To support parents in those crucial early days, months and years of establishing positive, responsive and loving relationships with your children we now have two licenced 'TotSlot' presenters for the Diocese of Leeds:
Along with Dorota Plata, Director of The Good Shepherd Centre Keighley, I joined toddler group leaders from Leeds, York and Sheffield at the Care for the Family training day in Leeds on Saturday 4th November.
The new 'TotSlot' resource comprises 12 'flashcards' on a large display binder for use in very short (10 min) intervals at toddler groups or other small groups of parents and children.
Each 'flashcard' introduces an important element of early attachment to prompt thought and discussion among the parents. The ten minute session ends with an 'action point' suggesting a way parents can introduce these elements into their own childcare if they wish to.
This is a simple and easy to use resource and I think it could be used for instance after church, or after dropping older children at school or before collecting them from school or at parish or school coffee mornings.
Because each 'flashcard' only takes ten minutes it can be used at the start of any other gathering and then people could continue what they were doing, but encouraged by a little snippet of information and advice about good bonding practice.
At the training day each participant had to deliver one of the ten minute flashcards to the group. Mine was on facial expressions. We know that babies discover who they are and whether they are loveable from the expressions they read on the faces of their primary caregivers (usually mums and dads, but could be a grandparent or other care).
A scowl made my group of adults feel 'fearful' and 'guilty', among other things, even though they knew it was an exercise.
A loving look, a smile makes everyone feel better and it is even more important for babies and toddlers to get enough of this positive affirmation to help them to grow into responsible people who feel valued and who can give and receive love.
Why is this important?
The gaze of love intrigued Pope St John Paul II when he read about it in 'The Developing Mind' by neuro-scientist Daniel Siegel. I believe that our earliest experiences of our primary carers' 'gaze of love' prepare us as we grow up to understand and accept the loving God who created us and loves us even more than our mothers and fathers (because no parent is perfect, our parents will almost certainly let us down at some time, but God never fails us).
If you would like me to introduce these flashcards at a parish toddler group or any other parents and baby group just let me know.