Mommy and Me

By on October 31, 2012
Throughout much of the 21st century, Mommy and Me was a program unheard of.  It was only recently when the concept of interactive group play involving mother and child has significantly caught on in cities like London, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc., that schools in Tokyo began offering similar programs.

What is a Mommy and Me program?

It is a program that supports the development in a mother-and-child relationship. There is much to suggest from various childhood development theories that one-on-one interaction between the mother (usually the primary caregiver) and a child enhances the quality of cognitive and social development. This in turn becomes a template for future relationships. Edward John Bowlby, a leading British psychologist known for his work on “attachment theory” said that reciprocity happens when the mother responds to a baby’s core needs:  to be safe, secured and protected.  The baby reciprocates by attaching himself to the caregiver, resulting in a lasting filial connection. The Bowlby theory further suggests that anti-social behaviours such as aggression, depression or emotional distancing in children and adults could be a result of a disruption or interrupted bonding in early childhood.When to bond
Bonding starts from early infancy on to the next three years.  It is commonly known as the pre-nursery stage.  The more social experience the infant has with a parent, the more likely the child becomes attached.  According to a research released this year by Bandai, a Japanese toy manufacturer, today’s dads are spending only an average of 56 minutes’ bonding time a day with their children while 18 per cent spend 15 minutes or less.  With rising family expenses, dads are giving in to work pressures that eat up their time and energy.  Research further suggests that half of dads believe that dad bonding is slowly fading into obscurity.  This probably explains why the role came to be Mom’s.

Day-to-day bonding is greatly influenced by the state of the child and the mom’s bien-etre. For the child, it usually means getting appropriate amount of sleep and/or comfort.  When the baby is happy, there is usually less fuss. It becomes easy for mothers to engage babies in play.  A sleep-deprived toddler is unable to handle play and will mostly likely be annoyed.   Moms respond better to caregiving if they do not have depression or egocentric issues.  Financial, unemployment, and marital problems are all stressors that could adversely affect parenting capabilities.   Experts believe that deprived moms are highly likely to have deprived children because of a disruption in the bonding process.  It is therefore extremely important that mothers’ well being is given the utmost attention for hinder-free parenting.

Which Mommy and Me groups to join
Each Mommy and Me playgroup has its unique setting depending on the age of the kids participating and type of play activities involved.   While most stay-at-home moms could organize an informal group with free interaction and no set activities and schedule to conform to, it could be challenging to arrange a meet up time if some kids have different sleep routines.

Grouchy kids could easily spoil what otherwise could be a fun meet.  Another issue to consider is the medium of interaction in your group.  An all-English play time could cause a Japanese-only-speaking mom and child to feel isolated and vice-versa. Joining random Mommy and Me groups in your area where there is no set of rules may work for some but not parents with priority needs.

Mommy and Me structured programs have a pre-determined activity and time that take a few hours a day.  Doing activities with a primary caregiver by the child’s side not only gives a feeling of security, it also helps in developing early social skills.  If you are concerned with preparing children for pre-school or kindergarten by learning socially accepted behaviour, a Mommy and Me program will not disappoint.   It is where everyone relates as equals, learning through playing, sharing and simply having fun together.  For expat moms whose usual support network is not in Japan, this may be a great way to meet and network with other parents.

What activities to expect
A plethora of thematic classes for moms and babies are on offer at most schools. Activities range from painting, collage making, song and dance, and storytime routines.  Some schools promote physical movements such as indoor swimming, yoga, pilates,  Zumba or easy fitness drills.  Your main consideration should not be the distance from home but the program of activities on offer.  Most schools publish their programs online.

Recommended reading
1.  Bonding:  Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence

A book that spells out everything parents need to know about improving the relationship between parent and child from a psychological angle. It also summarizes the results of John Kennell and Marshall Klaus’ decades-long research and clinical study including the result of doula-supported births.

It is divided into nine chapters: pregnancy, labor and birth, what the baby brings, birth of a family, infant feeding and the beginning of intimacy, developing ties; the first days and weeks, premature birth,  and bonding: the route to independence.  US$12.00

2.  Inner Bonding:  Becoming A Loving Adult to Your Inner Child

Written by Margaret Paul, the book is about healing painful experiences of the past for healthy parenting to thrive.

3.  The Pregnancy & Postpartum Anxiety Workbook

Mothers new to postpartum anxiety will find tips and exercises in this workbook useful in nipping the harmful causes of stress in the bud.

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