Session 10/15

Page 4/7: Topic B: Giving the child a secure personal space

Topic B: Giving the child a secure personal space

How can you gradually help the child or young person placed in care to feel that they have a personal space, and feel that they belong in the family?

Each child should have its own personal space: Involve the child in decorating its own room or space. The child can have its own chair at the dinner table. Perhaps it can have a personal locked box or a closet that only the child can open. The child should also have its personal time space: the right to relax in his or her own room or place. For children with emotional or behavioural problems, even simple activities – like a few hours in school – can be extremely exhausting. Many problems can be prevented if the child knows that ”now I have an hour for myself to relax, play, or do my homework”. Planning regular intervals of private time can be very helpful. Children with a poor sense of time tend to stay too brief or too long in their room. Therefore, agreeing on a routine for short pauses can prevent exhaustion and temper tantrums.

For infants and toddlers: The personal space can also be a thing like a teddy bear, a doll, a special T-shirt, etc. Discuss an agreement at home: how can other family members show that they respect the child’s ownership to the object? Having a personal pet – like being responsible for looking after a calf, a goat, the hens, or another animal, – can promote attachment. Many children start the attachment process by bonding with an animal. This is less complicated than becoming attached to a person.

To support the baby’s/ toddler’s growing awareness of itself: Playing with mirrors, or letting the child hear it’s own voice from a mobile phone or tape recorder can support the awareness of ”Hey, this is me”! In daily interactions, the foster parent can simply put into words what the child is doing (“now you’re trying to button your shirt – it is not so easy, but you keep trying). Talking about this is a great way of helping the child to become aware of how actions affect others, and how to listen, think and respond. This helps the child understand how to behave in interactions. Knowing how behaviour affects others is something many deprived children have problems understanding because they received little guidance early in life. When you give the child feedback: only talk about the best and most positive interactions. Don’t point out any inappropriate responses. Focus on the positive actions. Make it a routine to take a picture of the child every week or every month if you have a camera, and talk about the physical changes and developments that the child experiences. You can measure and track how much the child grows by marking with tape or a pencil on the wall. This activity also enhances the child’s awareness of itself (”Wow! You have grown the quarter of an inch – in only six months! How does it feel to be so big?”).

Activities for older children and teenagers: At a set time every day (bedtime is good), have small dialogues with the child or young person about what happened during the day (or whatever interests the person). Discuss and agree with the child how to write this in a personal notebook. Gradually, let the child itself write a small summary. If the child has reading problems, the summary can be recorded on yours or the child’s cell phone. This is a good activity to get to terms with all the things that happened during the day, and teach the child to reflect calmly upon what it thinks and feels. Besides, this activity improves memory and foresight. Occasionally, you can take pictures of the child’s activities and place them in the book. Any information about the child’s relatives should also be discussed with the child and noted.

Make a routine out of taking a picture every week or month of the child, and talk about the physical changes and developments as the child grows. Use a tape measure to mark the child’s growth regularly and set a mark on for example the kitchen wall. This activity also enhances the child’s awareness of itself (”Wow! You have grown the quarter of an inch – in only six months! How does it feel to be so big?”). Talking about what is characteristic in the child’s behaviour and what makes it special and different from other children is useful. Also, what is characteristic in the way it interacts with others (”you always pay attention when you talk to me, and you look me in the eyes – that makes me happy!”).

Caregiver filming a child’s activity


10 minutes

  • How did these suggestions inspire you? What can you do at home?
  • Do you have good practices, traditions or ideas for promoting the child’s sense of having a personal space and feel at home?
  • How can you help the child become more aware of itself, and understand how it interacts with other members in the family?
  • What activities do you think will help your child become more aware of it’s own behavior, and how this behavior affects others? For example: write in a diary each day, record video on your cell phone, playing with mirrors, etc.