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Tracy de Beer

Tracy de Beer

Tracy de Beer has not set their biography yet

There’s no such thing as Infant Mental Health

It’s interesting when I speak with others about the work I do, and their faces look quizzingly at me when talk about providing mental health services to infants and children.

“But babies don’t have anything to worry about! Why are you counselling babies? And who on earth can hold a decent conversation with a 2 year old that doesn’t end in a tantrum or consist entirely of playing dolls/cars?”

I enjoy these conversations, as it provides an opportunity for someone to learn about this incredibly important, and largely overseen area.

Some facts about Perinatal, Infant, and Early Childhood Mental Health:
• Perinatal and Infant Mental Health go hand in hand to describe the mental health and emotional wellbeing of women, their infants, partners, and families. This includes DADS 
• To support the infant and young child to develop the capacity for experiencing, expressing, and regulating emotions; forming close and secure relationships; and exploring the environment to enhance learning
• It is typically the period from conception to about 3 years after the end of the pregnancy.
• It is important to note that this area can cover parents who have also lost a child, including through termination, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
• The most common mental health concerns for this group are anxiety and depression
• The mental health and wellbeing of parents is critically important to the emotional and physical development of the infant. Untreated concerns have significant impacts on the parents, infant, and whole family
• Treatment is available and can be highly effective. This ranges from counselling to medication, and extra supports from health professionals where necessary

What psychological support can look like for families seeking help:
• Working directly with the parent/s to support their wellbeing
• Observe, role model, coach, and provide feedback around supporting their infant/child
• Be part of targeted groups and workshops, such as Circle of Security, Bringing Up Great Kids
• Supporting the child (if older) directly to work through their areas of difficulty. This is done through the use of games, play, and child-led interests
• This is all done in a strengths-based, collaborative, warm, engaging and supportive space

Some tips for supporting your mental health and wellbeing during this period:
1. A good routine goes a long way. This allows you and your child to have a certain level of certainty about your day
2. Fuelling your body with healthy meals. This will give you the right type of energy needed to be a very busy mum/dad
3. Sleep, rest, and nap at every available opportunity. Your body and brain need many times to re-energise and re-cooperate
4. Enjoyable physical activity. This can be a simple stroll with bub, heading to the playground and playing ‘chasy’, yoga, or going for a swim
5. Using techniques to de-stress. This can be relaxation training, meditation, or mindfulness
6. Doing something ‘selfish’ each day. This means setting time aside where you can take a breather and do something special. This could be as simple as reading a chapter in a good book, looking through a magazine, catching up on last night’s episode, or calling a friend
7. Vent and debrief. It can feel so good to just talk about everything happening, and have someone be a ‘soundboard’ for you. Problem solving with a trusted person can have wonderful positive outcomes
8. Adult time. Some give and take with you nurturing your partner, but also them providing some TLC for you too. We tend to forget or not have enough time for other halves, however making the effort is essential
9. Delegate. Involve your partner or family members in the daily care of your child
10. Develop a support network. It can be hard to ask for help, but it can be even harder accepting help too. Start to build a community around you

“There is no such thing as a baby. There is only a baby and someone.”
Donald Winnicott

Adapted from Children’s Health Queensland

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When Children Lie
 When Children Lie

A number of parents have been asking me about lying over the last few months. Whilst the below information is useful for parents who are currently experiencing this frustrating issue, it’s also a good resource for those who wish to be proactive.

Emotional intimacy with our children is a fragile gift that can easily break when we erode trust through punishments, shame, blame, scolding, or manipulation. When our children’s behaviour is off-track, they need us to calmly stop them, help them, and guide them. They need to know we’re always in their corner (rather than sending them off to one), and that we will create safety – not only physical safety, but also safety in our regard for them – safety in our love and our “like,” a 100% safe relationship.

Alternatively, shaming or punishing children for lying creates distance and mistrust, which only encourage kids to lie better.

As for consequences, with the respectful parenting approach, consequences aren’t tactics to be “implemented” like just another form of punishment. If there are consequences, they are honest sharing of our own truths as parents. So, if there was a consequence in the case of a 6-year-old lying, it might look something like this (shared calmly and nonjudgmentally): “I am not going to be able to let you go to Juliet’s house again if you can’t tell me the truth about what you two did. I’m just not comfortable.”

There are a variety of reasons a child might lie in the early years (most of them so perfectly harmless that describing them as “lies” seems too strong a word). They are all motivated by the same thing: lying feels preferable to that child. In that particular moment, they may be experiencing:

  • • Fear – the unfortunate result of our past anger and other emotional responses or punishments when our children have erred. It seems better to them to not admit they did it.

Remedy: Respectful, empathic guidance (for much more detail on this particular part, please refer to the webpage)

  • • Shame, blame, embarrassment – because our focus has been “teaching our kids a lesson” rather than understanding the behaviour. The real lesson has been our lack of empathy for their immature stage of development.

Remedy: Create safety with nonjudgmental responses like, “I hear you saying you didn’t hit your brother. It seems that he was hit. Please let me know whenever you feel like hitting, so I can be there to keep you safe.”

  • • A need to test our leadership – children might “try out” mistruths to see if they have the power to ruffle their leaders’ feathers. If we fail this test, they might need to try it out again. And again.

Remedy: Diffuse these tests by taking them in stride and connecting lightly and knowingly. “Hmm… you didn’t let the dog out, and yet out he is… Verrrry mysterious.”

  • • Enjoyment of imagination and fantasy – children can become absorbed in their fantasies, even to the extent that it can be difficult for them to separate fantasy from reality. This a healthy stage of development children pass through, and they certainly don’t need us to jar them out of it.

Remedy: None. No need to worry, just enjoy with them. “You’re a purple dragon? Ah, yes, I can totally see that now.”

  • • Wishful thinking, projecting, and visualizing success – children might imagine themselves succeeding at a task that, in reality, they didn’t even attempt. These projections can help them shore up the courage to do it the next time.

Remedy: Again, visualization is positive and healthy, so I would connect rather than correct. “You felt yourself going down the highest slide today. How did that feel?”

In all cases, our openness, curiosity and unruffled, unthreatened, patient responses are the best way to diffuse the need to fabricate. And they also go a long way in forging a relationship that forever eliminates the need for avoidance of the truth.

No lie.

By Janet Lansbury

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