Thursday, September 24, 2015


"Across cultures, foetuses can remember and recognise their biological mother's voice before they are even born and then prefer it after birth to that of other women, including care workers. Newborns will even change their behaviour to elicit their own mother's voice. Researchers have found that experiences in the womb have an impact on infant behaviour and development and that recognising the mother's voice in the womb may play a role in mother-infant attachment. It is believed that in-utero neural networks sensitive to the mother's voice and native-language speech are being formed (Kisilevsky et al, 2003, 2009)" WHO CARES? : Dr Aric Sigman. p.11-12.
Recently in our street we experienced the annual arrival of dozens newborn lambs. The chaotic bleating and baaing of mother sheep and baby lambs as they call-out to find each other, is just amazing. The lambs recognise their mother's baa, race towards it, then dart under their belly and furiously feed.
Some human mothers intentionally speak to their baby when in-utero, knowing that the baby can hear their voice. But the fact that the baby is tuned-in to their mother's voice is only the start of a close relationship that all babies need with their mum to develop clear language skills.
"And neurophysiological research finds only the biological mother's voice preferentially activates the parts of the baby's brain responsible for learning language, even when the baby listened regularly pre-birth to a nurse who was also a mother and whose voice was matched to be similar to the mother (Beauchemin et al, 2010)."
The researchers concluded, "scientifically speaking, that the mother's voice is special to babies... This research confirms that the mother is the primary initiator of language...."
In my family I have seen the power of my voice in my children's language. I am Australian and my eldest 3 children were born in the first five years after I moved to New Zealand, when my Aussie accent was still very strong. Now decades later these 3 adult children are still picked for their Australian tones in their speech. 
The brain connection to do with language that exists between a baby  and their mum, is actually two-way. New mums "seem to be biologically primed with a linguistic advantage for their own children." Mums with young babies "exhibit increased brain activity in areas known to govern language.", when they hear real-life or recordings of 'baby talk'. However, mothers whose children had grown  out of this baby talk stage did not show the same brain activity of connection with the recorded baby sounds. 
It's as though mums are given deep connections with their baby for a time period when the child needs certain things to be supplied by their mum, which will lead to their greatest development.
"Years later, a mother's voice continues to have physiological effects on her child. When children and young adolescents who are experiencing anxiety along with raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol hear their mother's voice on the telephone, there is a dramatic change: a rapid rise in oxytocin and dramatic reduction in those cortisol levels (Seltzer et al, 2010). It should not be surprising to learn that the mother-child interaction is now being elevated to a medical status. Editorial papers in critical care medical journals are now calling for recognition and use of "The Therapeutic Effects of a Mother's Voice" on seriously ill patients in hospital (Alspach, 2010, p.13)".
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ you can use this information. 
If you are pregnant - chat away with your baby. 
If your child is under 12 months - you are both still connected in this amazing way, so be available to give them lots of time to baby talk to you and for them to hear you chat to them. 
If your children are older or you have teenagers - be aware of the privileged power you hold, especially to help them in times of anxiety and stress.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


"Eye-to-eye contact along with skin-to-skin contact is vital for child development at all ages but particularly during the very early years. 80 per cent of a child's brain growth occurs during the first three years of life." WHO CARES? : Dr Aric Sigman. p.9.
When you read a document written by someone who is a Fellow of the Society of Biology, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a recipient of prestigious scientific awards, has done extensive field research observing the care of children in dozens of remote places of the world, has written a number of successful books, been written up in the media and debated on television, AND the important thing - a dad of three teenagers and a daughter in her 20's, you then know they have something worth listening to!!
Dr Aric Sigman is not saying anything 'new', he simply gives current statistics and applies research findings to the way life is being shaped for preschoolers today.
Dr Sigman is deeply interested in the wellbeing of infants and preschoolers, because he knows that if what happens in these early years of development is not in the child's best interests, they will be seriously ill equipped for later development, which in turn will affect future generations.
"Everyday, ongoing touching, cuddling, singing and smiling are vital aspects of attuned, responsive care necessary to develop key parts of child brain circuitry. Close, physical touch from someone who loves the child is crucially important. These things enable the child to develop the neurocircuitry required to feel empathy and care for others, which is a basic necessity for healthy functioning as an adult. This 'learning' requires high levels of eye-to-eye contact." p.10.
How to Give Eye-to-Eye Contact
The first two words give the answer. 
Little children need "touching, cuddling, singing, smiling" at all times. Such things need to be available to them. They need easy access to enjoy and participate in them.
Look them in the eyes whenever you 
~ talk with them
~ change their nappy
~ put them on the toilet
~ into a bath
~ into the highchair
~ into the carseat
~ dress them
~ clean their teeth
~ wash their hands
~ put their gumboots on
~ peg out the washing together
~ pack away the toys together
~ pass them food
~ wipe the bench together...
Take up the dozens of simple daily doings and LOOK INTO THEIR EYES.
This way "high levels of eye-to-eye contact" can easily be achieved, everyday.
"One of the most pronounced changes across the industrialised world is a reduction in the number of minutes per day that parents interact with their children. Recent history has seen parent and child in marked retreat from one another as New Zealand has moved from a culture of greater common experience to a society of more individual experience. She is in good company, as parent and child in Britain, too, step back from one another in unprecedented strides. Parents who work full-time spend only 19 minutes every day 'caring for [their] own children" according to the British Government's Office for National Statistics, while a further 16 minutes is spent looking after their children as a "secondary activity", indicating that the parent is doing something else - such as supermarket shopping - at the same time. The study looked specifically at working women in Britain and what they do during a typical 24-hour period (ONS, 2006)."p.8.
We have heard of these harsh statistics and with embarrassment, know them to be true. The culprits which cause mums and preschoolers to "retreat from one another", can include,
~ the attraction of mobile phones and other technology
~ the dominance of a mum's career or job
~ the misbelief that professional centre-based or home-based daycare is superior to a preschooler being at home with their own mum
~ being preoccupied with "doing something else" so that eye contact with the preschooler is minimal.
A Wise Family Practice
In our family my husband and I tested many things on an annual basis
~ was it 'working'?
~ in what ways?
~ how was it affecting our marriage?
~ how was it affecting us as individual parents?
~ THE IMPORTANT QUESTION - how was it affecting the kids?
~ can we change something?
~ what could we do differently?
~ would this change benefit the kids?
Ask the WISE questions of Yourself.
The Need to Look at Reality and be Honest
If, as the second quote says, "Close, physical touch from someone who loves the child is crucially important", because "these things enable the child to develop the neurocircuitry...which is a basic necessity for healthy functioning as an adult", then eye contact for "19 minutes every day" between you and your preschooler is honestly NOT sufficient.
"Discussions of childcare must in future be uncompromising and honest with an exclusive focus on the wellbeing of the child." Dr Aric Sigman.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ How are You honestly doing in the area of eye-to-eye connection, with your preschooler?