Helping babies feel heard
Last week I took my dancing into the baby room at a nursery. The babies had had an unsettled week. There were new starters and some were teething.
I felt aware of just how much work practitioners do in the baby room. Ten years ago I had a toddler and a baby at home with me and that felt like I was busy beyond belief. Practitioners care for lots of babies with lots of needs throughout the day.
These practitioners are also 'in loco parentis' which is latin for "in the place of the parent'.
Babies in the room look to the practitioners to help them regulate their emotions - being able to cope with feelings.
We want children to have their feelings, but not be overwhelmed by them
To experience trying but not give up
To feel anticipation but not frozen by anxiety
To be excited but not get carried away into a meltdown
Children learn to regulate their emotions most effectively when they are confident that their feelings will be heard.
Watch in this 90 second clip how this little baby connected with his carer during the session...
When a child expects that his feelings will be heard and understood, emotions become less urgent. Because each frustration now feels less urgent, he will learn that things do get better and he will be more open in seeking solutions to problems. He will also start to build the neurons in his brain to be able to feel empathy and concern for others.
The best way to help babies to feel that we are 'listening' is through our bodies.
People often ask me how Turned On Its Head, the company I run with Oksana, performs shows like Shiny with babies. Shiny is for babies aged 6 months up, Sponge, our show that's at Battersea Arts Centre this Christmas, is for babies aged 3 months and up and their families. We make shows for babies by connecting with them and enabling them to feel listened to. We use the same mirroring skills which makes it easy to read their cues and adjust the performance accordingly.
The connection that the staff and I with the babies last week was amazing. This short 1 minute snippet of the conversation that I had afterwards with one of the practitioners involved and the nursery manager shows us talking about the "Island of Intimacy" - I imagine this to be a place where you feel safe, loved, valued... where you feel at home and at peace.
Next week: The 'Island of Intimacy' explained and how to create it in your practice.