriate environment filled with tools for play and learning (e.g.: clay, dolls, paper, balls etc.)
  • To listen carefully to a child’s needs, whether expressed verbally or non-verbally
  • To communicate and engage with parents, caregivers and other staff members

At the Ububele Preschool for example, the teachers attempt to increase children’s on-task behaviours, reading skills and academic competence. They learn best when exposed to the PQRST strategy:
P: participate

Q: question

R: reason and respond

S: use all senses

T: think for themselves

Some important skills that preschool teachers impart to their students are:

  • Teaching number work: counting, adding and subtracting using fingers, lids, acorns etc.
  • Enhancing language: through stories, theme discussions, news, songs and rhymes
  • Allowing free choice or play: they are able to communicate and identify problems

When the learners leave the Ububele pre-school for Grade 1, we often hear that they are doing well and managing with the new tasks set out for them in big-school!

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Activities for Winters Days with Pre-schoolers

By: Marilise Nel (Intern Counselling Psychologist)

As winter is fast approaching, some parents wonder how they might go about entertaining their preschool child indoors. Many parents feel that they do not always have the financial means to do big outings with their child over weekend or school holidays. The great news is that all a child needs is some creativity, a bit of guidance from their caregiver, and an hour or two to play at home or in the neighbourhood. Children learn continuously through play, and by supporting them in this exploration, you as caregiver are encouraging their preparation for their school career.

There are many activities which can be done indoors or in the neighbourhood, and which are very well aligned to a child’s developmental growth. Children’s development can be divided into six main categories, which each contribute to their overall school readiness. These categories include:

  • Large muscle or physical development: the ability to run, kick, throw a ball and to walk upstairs with one foot after another.
  • Fine motor ability: the hand-work and visual ability of the child, and the coordination between the two. Examples of skills in this area include using a scissor to cut paper or the skills of stringing beads onto string.
  • Performance ability: Planning abilities, sequencing skills and working with speed, the ability to build structures, such as a puzzle, or building a structure out of individual blocks.
  • Practical reasoning: Numerical abilities and simple problem solving, including counting, comparing large and small items, or naming the days of the week.
  • Language: getting to know the alphabet, understanding everyday words and how to use them, as well as knowing similarities and differences between simple objects.
  • Social skills: knowing their family name, their date of birth and being able to help themselves with simple tasks, such as getting a glass of water, or communicating with friends during play.

Whilst keeping these developmental areas in mind, the following activities, which are very simple and inexpensive, can really assist in a child’s learning, whilst also creating heaps of entertainment during the cooler winter months.

  1. Activities with a bit of movement

Whilst you are out and about

  • Walk in the neighbourhood or on the way to the shops and play a game of “I-Spy”. One person will name the object that they see being a certain shape, colour, or starting with a specific letter from the alphabet, and the other person gets to guess what it is. This helps to expand vocabulary and explore new words and meanings.
  • Use a small ball and play in any open space that is safe: practice kicking the ball with one foot, then the other, running up to the ball and kicking it, or passing the ball to one another.

Rainy day games

  • Put on some rain boots and splash in puddles outdoors. You can even tie two plastic bags around your usual shoes to keep them dry.
  • Talk about how water flows: down gutters, along sidewalks, down hills, down to where puddles form. Speak about the importance of water, or play a game of naming all the things we use water for in the house and outside, like cooking food, making tea, washing dishes, washing our clothes, watering plants etc. When you get home, ask your child to draw a picture about all the things he/she has learned about water.
  • Bring paintbrushes outside (or use branches or natural grasses), and use the water from the puddles of rain to paint on the sidewalk.
  1. Activities with items from the home

Creativity can really be sourced right inside your home. Make a habit of keeping left-over items, such as toilet rolls, string, ribbon, old buttons, glass jars, colourful paper and so on to use for craft activities.

  • Paper plates and beads art: You will need some left-over wool, ribbon, buttons and beads, glue, a black pen, and a paper plate. Draw a picture such as a house or flower on the paper plate, and get your child to stick down some beads, buttons and wool inside the lines. This activity helps with fine motor skills, sorting colours and shapes, especially fine motor dexterity and a tip-to-tip grasp using the index finger and thumb.
  • Stringing fun: Use some string and dried pasta (such as macaroni), beads or old toilet paper holders. Create a necklace by stringing the pasta/beads/toilet rolls onto the string. The importance is that the child practices how to hold the string and manoeuvre the item onto the string. This really helps with fine motor development and hand and eye coordination.

toilet roll string

  • Cardboard tubes and a marble race: Use cardboard rolls and create connections for the tunnels. Use one or two marbles and run these through the tunnel to see how far it will go.
  • Sorting coins: Take out some coins that you have and place them in a shallow container. Get your child to sort these into categories i.e. size and colour. The important part is also for the child to pick up the coin using his index finger and thumb. Lastly, make sure you help to count all the coins in the different groups. You can also use the coins to build a tower. It is recommended that everybody remembers to wash their hands after handling all the coins.
  • Building blocks: Gather small cardboard boxes (such as toothpaste/deodorant/medicine or pasta packaging) and a build tower or a fort from the items. You can also do this with plastic containers from the kitchen. Compare the heights of the towers or count how many items you had to use to build a fort.
  1. Activities in the neighbourhood
  • Nature Walk: Walk around the neighbourhood and collect leaves, stones, twigs, pine cones and other objects from nature. Place them on a tray and guide your child in counting how many items there are, or compare their shapes and colours. You can focus on which ones look similar or different, and discuss the colours or textures that you can see. You can also stick these down onto a white cardboard and draw in the names of each item.
  • Leaf Stencils: Use leaves that you have gathered and paint them on one side. Use this as a stencil to imprint the leaf shape onto a piece of paper.

leaf stencil

  1. Creative activities
  • Growing beans: Children really enjoy learning about plants, water, the plant’s roots, and how we grow food. You will need an old glass jar, some cotton wool (or a bit of soil) and a few dried beans. Spend some time planting the beans in the cotton ball or soil, watering it and placing it on the windowsill. If you plant it about 1cm from the top, the bean should sprout in about 4 days. Watch it grow, and after a week or two, plant it outside in a sunny place.
  • Sorting Smarties game: Buy a box of smarties and use similar coloured containers or painted egg boxes. Have your child sort out all the different colours into each cup, for example yellow smarties into the yellow cup and so on. They can also count how many there are of each colour, and then get to eat them as a fun reward.

sorting smarties game

  • Paint colour puzzle: Gather some paint colour index cards from a local shop that sells paint. Make sure that you get two of each of the cards, and gather a variety of colours (green, red, yellow, blue and so on). Use one of the card samples and cut out the card, and glue it down onto a wooden clothes peg. Do so with all the other colours as well, creating a peg for each colour card. You can now play the colour puzzle game, whereby your child matches the colour to the remaining card by simply pegging it on.
  1. Nurturing language activities
  • Create your own story game: The child gets to choose four or six things that he wants to be in a story, for example, a cat, a bicycle, a dinosaur and a rainbow. The parent then makes up any creative story with a beginning, middle and end using the named items. The child can get to say what they liked about the story, and get a chance to tell their own version of the story using the same objects.
  • In order to also improve language skills, a parent can read the child an age appropriate book, and in doing so spend one-on-one time with the child, whilst the focus falls on explaining the meaning of the words, pointing out feeling words and discussing the story and characters in the books.

Playing with your child is not only about the development of your child on a physical level, but also about building a relationship and growing emotionally. By delighting in your child through these fun activities, you will help your child to feel supported and assist in building his or her self-esteem. Children enjoy creative activities, but even more than this, children enjoy you spending time being with them whilst they explore their world and learn.

If you enjoyed reading about easy ways to entertain your child, and would like to find out more about using items that are readily available, you can source the internet for many website which foster creative developmental learning. Many of these websites offer activities that have been recommended by occupational therapists or educational psychologists. For further inspiration, feel free to visits www.sugaraunts.com , www.theimaginationtree.com or Pinterest for more ideas. Please note that the photographs posted here to illustrate some of the ideas are originally from the above websites.

Individuality Within a Group

By Oscarina Majokweni (Counselling Psychologist)

The group and individual are not independent and separate, but are intimately connected and fundamentally inseparable. One cannot celebrate the individual without celebrating the “group” and visa versa (Jetten & Postmes, 2006). In addition, Jetten and Postmes (2006) further postulate that many philosophers struggle with the distinction between individual and collective interest and that there is a fundamental tension between the two; they appear to stand in opposition. For instance, Hobbes (1650/1931) concluded that the relationship between the individual and the collective is fundamentally conflictual. As a result, the integration of individuality within groups is a continuous working process within ourselves and with those around us.

Large group seated in spiral

For example, a client once shared that she has difficulty in meeting with her friends and felt overwhelmed when in the midst of her family. She came up with excuses (‘no petrol’) to avoid meeting her friends. Yet in actual fact, she knew the roots of her difficulty. She perceived herself as a person who would not fit in the group or have anything valuable to share. She thought that she was different to her friends in terms of lifestyles. The friends always enjoyed who she is but it was hard for her to believe this. As she continued therapy, she began to understand her background and deal with her past, which made her appreciate her individuality in different groups. She said, “coming to see you has been such a complicated process. I am learning to understand myself and beginning to be more accepting and comfortable in my own skin in different spaces.”

People are born individuals. However as they develop, they become part of different groups such as their families, friends and the larger society. The family may groom parts which may differ from those cultivated by the society. The mother gives birth to a baby who has a personality with different facets. For example, a baby is born calm, always smiles and loves people’s attention. Yet her environment will have an impact on how she changes. For instance, the parents may let her cry alone for a long time, ignored when in need of attention and miscue her communications. This may lead to baby being withdrawn and learning to do things for herself. As she grows she may not be comfortable in being part of crowds, rather enjoying one-on-one friendships and interactions. Her character may be regarded as introverted and private. Moreover, the society focuses on the person’s nationality, racial and generational group, and cultural practices. A person grows to be a South African, black African, Xhosa speaking, Christian Millennial, for instance. These categories may reflect differently at work and other organisations which connect to the person’s individuality. Thus personality and history mould character and one cannot separate the individuality from a group.

However, the conflict that arises in differentiating the individual and collective interest makes it hard to integrate the parts of a person to a whole. People play different roles in different groups. A person may be a mother and wife in a family and her role can be the nurturer and the organiser.  She is in charge and her children expect her to protect them from danger. But this may be a challenge when she is in friendship circles as she may want to organise all the events and not share responsibilities. The other friends, coming into the group with their own histories and characteristics, may find her difficult and dislike her. They may want her to play a different role, for instance to be the joker and nurturer. It is at times difficult for people to accept one’s character and make use of it in a positive manner. Janis (1982) suggested that cohesion suppresses individual voice and that disastrous decision-making outcomes were the result of a lack of individuality in ordinary group members (Jetten & Postmes, 2000). For example, it may come naturally for a mother to be a nurturer to her children. However, it may not be easy to do this in all spaces as she may want to be nurtured herself. Her friends expect her to be a nurturer and this may create turmoil in her, yet she may fulfill this role without voicing her difficulties to create harmony in the group. This could result in her feeling that her needs are not met in the group. It is therefore very difficult at times to differentiate and identify the appropriate needs for you and the group.

The ultimate goal may be to accept and understand the self and the different aspects in groups around us. Therefore an individual continues to reflect on who she is and how she impacts the different spaces, which may be difficult because of the deep emotional roots that may be conscious or unconscious. The different groups have diverse dynamics which need to be respected and brought to awareness. Therefore it is a continual, working process to integrate and celebrate individuality within groups.

 

Children’s Play

By: Linda Bresgi (Intern Educational Psychologist)

“Children’s play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import.” – F. Froebel

Play as learning:

According to early childhood specialist Davin (2013), play is the most valuable activity for the purpose of learning and a program that limits the time children spend playing limits their opportunities to learn.  Play and school readiness are highly correlated and according to Landreth (2012) play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.

Research shows that the first five years of life are critical to a child’s lifelong development. Young children’s earliest experiences and environment set the stage for future development and success in school and life. Early experiences can actually influence brain development, establishing the neural connections that offer the foundation for language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills, behaviour and emotional health (Papalia, Olds & Feldman, 2008). School Maturation on the other hand refers to a biological process in the development when certain skills emerge before children start school. This implies physical as well as mental maturity. This maturation process cannot be rushed but appropriate and consistent support by caregivers can help the process along (Davin, 2013).

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What is free play?

Free play can be understood as a self-motivated, unstructured activity where the child chooses what and how to play.  Free play is “free”, because the child chooses what he does, how he does it, how long he does it and with whom he does it. Free play is “play”, because the activity creates pleasure within the child. However, free play also involves learning and is considered essential for the all-round development of the child. Learning however begins long before a child enters pre-school.

How can parents facilitate free play?

No child becomes ready on their own. It is an ongoing process and infants and young children thrive when parents and families are able to surround them with love and support and opportunities to learn and explore their world (Webster-Stratton, 2013).

Free play can include imaginative play, such as ‘dressing up’ or playing games such as ‘cops-and-robbers’. Encouraging fantasy play need not, however, cost parents money. Parents could for example enhance fantasy play by providing their children with props and items such as old dresses, shoes, empty shampoo bottles or an old hair dryer. Free play can also include; building with blocks or construction material, manipulative play such as playing with clay or water. Perceptual games such as memory games and puzzles, and also, outdoor play, such as climbing on the jungle gyms, kicking around a ball or playing in the sandpit.

Why is free play important?

Free play offers children the opportunity to choose for themselves, therefore encouraging independent decision making. There is no right or wrong choices with play and therefore children can manage at their own developmental levels. There is no chance of failure at free play and consequently encourages a positive self-esteem.

Free play also has an important role in the social development of the child. Playing offers an opportunity to learn socially acceptable behaviour such as taking turns and sharing and aids in the child becoming less egocentric. Free play also plays a valuable role in the language and cognitive development of the child as it provides an opportunity to use language creatively, learn new vocabulary and become familiar with certain concepts such as ‘in’, ‘out’, ‘on top’, underneath’. It also offers opportunities for problem solving, leadership and creative thinking.

In a world of TV’s, IPads and computer games, children seem to be spending less and less time being physically active. With the rise of obesity and associative diseases in our society, physical exercise needs to play a larger role in their daily program. During free play, children are encouraged to play outdoors, thus helping maintain their physical health. Physical exercise is not only beneficial for the burning up of energy, but also benefits children’s gross motor and fine motor development, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination.

In terms of emotional development, play allows children to express themselves freely and become familiar and comfortable with a variety of feelings. Playing is therapeutic for children as it allows the child a chance to act out experiences and deal with their emotions through their play.

Ububele and play:

Ububele recognises the importance of play in the facilitation of school readiness and school maturation. Furthermore, Ububele also acknowledges that the process can be enhanced by the relationship between the caregiver and child and supporting opportunities that encourage play.  The ‘Right to play’ programme that runs out of the Ububele mobile bus that visits Stjwetla on a regular basis is an example of how Ububele aims to facilitate parent-child relationships through play.  During the sessions, facilitators encourage the various domains of school readiness; physical and motor, emotional and social, cognitive and language development through interaction with the children and their caregivers.  The success of the programme relies on the understanding that in order for the programme to be of most benefit, caregivers also need to become involved!

If a child is provided with the right environment, they will play meaningfully and reach their full potential of learning opportunities through play.  Over time, Ububele is slowly starting to help parents realise the importance of their involvement in motivating play and creating play opportunities in the development of skills related to reading, writing, mathematics and emotional well-being. These are important skills children need to acquire with regards to learning and ‘school readiness’.

 

Being an Ububele Home Visitor

By: Zanele Mokolutlo (Ububele Home Visitor)

IMG_6064

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.

 

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).

 

 

Doing psychology in the community

By: Hayley Haynes-Rolando (Educational Psychologist)

 

Working in the community had made me think a lot about the role of psychology in the community, and how relevant it is in being just that, community psychology. I suppose a more pressing issue then, is, what is community psychology? A loose definition of it may be that community psychology describes psychology as focusing on more than the individual. It suggests a focus on the individual’s context, which includes a focus on the relationships within the context and is also about creating change in the system. This is a complex and enormous task for any psychologist embarking on offering their services in a community context. One of the ways in which it can be tackled is through empowering community members. The empowerment approach allows one to learn about the participants through their culture, experiences and the way in which they see their world. It is about working with the people to understand their world and to meet them where they are at.

 

If the focus of community psychology is on the community, then the ‘community’s’ challenges or difficulties must be addressed. As in individual therapy, the ways in which the challenges of the client can be addressed, are often rooted in the past, and the way in which past experiences have been understood. Our South African society is plagued by so many social ills such as poverty, inequality, racism, housing shortages, and corruption that affect people’s lives on a daily basis. This conversation proposes that these issues need to be understood in terms of the past that has created them. Psychology in the community should also be about looking back at the past, and trying to understand its impact on the present, so that we can begin to envision a more hopeful tomorrow for our communities and children. Often the lens that we use to look at the communities that we work in is overwhelmed by these social ills, and it can be difficult to imagine or think about the impact that the community’s past has had on it. To understand the way in which people view themselves and others and the social issues that exist, it is important then to understand their context and make sense with them about what can be done.

 

This idea of community psychology, could also suggest many minds working together to understand a complex context, and how the difficulties in the context can be addressed. With this in mind, community psychology could also be about networking with other professionals, social workers, food banks, lobbying and advocacy organisations etc. In a way, community psychology suggests a shift in focus, not only from individual to community, but also from a therapist to a network of professionals.

 

Without going into too much detail about the complexities of working in communities perforated by unemployment, at times unreliable transport systems, multilingualism and often abject poverty, the model that is employed to think about, and begin to employ community psychology as a way of doing psychology must be different and innovative. Our exciting new work on the Ububele Ubuntu bus has really got me thinking about how the community can be reached, and how we can best use psychology in the community setting. Keeping all these social problems in mind, the existence of the Ububele Ubuntu bus and our efforts to bring mental health services to the community, feels like the beginning of a venture to doing psychology in the community.

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Whilst this brief discussion has only touched the surface, and has raised more questions than offered answers, the hope is that as we begin to see the community as our client, we will grow in our understanding of what is happening in the life of the community, and become better equipped to address its issues.

 

How can I build a relationship with my child with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

By: Carla Richards (Intern Educational Psychologist)

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has become an increasingly common name in families all over the world, even in South Africa. ASD is a complex disorder affecting the development of the brain in children. This can be characterised by difficulties with social interaction (communication, language, play), as well as repetitive behaviours. However, the awareness about the characteristics, prognosis and treatment of ASD is still largely not spoken about in our country. This can make it very scary when parents find out that their children have been given a diagnosis of ASD.

The impact of ASD on relationships:

There are a number of factors which may make it challenging to focus on the relationship with a child with ASD: medical or health concerns, learning difficulties, school placements, and feeding problems. It may be difficult to think about ways to connect and bond with your child in the face of these more concrete and physical needs. While you may very well be concerned about these difficulties faced by your child, it is important to remember that children with ASD are just as unique as any other child, and your relationship with them as a parent is just as important.

Building a positive relationship with your unique child:

Now, you may be wondering about ways in which you can help to build a positive relationship between you and your child, and if it will be easy. Well, the answer is that it may feel extremely difficult at times! The basic ingredients for a good relationship however are simple: you and your child.

One step to take is to try and play with your child. Yes, play! Play allows for opportunities to bond with your child through physical touch such as holding, squeezing and hugs (which is a sensory activity that many children with ASD respond to). Play also gives the parent and child an opportunity to learn about each other’s likes, dislikes, weaknesses and strengths. Engaging with your child in activities which they enjoy opens up a space where you can learn to enjoy shared activities and delight in each other. It also gives you a chance to build up your child’s confidence, while showing your interest in them.

children playing ball

You can also add other ways to connect with your child more meaningfully into your daily interactions. This can include getting down onto your child’s level and talking to them face to face. This shows love and interest in communicating with your child. Speaking gently and lovingly may also open your child up to wanting to interact with you. Noticing and praising your child’s achievements and successes on a daily basis (no matter how small or basic) is essential. This will help to build a relationship founded on positive interactions, instead of constant negative interactions which are correcting or punitive towards your child.

Having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a rollercoaster experience for many parents and families. Should you feel that you and your child need any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Ububele for help or an appropriate referral.

For some more information about ASD and support groups take a look at these local organisations’ websites:

What is Parent-Infant Psychotherapy (PIP)?

By: Shelley Nortje (Clinical Psychologist)

There has been an increase in awareness over the recent years that pre-natal and early infancy is a sensitive developmental phase. As such, it is well understood by professionals in the infant mental health field that early intervention or prevention at this early stage is of great importance. At Ububele, one of our central mandates is to support the early relationship between caregivers and their babies, and to prevent risk factors such as poverty, domestic violence and depression in mothers, from negatively impacting on the short and long-term outcomes for that mother and child.

Parent-infant psychotherapy (PIP) is one such psychological intervention aimed at facilitating secure and strong attachments between caregivers and their babies. By caregivers we mean parents (including fathers and mothers), grandparents or caregivers in children’s homes. PIP sessions are offered at Ububele and at our satellite facility, the Brown House at Alex Clinic. PIP involves weekly sessions with a trained psychologist, in order to support you in your parenthood, and help you to think about your unique baby.

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Ububele would like to encourage caregivers to seek the necessary assistance as soon as possible. If you are a caregiver who is struggling to cope as a parent, or if you are a family member or friend to a caregiver who is need of assistance, Parent Infant Psychotherapy may be a helpful service.

Below is a table that lists a few of the risk factors that may lead to a mother, father or baby that is struggling to manage with difficult feelings or experiences.

 

At-risk parents

At-risk baby

Post-natal depression (PND) A traumatic birth experience
Disability Disability
Unplanned pregnancy Sleeping difficulties
Lack of social support Premature birth
Teen pregnancy Feeding difficulties
Recent loss of a loved one Excessive crying
Previous stillbirths or miscarriages Stress signals such as avoiding eye contact with mom or dad, colour change, being easily startled etc.
Difficulty bonding to the baby Low birthweight
Marital conflict Failure to thrive
History of psychiatric difficulties Recurring health difficulties (e.g.: rashes, diarrhoea…)

 

If any of these symptoms seem to describe you or your baby, please do not hesitate to contact Ububele at 011 786 5085 for further assistance or an appropriate referral.