THE CHALLENGE OF INTEGRATION

Are we aware of how our society has changed in recent years? Beyond technological advances, we have experienced a revolution in diversity: immigration, new family models or the integration of people with functional diversity, to put just a few examples of situations that during childhood had a treatment, and sometimes a Acceptance, very different from today. The next generations are going to start from this base, and surely the new realities will continue to live, which makes it necessary to give our sons and daughters new skills to adapt to these changes.

Everyone, as parents, is aware of the importance of the physical, psychological, social and emotional development of our children from the moment of birth.

The beginning in a Children’s Center is a milestone in the life of our children, which will not only promote the development of these aspects, but also the learning of how we integrate with each other, an aspect of great importance to know how to develop in a World where cultural and social diversity predominates and enriches us.

The foundations for greater equality are settled in early childhood. There is sufficient evidence regarding the benefits that education has in the first years of life for human development, and its preventive and equalizing aspects.

Attending to diversity from an inclusive approach is therefore a task for all educational agents (family, teachers and our children) putting value in recognition, respect, communication and learning for everything that makes us different. Yes, we are different, and only insofar as we educate ourselves constructively, recognizing our differences, we can feel the same.

Therefore, greater social integration is necessary, but not exclusively. It’s necessary to ensure full participation in education, for which children should not be discriminated against on grounds of origin, sex or ability.

Let us work on the values for integration in education as a means to move towards greater equity and the further development of more inclusive and fairer societies.

Gemma Gutiérrez Moreno.
Psychologist.

SWIMMING BABY’S FIRST STROKES

SWIMMING
BABY’S FIRST STROKES

Until the age of 4 years old children do not have autonomy or enough development to swim by themselves. However, it is highly recommended that children familiarize with water since they are born. It is sure that babies enjoy playing in the water which is good for them. It helps them with their coordination, to keep their balance and their muscle strength. It also helps to keep them calm, to eat and sleep better. They are so many indispensable advantages that encourage parents to swim with their children no matter the age they are.

At what age should they start?

Up to 4 or 5 years old children are not able to swim like an adult. They are too small to develop autonomy in the water and acquire the proper movements necessary to swim. Therefore, it is very important to make the difference between to have a bath having fun with parents and learn to swim.

Babies, since they are born, can play in the sea or in the swimming pool with their parents which is funny and beneficial. However, it is recommended to wait up to 3 or 4 months of age. In addition, some swim schools do not accept children up to 6 or 7 months since their installations are not suitable enough for children with 3 or 4 months old.

When babies are 9 months of age the innate reflexes decrease. These reflexes, however, are very useful to swim. That is why it is highly recommended that children meet water before their first birthday. Their adaptation is smoother than older children.

Isaac González, chief of aquatic activities from Lenoarmi Centre, states: “The ideal thing would be that children start before 4 months of age since they preserve innate abilities that promote their adaptation to the aquatic medium. Babies can float on water, move their bodies in a relaxed way and they keep apnea reflex which consists on closing the glottis. Doing so, babies can not swallow water or have the sensation of choking”.

The natural fear of water develops as the child grows up. For that reason it is very convenient to expose the child to water as soon as possible to prevent lack of trust or even worse, phobia to water which cause difficulties when learning swimming.

MATROSWIMMING

Matroswimming means swimming with parents. It is the best way to initiate a baby in an aquatic medium. Children enjoy a lot playing with water which, at the same time, is beneficial for them.
The parents’ role is crucial in this method. Parents should show security at all times with their babies. Emotional ties are strengthened and it becomes an original and unique experience.

Nevertheless, parents should wait until the baby is 4 months old so that immune system matures enough to prevent colds, infections, otitis, etc.

Every class of matroswimming lasts what the school considers. The class usually takes around 30-45 min depending on baby’s resistance and reflections. In these classes children play with teaching materials (balls, boards, etc) which are adequate resources to their age. Children have the opportunity to learn how to survive in water and float.

For instance, in Valle 36 Centre, they follow the teaching model based on the “pedagogy of success”. Here the instructors let the children make contact with water and be ready for summer, so that children get used to water, overcome fears, develop physically and mentally and enjoy the enriching familiar contact.
Instructors are physiotherapists and childhood educators. They are constantly following babies’ evolution setting exercises individually and taking care of their necessities. Groups are maximum of 4 children (accompanied by their parents). They interact with each other promoting their personal development and socialization.

Isaac Gómez, from Lenoarmi, establishes 3 main objectives in these classes:

1- Learning how to deal with water.
2- Working to ensure surviving.
3- Fostering autonomy.

In Lenoarmi Centre children from 0-3 years perform the activities with their parents. From 3 years onwards children do by themselves autonomous programmes.

First practices can be performed at home in the bath from 2-6 months old. The best way to do it is to fill the bath and go in with them. There is no point in thinking about techniques or activities. The aim is to have fun and let the children familiarize with the water.

Swimming pools formal requirements.

The pool must follow some rules to provide the best adaptation to babies’ physical characteristics:

1. Water temperature must be around 32º C depending on the season.
2. The level of chlorine must be around 0.5 and 0.6 % (1% for adults).
3. It is highly recommended a covered and heated pool. It must also meet the sanitary and hygienic requirements.
4. The changing room area (the place where parents change their babies) must also be a heated area and meet the hygienic requirements too.
5. If the changing room is far from the pool it is convenient to have some benches near the pool to change the baby in the heated area so that children can stay warm.
6. Baby’s pool cannot be shared with others. It is just for them. The dimensions should go around 6 by 4 metres, although these figures are not an established rule. You can find many others with other sizes.

Benefits of swimming

– Psychomotor development: It improves coordination, equilibrium and knowledge of space. It helps to increase strength thanks to the muscle exercises. It promotes an early development of psychomotor skills such as crawl or walk.
– Strengthening of Cardio Respiratory System: It is beneficial for cardio fitness and therefore, it improves baby’s resistance. It helps to expand respiratory system and the proper regulation to their blood circulation.
– Relaxing babies: Gentle exercises together with warm water enable the baby to be relaxed, stimulating the appetite. They eat and sleep better and, therefore, it improves their character and behaviour.
– Reinforcing their confidence and independence: Baby feels confident and enjoys learning swimming since they are accompanied by their parents who are constantly paying attention to them. It increases his feeling of independence and his self-confidence.
– Enhancing intelligence quotient: It is proved that children who swam within the first two years of live develop a better awareness of the world what makes them to be more creative and observers. Water stimulates playing capabilities in children. This fact will impact positively in future apprenticeships.
– Developing vital abilities of surviving.
– Fostering socialization skills: It stimulates self-esteem and therefore, it improves communication with others. The coexistence with other kids will help them to interact better, to share and do activities with other people.
– Strengthening their immunologic system.

Learning to swim

From 4-5 years old children can learn to swim like an adult, not only to float. It will depend on their physical and mental development. The best way to do it is going to a specialized centre.

Some tricks

– Dads or mums must be very relaxed and calm especially with children below the age of three years. Baby will be supported by his parents’ hands. If these hands are rigid, the baby will be tense which prevents them to feel comfortable in the water.
– High demands are not desirable. Every child is different and develops according to their natural mature rhythm even in the water. It is important not to demand them more than necessary. We need our children to feel comfortable and willing to do the activities proposed.
– It can help them to do activities and games in the water which they enjoy and have fun with.

NOEMÍ SURIOL
Directora y fundadora MÉTODO LENOARMI
C/ Dr.Roux 19-21, Barcelona
www.leonarmi.com

Positive education?

The first time I heard about Good treatment was when working with Jorge Barudy at the beginning of the 2000’s. It was, at that time and even now, a revolutionary approach in the field of psychology: talking about resources, resilience, good treatment, instead of disorders, weaknesses or mental illness.

Scientific advances, especially in the area of affective neuroscience, argue the merits of this approach based on the positive treatment also called Positive Parenting or Positive Education.

This amazing work allows us to understand better the impact of our behaviour as parents, grandparents, educators, teachers, instructors etc. on the development of our children’s brain.

Extensive researches on the brain have shown that an appropriate education together with an empathetic commitment enables the brain to a better development. This research also shows that the physical and verbal abuses and stress can change children’s brain causing cognitive and behaviour problems.

Furthermore, parents’ voluntary involvement along with their appropriate and coherent action to children’s needs allow developing a secure attachment. This form of attachment is the base of a social, emotional and harmonious development. A child can learn to explore the environment on his own, seek help and build constructive relations with people. This secure attachment is the base of self-esteem, independence, value and empathy.

Children’s brain is immature at birth, it develops in the relation and interaction to the others. Every interaction will create new neuronal networks. So an affective, empathetic and a supportive relation can be the key to build these new neuronal networks to an optimum development of the brain.

In particular, Positive Education is important for oxytocin release. Oxytocin can be considered as the “connecting molecule” with the others. It can also be called the molecule of love and friendship. It fosters empathy and creates confidence, altruism and cooperation. It can also minimize stress and anxiety, and stimulates three other molecules: dopamine, serotonin and endorphin. Dopamine boosts motivation, crucial for learning; it also gives us the pleasure of living and promotes creativity. Endorphins provide comfort and Serotonins stabilize the state of mind. These molecules induce children to be calm, empathetic and willing to learn.

What can we do as parents so that our children grow with a better development?

This article does not intend to give magical recipes or moral lessons. However, it tries to give us some considerations based on the latest scientific investigations.
It is important to bear in mind that it is never too late to improve our Educational practices and that there is not just one right way to do educating and parenting.

1. Taking care of yourself.

Parents need to feel supported and take care of themselves to provide appropriate answers to their children. That is highly important since our capacity to face drawbacks on the way is limited and frustration is accumulated through the day. Therefore our energy and patience decrease (i.e. cries, screaming, frequent nocturnal wakening, food and drink spills, toys all around the room, etc.). This is particularly frequent to parents during the first year of their child’s life due to the lack of sleep and rest. We should not forget that female hormones make mothers particularly vulnerable so that it is important to provide them logistic and emotional support. For that reason it would be highly convenient that fathers could assist mothers so that they can take care for their babies in the best possible conditions. So that mothers could recover easily and take care of themselves such as taking a relaxing bath, having a coffee with friends, meditation, sports, etc.

2. Responding to children’s needs

Parents should watch out children’s needs when they are crying and take action fast and adequately. Normal questions can be raised as: “Is my child hot or cold? Is he hungry? Or tired? Or over stimulated? Or maybe the diaper needs to be changed?” But we also have to think about other necessities that can be hidden as: does my child need to he hugged? Or get loved? Simple things as holding them gently can give them confidence and release stress. Oxytocine, the hormone anti-stress, is released after 20 seconds of physical contact. This is a message that strengthens the link between parents and children.

3. Knowing the child through their actions

Julia was only three years old when one day she drew on the walls. His father very nervous shouted at her: “You just cannot stop doing silly things! You are stupid because you drew on the walls!!!

Julia, very proud of her piece of art, does not understand her father’s annoyance or why she is stupid.

However, the real problem is not Julia but what she did. And, obviously, she has not understood the reaction of his father. But if the father says to her:” I can see your beautiful drawing. It is really a piece of art, but I have to remind you that it is not allowed to draw on the walls, so let’s find some paper to draw and a sponge to clean up the wall.”

We are talking about saying the same thing but with other words so that the message is received in a better way for the child. The impact in the one’ self-esteem is huge. Julia feels that she has been respected since her father recognized her natural need of creating and expressing herself. She has also the opportunity to identify and correct her errors.

Nevertheless, when parents say: “My daughter is stupid and selfish” they put their children in a position so that they can have a distorted vision of themselves and start to believe it. In short, an “unbearable” child will behave as an unbearable child.

4. Naming the emotions and accepting them

Your child is crying because he has fallen down and he has hurt himself. His father says: “You are crying because you have just hurt yourself. I will give you a big hug”, the child recognizes his emotions and accepts them. A simple hug can release oxytocin, the anti-stress hormone.

However, if the father says: ”Stop crying, that is nothing”. The child does not understand because it does not correspond to what he is feeling. That is to say, father’s message is not linked with child’s feeling. And with many repetitions the child can think that he cannot trust on his feelings and show them.
However, if the child sees a different approach: “I can see that you are really annoyed. This is understandable, but you can hit a cushion or try to draw your anger down in a piece of paper.” With this attitude, children can feel listened, understood and they have also learnt other constructive ways of expressing their emotions.

5. Formulating other positive linguistic ways to get what we want them to do.

Children’s brain has difficulties to assimilate negation. Messages are well received when they are formulated in a positive manner. For instance, we can say: ”In the bath sit down for your safety” instead of: ”Don’t stand up in the bath or you will fall down”.
Or: ”Try to calm down” instead of “do not shout” or: “Stop” instead of: ”No”.
With these options we can also get collaboration from our kids.

There are more examples: “Will you want two or three tablespoons of green beans?” instead of: ”Do you want some green beans?”. Or: ”What is coming first the T- shirt or the trousers?” instead of: ”Now you have to dress up”.

6. Anticipating and establishing rules in advance to seek involvement.

Obvious things for parents are not for children. A way to avoid meaningless situations is to try to anticipate them. As an example: ”We are going shopping. I hope you behave well and help me: you are going to be in charge of taking the apples and biscuits and to put them all in the shopping trolley.” We will have to repeat it many times since children are not able to assimilate rules up to six or seven years old.

7. Bearing in mind his level of development.

We have already mentioned that the child is born with an immature brain. The brain is developing through out the childhood and adolescence, even in adulthood. As parents, we do not have to forget that the brain is immature when the child is having a tantrum. The child lives this moment as an emotional distress, his brain is not connected and he is not able to think. He can not get out of this mess neither physically nor emotionally. So what we can do as parents is to hold him tight and say simple statements like: ”You are upset” or “you are sad”. He feels frustrated and we understand it perfectly. Parents should help them naming every emotion they are having in a calm atmosphere and with a soft and relax tone. That helps the brain matures.

Not before five or six years of age the brain is prepared to manage and normalize better the emotions and tantrum should diminish in intensity and frequency.

8. Allowing the child to explore the environment.

It is very important to let the children move around in safe environments so that the brain can develop adequately. Children must explore in a safe area without any source of danger. They should move freely and go at their own pace along the stages of motor development. It is crucial to creep, to crawl, to stand up for developing a good laterality, as well as attention, control of impulsivity, etc.

Exploring is the best way for children to build self-confidence and self-esteem.

9. Modeling is an important part.

Children learn by imitation: education is lead by example. Parents should talk to them as they like to be talked to: “Sorry, pardon, thank you…”

We are not perfect. We make mistakes; we admit them and we apologize. Our children learn from what they see of us and from the environment in general. Kids learn easier from given examples than from words. So leading by example can help the children to take care of themselves, to listen to their needs and to be.

Please, do not hesitate to contact the school if you are interested to know the sources of the article.
Thank you.

Inès Despature
Psicóloga Col. 17431
www.inesdespature.com