Independence - Relationship with Oneself
Above and beyond all the other types of relationship one can have, is the primacy of the relationship one has with oneself. Commonsense, as well as all the ancient and modern psycholo-gies, tells us that all inter-personal relationships are built upon the foundations of how one perceives, understands, accepts and relates to oneself. And this applies equally as well to a baby, a young child and an adult. But where in fact does a baby gain its self understanding? Answer: from its most early relationships, primarily the one with its mother. In this way, the greater part of a child's future self image arises from its early dependence on others and their adult projections of dependency or independency onto their child.
It therefore follows that if we, as parents, spend much of our time trying to make little replicas of ourselves in the form of our children, they will end up without a strong sense of self, of individuality. We will have just created little psycho-clones! They will only ever relate to others as we do ourselves - from out of security or insecurity. When comes the time to move further away from their parental attachments, be that at toddling age or university age, they will have no true identity, no base for independence. Hmmm, not a good outcome.
The obvious flipside of dependence on others, is independence or self-dependence. Now you might be thinking - "Sure. I'll teach my child independence as they grow up, maybe when they start to walk, or when they are old enough to go to pre-school". Ah, but I suggest that by then it may be too late. How can one teach a young baby independence you wonder?
At any age, at any level of consciousness, trust and security must be well-founded for independ-ence to take seed. And these are unarguably the two strongest psychological needs of a baby. A fretful, distrustful, insecure child will never venture far from his mother or else will only venture where he may attain those same essential securities - to some other mother-figure or some emotionally secure habitat. During pregnancy, a baby's needs for comfort and security are automatically met in the uterine environment. Then, following birth, a baby gradually begins to appreciate themself as separate from their mother. It is at this tender age between birth and 12 months where the beginnings of the trust and dependence, self awareness and independence relationships unfold.
You may be surprised that I advocate the time for encouraging independence starts so early on. But it is clearly obvious that as soon as a child learns
that a cry gets them a response; learns about feeding games on the breast; learns that their smile melts their mother's anger; learns that they have a choice to be good or make a fuss; learns that they can venture off and that their mother will be nearby; there is the potential there for teaching them that they are individuals and of showing them ways in which individuality can unfold. Some examples:
· Very early on, it is important to let a small baby have waking time alone to explore themself and their environment. Whenever they wake up without any distress, don't always rush to pick them up from the cot. Try to let them become comfortable with being awake and aware for some time. Within a few weeks a trusting baby will look around and gurgle for a few minutes before calling for his mother.
· As the child's self awareness grows and their waking hours increase, he should be encouraged to play alone for some time in each day. Do this by lying your baby on the floor somewhere warm, in view of you. Let them just look around and discover. They will quickly come to enjoy this time, discovering their toes, fingers, the feeling in their body, the colours on the ceiling, the view out of the window. Since the nature of the human mind is to be inquisitive, if their needs of hunger and comfort have been met, a baby will be happily left in this way for 10 - 15 minutes if he knows you are near.
· Between about 6 and 12 months of age babies need to develop independence both around and away from their mother. Help them to find play spaces they can explore that are close by but not always in sight. Of course you must check on them regularly. If your baby fusses when you are out of sight assure them you are coming back, and do so. Gradually trust will grow and time alone will not be so scary.
· By about the age of 1 a baby will begin to understand that things exist even when he cannot see them. At this age they get to know that you are still around even if they can't see you. Prior to this, when mother is out of sight, she is considered non-existent to the child, hence their anxiety when she goes. Try to encourage this separation by letting go of your own tendencies to fret about whether they might fret because you are not there or carrying them around everywhere!
· When a child begins to crawl and walk, their curiosity begins to override his parental attachment. Rather than calling them back because you fear something may go wrong, or because you may be embarrassed at the results of their explorations, or because you are enthralled by the café conversation, take the time and effort to explore with them.