At the Pikler House in Budapest, a unique approach to caregiving emphasizes the importance of maintaining professional relationships between caregivers and children. In this blog post, we explore the insights of Eszter Mózes, a psychologist who worked closely with Emmi Pikler, regarding the role of caregiver emotions and the boundaries necessary to provide optimal care. With a focus on clear communication, professionalism, and understanding the child’s needs, the Pikler House creates an environment that fosters healthy relationships between caregivers and children.
In the profound words of G. Appell, a significant contributor to the foster care system in France and the author of “Loczy or the Unusual Motherhood,” she encapsulates the essence of caregiving beautifully: “A mother tends to her child borne of love, while a caregiver’s love is born from the very act of tending to the child.”
Building Professional Relationships:
According to Eszter Mózes, having a deep conversation about the feelings of a caregiver is a complex task. The Pikler House acknowledges that while caregivers may have affection for the children they care for, it is vital to establish a clear understanding of their role. The caregiver’s primary duty is to provide honest and genuine care to the child, without creating false illusions or emotional dependencies. The relationship between caregiver and child is asymmetrical, with the caregiver maintaining a professional role while the child engages on a personal level.
Separating Personal and Professional Emotions:
One fundamental principle at the Pikler House is the need for caregivers to leave their private emotions at home. While caregivers derive satisfaction and pleasure from their work, they must avoid seeking personal fulfillment or emotional support through the children. Caregivers must remember that they are professionals providing a service, rather than becoming emotionally entangled. The focus remains on the child’s needs and well-being, ensuring a healthy and appropriate caregiver-child relationship.
Professional Boundaries and Communication:
The Pikler approach allows for physical affection such as kisses and hugs, but only when initiated by the child, not the adult caregiver. This emphasizes the importance of respecting the child’s boundaries and desires, rather than using them to fulfill the caregiver’s emotional needs. It is crucial for caregivers to communicate clearly to the child that their relationship is temporary and professional. Although caregivers may develop close bonds with the children, they must always acknowledge the limited duration of their involvement, emphasizing their commitment to providing the best care during the time they spend together.
Emotional Sensitivity and Child-Focused Care:
While caregivers are allowed to express their emotions, it is essential to maintain emotional balance and not overwhelm the children with adult concerns. This includes displaying emotions such as tiredness or hunger discreetly, ensuring that the child’s emotional well-being remains the priority. Caregivers understand that a child’s needs go beyond receiving love from adults; it is about attentiveness to their unique requirements, ensuring their holistic growth and development.
Authenticity and Narcissism:
Working at the Pikler House requires a conscious effort to put aside personal narcissism and prioritize the needs of the children. The caregivers at the Pikler House are not performers or organizers of activities; their role is focused on providing genuine care and support. It is essential to acknowledge that this approach might not be suitable for individuals seeking constant recognition or those who find it challenging to prioritize the child’s well-being over their own desires.
Leaving Space for Parents:
For caregivers who are present in a child’s life for a short period, it is crucial to create space for the parents. This space is not physical but rather emotional, allowing the child to form their own image of family. Even children without immediate families need this space to develop their own perception of what a family can be, whether it is a memory, a future ideal, or a small image. Respecting the child’s connection to their own family, regardless of its form, is an integral part of the Pikler House’s caregiving philosophy.
Building Trust and Self-Image:
A child’s early relationships shape their operational mode and self-perception. When a child experiences love, respectful handling of their body, and a sense of security, it lays the foundation for trust in the world. This trust becomes a powerful driving force that influences how the child takes care of themselves and interacts with the world throughout their life. Taking responsibility for one’s body and recognizing its value are outcomes of a secure foundation built through positive early experiences.
Addressing Challenges and Honesty:
Not all children come from ideal backgrounds, and the Pikler House acknowledges the difficulties that may arise in dysfunctional family dynamics. Caregivers must resist blaming the child for these challenges and instead focus on providing support and guidance. The responsibility lies with the caregivers to be honest with the children about the realities of their situations, including the fact that their time together may be temporary.
This honesty, though challenging, fosters trust and helps the child build resilience.
The Importance of Family and Trust:
Honesty extends to every aspect of caregiving, including informing children about potential pain or discomfort they may experience, such as during a medical procedure. By consistently providing honest information and demonstrating reliability, caregivers nurture a deep sense of trust in the child.
In cases where a child’s family is not functioning optimally, caregivers at the Pikler House play a significant role in providing stability and support, spending ample time with the child and actively contributing to their development.
Creating Space for Parents:
Caregivers at the Pikler House understand the need to create space for parents within the caregiving environment. This space is tangible and takes various forms, such as displaying family photos on the walls, openly discussing families, and sharing the family’s schedule with the child. By acknowledging and respecting the child’s family connections, caregivers provide a positive image of families and support the child in developing a sense of worth and identity. It is crucial never to make unkind remarks about families, as children are perceptive and can sense underlying emotions behind such comments.
Striving for Professional Excellence:
While caregivers are not expected to be perfect all the time, Emmi Pikler emphasizes the importance of trying one’s best during the caregiving period. The professional relationship between the caregiver and child is based on providing a service and offering quality care. It is vital to remember that young children are vulnerable, and their sense of self and personality are still developing. By providing nurturing care, caregivers contribute to the child’s protective factors and help them recognize their own worth.
Supporting Caregivers’ Emotional Well-being:
Recognizing and managing feelings is a crucial aspect of supporting caregivers in their professional roles. Feelings can arise unexpectedly, and it is essential for caregivers to have a safe space to express and process these emotions. Sharing feelings with a supervisor, colleague, or working professional who can offer understanding and active listening is instrumental in this process. Through these conversations, caregivers gain insights into their emotions and explore the reasons behind their reactions to specific family dynamics. This self-reflection, coupled with supportive interactions, promotes honesty and growth.
Embracing Feelings as Diagnostic Tools:
Caregivers’ feelings serve as valuable diagnostic tools, allowing them to delve deeper into their emotional responses and gain a better understanding of their triggers. By examining these feelings in a collaborative and supportive environment, caregivers can identify patterns and uncover the underlying reasons behind their emotional reactions. This process of self-reflection and exploration is challenging to undertake alone, which is why having a compassionate professional to share these feelings with is crucial. Honest and open conversations contribute to the growth and well-being of the caregiver.
At the Pikler House, the focus on nurturing professional relationships between caregivers and children sets the foundation for optimal care. By prioritizing clear communication, maintaining professional boundaries, and recognizing the child’s individual needs, caregivers create an environment that supports healthy emotional development. Through the guidance of professionals like Eszter Mózes, the Pikler House continues to uphold its commitment to providing exceptional care while respecting the emotional well-being of both caregivers and children.